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The Heathwood Hall Highlanders outscored the visiting Cardinal Newman Cardinals 17-0 in the fourth quarter to come back and win a SCISA 4A thriller 33-26 Friday, September 16.
This game had everything: long runs, huge catches, a goal line stand, a safety, clutch kicking, some weird calls, a 14-year-old star in the making, a comeback, and a dancing milkshake on the sidelines (Sonic sponsored WACH TV’s broadcast of the game).
“It’s a team game,” Heathwood Hall head coach Danny Lewis said. “At the end of the day, it’s three phases: offense, defense, and the kicking game. All these kids just stepped up tonight.”
The Cardinals struck first getting a 77-yard touchdown run from AJ Reyes at the 7:52 mark of the first quarter. The 2-point conversion attempt failed, and Cardinal Newman led 6-0. Reyes finished with 116 yards on 14 carries.
After a second straight Heathwood punt, Cardinal Newman marched 74 yards in seven plays ending the drive with a 14-yard touchdown run from quarterback Duncan Skehan. Braxton Rodgers took in the 2-point conversion, and the Cardinals led 14-0 with 4:11 left in the first quarter.
The Highlanders responded with a 75-yard, 10-play drive. Grayson Hawn ended it with a 7-yard touchdown run, and Will Frick added the extra point to cut the Cardinal Newman lead to 14-7 to start the second quarter.
The Cardinals promptly drove 66 yards to the Heathwood 2-yard line getting 39 of those yards from Skehan’s bomb to Logan Busenlehner. However, the Highlander defense held and stopped Reyes on a fourth-and-goal from the Heathwood 3. However, Cardinal Newman got the ball back when Nicholas Doctor grabbed an interception at the Cardinal 45-yard line and returned it 10 yards. The Highlanders held the Cardinals to a three-and-out but were called for a roughing the punter to give Cardinal Newman new life. Three plays later Skehan hit Doctor for a 45-yard touchdown pass and a 20-7 lead with 1:48 left in the half.
Heathwood’s 14- year-old freshman quarterback Patrick Belk then led a 67-yard, five-play drive to cut the deficit to 20-14 with 26.8 seconds to spare. Belk hit Thompson Dubose for gains of 14 and 34 yards, and then he found Lesesne wide open in the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown.
“There’s no way that kid’s 14 years old,” Lewis said of Belk. “He gets better every quarter. And the thing that I like about him—yeah, he makes plays and what have you—but he’s just so cool and calm under pressure. It gives everybody on the sideline confidence, including me.”
“I just trusted my guys,” Belk said. “I ran out of the pocket a lot. I trusted them to make plays, and they did that. “
The score stayed at 20-14 until the 6:44 mark of the third quarter. Cardinal Newman’s Troy Seal recovered a Heathwood fumble, and the Cardinals marched 56 yards scoring on Skehan’s screen pass to Doctor who took it 19 yards while dragging Highlander defenders with him into the end zone for a 26-14 advantage.
Heathwood then held the ball for 13 plays but ended up having to punt from the Cardinal 36-yard line on a fourth-and-17 play. Frick bounced one perfectly to the Cardinal Newman 1-yard line. One play later, the Highlander defense stopped Ja’Khaydin Kinard in the end zone for a safety cutting the Heathwood deficit to 26-16 with 2:05 left in the third quarter.
Frick did it again on the next possession pinning the Cardinals at their own 4-yard line with a 46-yard punt to start the fourth quarter.
“You cannot put a price tag on flipping field position,” Lewis said of Frick. “How many times did he get it inside the 10 tonight? He did it three times last week. So he’s a weapon.”
Cardinal Newman ended up punting from its own 1-yard line, and after a return with a face mask penalty, Heathwood started its next drive at the Cardinal 24-yard line. Hawn took it five yards, and then Lesesne took it the final 19 for the touchdown. Frick added the extra point, and the Highlanders trailed 26-23 with 10:20 to play.
The Cardinals drove 28 yards to midfield, but a fumble gave the ball back to Heathwood at the 47- yard line. Three scrambles from Belk got the Highlanders to the Cardinal 35. Hawn added two runs for 20 yards, and Belk found Nick Nichols to get to the Cardinal Newman 5-yard line, but the Cardinal defense stiffened forcing Heathwood to settle for Frick’s 26- yard field goal tying the game at 26-26 with 3:56 left.
Charles Wilcox grabbed an interception at midfield to give the Highlanders the ball right back, but they could not take advantage and were forced to punt. However, Frick’s punt bounced off the head of a Cardinal player running back to make a block, and Zane Truesdale pounced on the loose ball giving Heathwood possession at the Cardinal Newman 8-yard line. Two plays later, Lesesne scored from six yards out with 59.5 seconds to play. Frick added the extra point, and Heathwood grabbed its first lead of the night at 33-26.
“ You have to work extremely hard and make your own breaks in this game,” Lewis said of the punt. “It’s an ugly and hard game, and the fact we were able to take advantage of one of their miscues—hey, we’ll take it.”
The Cardinals got a 22-yard pass from Skehan to Doctor to get to their own 31-yard line, but two straight sacks by Heathwood’s Nick Johnson and Tripp Campbell left them facing a fourth-and-28 from their own 12. The Highlanders stopped a hook-and-lateral attempt that followed and then took a knee to end it.
Johnson finished with nine tackles—seven for loss—and a sack.
“I take my hat off to (Cardinal Newman head) Coach (Cory) Helms and his staff,” Lewis said. “ What they’ve done in these past few weeks and the offseason and leading up to this game—they’ve done a fantastic job. They’re going to be a problem in our league. I told Cory I hope I don’t have to see them rest of the season.”
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