Bulldogs drop first-round game

Published 10:19 pm Tuesday, November 15, 2016

By Matthew Hatfield


King’s Fork High School’s football season came to a close on Saturday afternoon in a close, hard-fought battle with the Heritage Hurricanes at Todd Stadium in Newport News during the first round of the 4A-East Region playoffs.

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With under a minute to play, the Bulldogs drove all the way down to the Heritage 27-yard line, needing just a touchdown and two-point conversion to force overtime.

“It got to a point where there’s five minutes left, they have it down on our 30-yard line and our kids got a big tackle for loss. We make them have to go for it, their kid drops the ball and we gave ourselves a chance,” remarked first-year head coach Scottie Littles. “They kept fighting.”

On their final chance, though, the Bulldogs would have a pass intercepted, ending hope of a comeback as the Hurricanes sealed a 21-13 win.

“(Heritage) has a pretty good team, and they’re no slouch. They beat Lake Taylor and Hampton. That’s a senior-heavy team with a couple of Division I kids,” Littles said.

“Not to justify a loss, but our kids are starting to get it, and we were right there. That’s kind of been the story this year. We were right there against Indian River and winning 14-10 at halftime against Grassfield.”

King’s Fork struck first, capping a nine-play, 44-yard scoring drive that took exactly three minutes off the clock with a touchdown run by quarterback John Woods. Dennis Whitehead extended the drive with a pair of rushes on fourth-and-2 that moved the chains. Heritage blocked the extra point.

On the ensuing possession, the Hurricanes went in front on a 61-yard pass from Jeremiah Boyd to Shedrick Washington, followed by a successful point after touchdown.

After out-gaining Heritage 72-43 in the opening stanza, King’s Fork went back in front on another touchdown run from Woods, this time from five yards out. Their 13-7 lead would turn into a 14-13 deficit when the Hurricanes found the end zone off a screen pass on third-and-27 that went for 64 yards.

With a chance to take the lead before the half, King’s Fork missed a 37-yard field goal. That also factored into Littles’ thought process when deciding to go for it on fourth down twice in the second half deep in Heritage territory. The latter occurred with 7:55 remaining in the contest from the 19-yard line.

“It was one of those situations where if you kick the field goal and you miss it, now you have to start thinking about burning your time-outs a little earlier, whereas if you got it there you give yourselves a chance,” Littles stated.

“We called the perfect play we felt and had a guy in the back of the end zone, but just didn’t make that play. When they make steel, it has to go through fire. Missing that in the end zone is going through fire.”

Though King’s Fork’s final record of 4-7 marks the first time the Bulldogs finished below .500 since 2011, the future looks bright with so many key pieces returning for next year.

Quarterback Justin German, who threw for 1,235 yards and 11 touchdowns before suffering a season-ending injury, will be back for his senior season. Also slated to return are leading rusher Darran Butts and top receiver Cherrod Joe as well as defensive standouts Treyshaun Mitchell, Chris Shearin and T.J. Hart.

Shearin and Butts combined to intercept three Heritage passes. Butts closed out the season with 1,249 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns. Meanwhile, Joe set a school record with 889 yards receiving on 66 catches, while Hart had 11 interceptions, also tops in program history.

“We’ve got most of our team back. Obviously wanted to be a little better in this first year, but we got to the playoffs and got that experience. It’s a process,” Littles noted.

“I’m so proud of the way they fought and stuck together. I told them that the seniors built the foundation and now these guys have to put the bricks down.”