Raiders top Cats in 1-point thriller

Published 11:38 pm Friday, September 9, 2016

DAILY NEWS PHOTO/Chris Kinkaid Varnado’s Desmond Harry looks for running room against Pine on Friday night.

Varnado’s Desmond Harry looks for running room against Pine on Friday night.

Defense was the name of the game Friday at Pine, as both teams stepped up to the challenge.
In the end, Pine stopped a two-point conversion midway through the fourth quarter and sacked the Wildcats on fourth down late in the period in a 14-13 victory.
“They’ve been beat up the last two weeks. They haven’t played good, but that right there is probably about the best defensive effort I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” said Raiders’ coach Bradley Seal, who is in his fifth year at Pine. “It was a great effort by the defense.”
Varnado’s defense was nearly as tough. The Wildcats gave up a touchdown on Pine’s first possession of the game. The only other points Varnado allowed came on a long run in the third quarter.
“It was a battle,” Varnado coach Scott Shaffett said. “Coming into this game, I knew they had a great ball club. I knew they were going to be big, physical and strong and I haven’t mentioned their name all week because I wanted us to play our football and not worry about who we’re playing and all of that stuff.
“I want us to get better. Our goal is to win in 1A, to get to a state championship. We played a great football team tonight. Both defenses were great. These type of games is what gets you prepared for the playoffs.”
Varnado punted on the opening drive. Pine began at its 40. An offsides penalty moved the ball to the 45 and from there, the Raiders went 55 yards in seven plays. Quarterback Joey Seal had a pair of 1-yard runs on the drive, one for a first down and the other for a touchdown. The extra point was wide right and Pine led 6-0 with 6:48 left in the opening quarter.
Both teams had trouble moving the ball the rest of the half and the score remained 6-0 at halftime.
Varnado’s defense forced a punt to begin the third quarter, but the snap was low and just got past the punter. Varnado’s Darian Vargas recovered the ball at Pine’s 12. Four plays later, the Wildcats were in the end zone on a 2-yard run by James Williams. Damon Kirsch was successful on the extra point, giving Varnado a 7-6 lead with 7:24 left in the third quarter.
Pine went back in front early in the fourth quarter. The Raiders took over after a punt at their 19. They gained a yard on first down and then Jakyran Handy, who accounted for eight touchdowns last week — including seven rushing — took a handoff, went right, then up the field into the open. He went the distance for an 80-yard touchdown run and Pine had retaken the lead. Handy then added the two-point conversion to make it 14-7 with 10:36 on the clock.
Handy ran for 154 yards on 16 carries.
After the teams exchanged punts, Varnado took possession at Pine’s 30. On second down from the 28, Williams connected with Andre Jones, who took it to the end zone for the touchdown. Varnado’s holder was injured on the previous play, so the Wildcats were forced to go for two. Pine’s defense stepped up and made the stop, keeping the lead at 14-13.
“My holder got hurt the play before, so there was no decision,” Shaffett said.
Pine punted on the ensuing possession and then the Raiders made a sack on fourth down with 1:20 left. The Raiders ran out the clock for the 14-13 win.
Pine is 2-0 this season. The Raiders are on the road Friday night against Independence, who lost to St. Helena College & Career Academy, 48-0.
Varnado is 1-1. Up next for the Wildcats is a home game against Berwick, which defeated Abbeville, 35-14.