BRISTOL, Va. – Emotions ran wild on Friday night at John Battle High School as the Trojans football team defeated Virginia High School 12-7.
The Trojans and the Bearcats struggled for possession late in the fourth quarter, with both defenses combining for three fumble recoveries over four offensive snaps. Then with 53 seconds left in the game, Bearcats sophomore Stevie Thomas raced 44 yards to the end zone for what looked to be the go-ahead touchdown, but an illegal shift penalty against VHS (0-2) negated the score.
“I got to be honest, for a second there I was in shock when I saw him run down the sideline over there. There was just nothing I could do, I was over here,” said John Battle senior Dylan Cunningham. “I just ran down the sideline and then I turned and saw that flag and I saw the ref point back towards their way, and a sigh of relief just went over me man.”
On the ensuing play, Virginia High fumbled the ball and the Trojans (1-1) recovered it with 44 seconds remaining to clinch the victory and give Bradley Ricker his first win as Battle’s head coach.
“It was a hard fought battle, went back and forth there for a while — especially in the second half. A turnover here and a turnover there and getting a little fatigued,” Ricker said. “But we came out on top and I’m just proud of these guys.”
VHS had taken an early lead in the first quarter when sophomore Ajaani Delaney ran the ball 67 yards for the touchdown.
Cunningham tied the game on the second play of the second quarter with a five-yard run to the end zone by Cunningham to make it a 7-7 game. A Jayden Farley field goal with just over four minutes left in the first half would put the Trojans ahead 10-7, and Battle would score the final points of the game on a safety with just over eight minutes left in the third quarter.
Senior Walker Osborne led the Trojans in the win, completing 5-of-11 passes for 75 yards while also rushing for a team-high 132 yards on 11 carries. Junior Gabe Blaylock had a game-high 41 yards receiving on three receptions. Cunningham had the Trojans only touchdown of the night and finished with 43 yards rushing on 12 carries.
“I feel humbled. I don’t want to talk too much about me when I can talk about my team,” Cunningham said. “My team put it out there on the line for me, my line blocked for me and they helped me score tonight.”
Delaney led the Bearcats with 104 yards rushing on nine attempts, while Thomas finished with 45 yards on 13 attempts. Senior Gage Richards was 2-for-6 on pass attempts for 40 yards in the loss.
The Bearcats will try for their first win of the season in their home opener next Friday as they host Tennessee High. Meanwhile, the Trojans host Holston (2-0) next Friday night. Looking towards next week, Ricker said that the key for his team will be to focus on the basics in practice this week.
“Going back to fundamentals still. We’ve got to stay on ball security, we’ve got to keep progressing as a team and get that feel of what winning feels like,” Ricker said.
Virginia High 7 0 0 0—7
John Battle 7 3 2 0—12
VHS—Delaney 67 run (Farley kick)
JB—Cunningham 5 run (Farley kick)
JB—Farley 15 FG
JB—Safety, Richards sacked in end zone
Rushes-Yards: VHS 35-215, JB 31-193, Passing Yards: VHS 40, JB 75; Comp.-Att.-Int: VHS 2-6-0, JB 5-11-0; Fumbles-Lost: VHS 2-2, JSB 2-2.