GATE CITY, Va. - A big running back behind an even bigger offensive line.
That was the prescription for success on Friday night, as the Abingdon Falcons scored 14 fourth quarter points to wear down Gate City and escape with an entertaining 35-28 Mountain 7 District victory at a packed Legion Field.
“They played with a lot of heart, and what a great environment,” Abingdon head coach Garrett Amburgey said. “The way those two high school football teams battled, that is what is so great about high school football.”
Abingdon (2-0, 2-0) trailed 28-21 going into the fourth quarter when the Falcons put the ball in the hands of Martin Lucas, who finished with 218 yards on 32 carries, including three touchdowns, with two of those coming in the final period.
That included a 2-yard plunge with 19 seconds remaining for the deciding score. He ran the ball 14 times for 81 yards in the final period.
“Coach asked me if I wanted [the ball] and I said yes,” Lucas said. “We planned on doing that, just pounding the ball. The offensive line did really good opening up good holes.”
Gate City (1-1, 0-1) had taken a 28-21 lead on a 47-yard run by Carson Jenkins with 36 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Gate City only saw the ball for two possessions in the final period as the Falcons simply ran the ball at the Blue Devils, led by a senior-laden offensive line that included Dylan Hale, Spencer Buddington and Major Cook.
Abingdon quarterback Jadon Boothe completed four passes for 97 yards, including second quarter touchdowns to Peyton McClanahan (11) and Ethan Doane (48). River Carter also had a key 23-yard grab that led to Lucas’ second period score.
“Martin Lucas is such a tough runner and he dug down deep. To finish that thing off the way he did showed tremendous courage and tremendous guts,” Amburgey said. “Jadon made some great plays. Our receivers made some big plays, but those guys up front won us the game there at the end.”
Jenkins led the Blue Devils with 134 yards on just eight touches, while Levi Rhoton (5-6, 125) added 86 yards. Gate City struck first in the opening quarter on a 1-yard run by 265-pound fullback Michael Calhoun, who also starred defensively.
Abingdon answered in the second period, led by Boothe, who connected with McClanahan from 11 yards out, and later added a 48-yard strike to Doane to put the Falcons ahead 21-14 going into the break.
Lucas also had a 13-yard scoring run in the second period, while Jenkins scored from 56 yards out to tie the score at 14-14.
“Our line did excellent, our running backs ran the ball very well. Our receivers executed going up and getting the ball,” said Boothe, whose brother was the quarterback at Abingdon last season, while his father played the position at Lebanon. “I have grown up in a quarterback family, it is a dream come true being able to execute back there.
“Hats off to my line. Dylan Hale, Major Cook, Spencer Buddington, Dasean Lucas, Tyler Mullins, all big boys that can do their job.”
Gate City got on the board on its first possession of the third quarter with Luke Reed connecting with John “Spider” Sallee from 18 yards. The extra failed, but the Blue Devils came right back, with the 47-yard Jenkins run and the two-point conversion run by Reed.
For those who weren’t sure what to think after Gate City’s upset of Richlands last week, the Blue Devils may have answered the doubters.
“We have got a long way to go. We have got to take it day by day, rep by rep,” Gate City first year head coach Jeremy Houseright said. “That is our motto right now. Try to get better every minute with every rep we have got right now.”
Abingdon tied the score at 28, with Lucas running the final four plays of an 11-play drive, finishing it off with runs of 23 and 9 yards. The Blue Devils got the ball back, but a holding penalty and sack by Abingdon’s Reese Jones forced a punt.
“We finally got them behind the chains and the defense was able to come up with that big stop that we needed,” Amburgey said. “Sometimes that is the way football goes.”
After a 13-yard run from Malique Hounshell, the Falcons went to Lucas, Eli Ratcliff - who had a stellar game on defense - and Boothe, moving the ball down the field for 54 yards on 12 plays.
“We were able to punch it in there late and not leave them any time so it was a great drive,” said Amburgey, who hadn’t ruled out trying a late field goal. “We were working our way down the field hoping and just seeing where we were at with the clock. We had full confidence in our field goal team as well.”
Instead, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Lucas, whose freshman brother, Dasean, was one of his blockers, was able to power the ball over from the 2 on his 32nd and final carry of the game.
“I am really tired, I can barely breathe,” Lucas said. “They played really hard. It was a tough game We were both pounding the ball.”
Gate City returns to Legion Field next Friday to face Sullivan South.
“These kids have shown heart all the way back from January to now. You can’t fault their effort, they are playing their tails off and they have been doing it since January,” Houseright said. “Give [Abingdon] credit, they are a good football team.
“I have got to do a better job of giving our kids a chance and I didn’t do that defensively today. I am not taking anything away from Abingdon, they are a great ball club. I have got to go work harder.”
Abingdon, which defeated Gate City for a fifth straight time, returns to Falcon Field on Friday to face Pulaski County.
“Some times you have got to win a tight game like that,” Amburgey said. “I think that will help us grow as a team.”
Abingdon 0 21 0 14 - 35
Gate City 7 7 14 0 - 28
GC-Calhoun 1 run (Rhoton kick)
A-McClanahan 11 pass from Boothe (Griffith kick)
A-Lucas 13 run (Griffith kick)
GC-Jenkins 56 run (Rhoton kick)
A-Doane 48 pass from Boothe (Griffith kick)
GC-Sallee 18 pass from Reed (kick failed)
GC-Jenkins 47 run (Reed run)
A-Lucas 9 run (Griffith kick)
A-Lucas 2 run (Griffith kick)
First downs: A 19; GC 15. Rush-Yards: A 46-272; GC 39-259. Pass yards: A 97; GC 38. Comp-Att-Int: A 4-6-0; GC 4-8-0. Fumbles-lost: A 1-0; GC 2-0. Penalty-yards: A 2-20; GC 3-25. Punts-Avg: A 1-35.0; GC 2-38.0.