By Dan Sousa
Viva Loudoun Editor
Ashburn (Oct. 14, 2013) – The Tuscarora High School football team pounded the ball on the ground Monday night for 281 rushing yards on 60 plays, but it was a distance of several inches that cost the Huskies their perfect 5A North record as Broad Run’s defense came up with an epic goal line stand that sparked a remarkable fourth quarter turnaround that led to a 21-17 Spartan win.
Tuscarora (6-1) led 17-6 and appeared in complete control with first-and-goal at the Spartan 1 when Broad Run’s defense got real stubborn — holding the Huskies on four straight running plays including stopping Tuscarora quarterback Daniel Smith on a keeper from inside the 1 on 4th-and-goal on the first play of the fourth quarter.
“We refused to let them score,” said Broad Run senior linebacker Michael Yew.
The defensive stand ignited a Broad Run offense that had been stagnant since a game-opening touchdown drive. Spartan junior quarterback Brady Reitzel, standing in his own end zone in the shotgun, calmly took the first snap after the defensive hold and lofted a 34-yard completion to senior Travis Fulgham down the Huskies sideline.
“You feel it in your heart, just bouncing,” said Reitzel of the play from his own end zone. “That started everything. It was just a domino effect.”
Reitzel, just 2 of 5 and an interception in the first three quarters, had a clutch final quarter, going 9 of 12 for 129 yards and a 11-yard TD score to senior Abi Hamal. That play capped the 8-play, 99-yard drive with 9:44 left. Broad Run, wanting to make it a 3-point game, went for two points and after a face mask penalty nullified a sack of Reitzel, Broad Run punched the ball in with senior Da’Qwan Earl scoring to make it 17-14 Tuscarora.
Broad Run (5-1) played tough against Tuscarora running back Noah Reimers but the junior was able to bulldoze and fight his way for 212 yards rushing on 39 carries. In the fourth quarter, however, it was the Broad Run defense, crowding the line of scrimmage, that appeared to have the fresh legs as they forced a quick 3-and-out with the Huskies nursing the 3-point lead.
“It’s a huge (win). Our kids needed that confidence booster. They needed to believe in themselves,” said Broad Run coach Matt Griffis.
Tuscarora, reeling now, needed a defensive stand of its own but Broad Run was able to convert on 4th-and-1 from the Huskies 47 and then on 3rd-and-7 from the Huskies 40 on a 9-play, 56-yard go-ahead TD drive. Earl, who gained four important yards on the fourth down call, scored from 7 yards out to put Broad Run ahead, 21-17, with 5:24 left. On the third down conversion it was senior Corey Hilberath picking up seven yards.
Hilberath was a key part of Broad Run’s win on both sides of the ball. He scored on a 27-yard run in the first quarter, caught four passes in the final quarter and made an open field tackle on Reimers on a 3rd-and-9 swing pass that forced the Huskies to punt with 7:33 left in the game.
“We just knew we were going to come back. We have the talent. We have the coaching staff,” said Broad Run junior defensive leader Chuck Davis.
Tuscarora still had time after Broad Run went ahead, moving the ball near midfield but three running plays by Mali Barker left 4th-and-4 from the Tuscarora 46 and a dropped pass ended the drive.
Broad Run needed a first down or two to ice the win and the gritty Earl (83 yards on 19 carries) ran it five straight times before Hilberath essentially ended things on a play that summed up the final quarter. The Huskies needing a stop on 3rd-and-5 with 45 seconds left, made contact with Hilberath at the line of scrimmage but Hilberath kept his legs churning and in a rugyb-scrum like pile moved the ball nine yards before collapsing.
Needing just a victory formation kneel down, Broad Run caused a few Spartan hearts to skip a beat when on the final play of the game a shotgun snap bounced off Reitzel’s hands but Earl in the safety valve slot, fell on the ball to end things.
The Spartans comeback ruined the return of their former head coach Mike Burnett, who led Broad Run to back-to-back state titles in 2008 and 2009, before leaving to start the Huskies program.
“I thought it was in (the end zone) a couple of times but that is part of football,” said Burnett about the decisive goal line stand. Burnett and staff felt like Reimers had broken the plane of the goal line on 3rd-and-goal on the last play of the third quarter and then on the fourth down play, Smith, who already had a pair of TD sneaks in the game, was stopped by an initial surge just to the left of the center but then he lost the ball and Reimers later ended up with the ball in the end zone. The officials, however, ruled that Smith had already been stopped short.
“We think we punched it in but (Broad Run) made plays. They are a really good team,” said Burnett. “I still can’t believe that is not a TD. On fourth and goal, Reimers picked it up and ran it into the end zone.”
Broad Run converted on 4th-and-1 from the 50 on the game’s opening drive with Hilberath racing in from 27 yards to make it 6-0 after a 2-point pass attempt failed. From that point it was all Tuscarora as the Huskies ran the ball a mind-numbing 29 straight times over three drives. The first two drives of 45 and 74 yards ended with Smith sneaking it in from the 1 including a fourth-and-goal plunge with 6:-09 left in the second quarter.
Leading 14-6 at that point, Tuscarora recovered an onside kick and marched right back inside the 10 with Reimers coming up just short of the goal line on 2nd-and-goal but a holding penalty on that play stalled things and the Huskies were forced to end the half on a 30-yard Chris Miller field goal to make it 17-6.
Broad Run showed life coming out of half time, with a 3-and-out on defense and then an Earl 19-yard punt return to the Huskies 32. Four plays later, however, a pass on 4th-and-7 from the 25 was intercepted by Tuscarora’s Jordan Fisher at the 15. The Huskies then started their slow and steady run-only drive, eating up 7:28 off the clock, before the Spartans held their ground inside the 1.
Burnett was more interested after the game about the emotional state of his team rather than the story of his return to Broad Run.
“I feel bad for them,” said Burnett. “They are hurting right now.”
Tuscarora had just 12 yards passing on the night as they were content to chew clock and move the chains with the running game.
“We probably should have thrown the ball more and taken some chances down field,” said Burnett.
The game was played on Monday to allow the Broad Run field to dry out after last week’s rainfall so both teams have short weeks before their next Potomac District contest as the Spartans travel to 3-time defending state champion Briar Woods in their annual Battle for a Better Cause game and the Huskies host Potomac Falls.
Broad Run 21, Tuscarora 17
Tuscarora (6-1) 7 10 0 0 – 17
Broad Run (5-1) 6 0 0 15 – 21
1 BR Hilberath 27 run (pass failed), 9:24
1 T Smith 1 run (Miller kick), 0:12
2 T Smith 1 run (Miller kick), 6:09
2 Miller 30 FG, 0:08
4 Hamal 11 pass from Reitzel (Earl run), 9:44
4 Earl 7 run (Sergei kick), 5:24
T: Reimers 39-212, Barker 14-55, Smith 7-14. Totals 60-281.
BR: Earl 19-83, Hilberath 2-36, Reitzel 5-10. Totals 26-129.
T: Smith 2-4-0, 12 yards; Azzarita 0-1-0. Totals 2-5-0, 12.
BR: Reitzel 11-17-1, 145 yards. Earl 0-1-0. Totals 11-18-1, 145.
T: Davis 1-13, Reimers 1-0.
BR: Hilberath 6-49, Fulgham 2-53, Hamal 2-26, Earl 1-17.