First the Patriots go up big on Rock Ridge. Then the Phoenix rises up to tie. Finally, Park View rides the Niko Torpedo to victory.
Final score –
Rock Ridge Phoenix (1-3) 0 7 21 0 = 28
Park View Patriots (2-2) 0 14 14 14 = 42
2 / 10:40 – Park View TD (Kevin Lopez 4-yd run; Tony Lampe kick)
2 / 3:40 – Park View TD (Kevin Lopez 9-yd run; Tony Lampe kick)
2 / 1:08 – Rock Ridge TD (Dawson McGovern 8-yd pass to Francisco Shannon; DJ Davis kick)
3 / 10:44 – Park View TD (Caleb Donofrio 45-yd INT return; Tony Lampe kick)
3 / 7:53 – Rock Ridge TD (Dawson McGovern 13-yd pass to Will Camire; DJ Davis kick)
3 / 6:54 – Park View TD (Nikolai Hopkins 3-yd run; Tony Lampe kick)
3 / 3:14 – Rock Ridge TD (Eric Vivian 14-yd run; DJ Davis kick)
3 / 1:07 – Rock Ridge TD (Dawson McGovern 18-yd pass to Will Camire; DJ Davis kick)
4 / 2:09 – Park View TD (Nikolai Hopkins 1-yd run; Nikolai Hopkins 2-pt run)
4 / 0:59 – Park View TD (Nikolai Hopkins 25-yd run; 2-pt run failed)
Park View High School, Sterling Park, Va. (September 16, 2016) — Mick Mullins didn’t enjoy Friday night’s game.
Oh, he sure enjoyed the result: A 14-point race-to-the-finish, dropped ultimately into the win column for Mullins’ Patriots of Park View High School…a victory garnered over a valiant, prepared and improvingly talented Phoenix of Rock Ridge High School…in front of an enthusiastically loud crowd on a fantastic Sterling Park Friday night for our Viva Loudoun TopTicket of the Week.
Mullins could understand if you enjoyed it, though.
“That was a great game to watch for the fans. Not so much for us doing the coaching,” said the Patriots third-year head coach, whose outfit has already equalized last year’s total.
It was a great night to be a Park View fan, with the heart-testing win coming before a full-thoated throng of Patriot students plus a plethora of families there to see their little ones paraded to applause in their Lower Loudoun Boys Football League & Cheerleaders uniforms.
On “Celebrate Sterling” night, with the LLBFL cheerleaders chanting and dancing with their Park View mentors all night long, and with the Patriot players eager to avenge last year’s five-point loss to the Phoenix at Rock Ridge, the fans wound up with plenty to enjoy.
Like Mullins said, it was a great game to watch without a headset on. Hard runs and hard hits, momentum swings and comebacks, timely defensive stops and pretty pass plays – plus a determined senior running back who went from goat to hero, all in the second half.
Nikolai “Niko” Hopkins has long carried the mail for Park View’s offense, the Rock Ridge showdown being no exception. The ball was stuffed into his gut 14 times in the first half and 15 more in the second – but one of those carries didn’t go so well.
Late in the third, with the Rock Ridge offense hot and Park View clinging to a 28-21 margin and desperate for a first down, Hopkins zoomed to room enough for a fresh set of four. But in his reach he fumbled, giving the Phoenix great position.
A few plays later, quarterback Dawson McGovern zipped a seeing-eye pass past Park View defenders and into fellow senior Will Camire‘s arms for a 28-28 tie that began the fourth.
“I just knew that fumble was on me, and we needed to come back and grind and push it into the end zone,” Hopkins said in the game’s aftermath. “We had to do it for the team.”
Thirty-six wild minutes of football had put the Phoenix and the Patriots into a deadlock with 12:00 glowing on the clock. Rock Ridge opened with the ball and the offensive groove they’d found since late in the second.
That groove was in large thanks to senior running back Eric Vivian, who shined all night for the Phoenix. Thirteen times he’d scampered more than 10 yards on a go, and it was he to whom head coach Tony Tallent gave the ball again and again, riding Vivian as Rock Ridge began to engineer a time-draining, yard-chewing drive that made it to the Park View 31.
Considering the Patriots were without two starting defensive tackles and have been shuffling defensive secondary personnel all season, the Phoenix’s seemed on a path to the late lead.
“We needed somebody to make a play to take momentum,” Mullins said.
Mullins got two someones to make a play. On Rock Ridge’s 4th-&-5, Park View’s Colin Mills and Steven Berrios stepped up to knock down Vivian well short of the marker, getting back both the ball and momentum. It was Mills’ third tackle for loss on the night.
On the ensuing possession, Hopkins ran like a man possessed. Wrapping himself around the precious football, the 215-pound back banged out first down after first down, each time moving the pile before succumbing to tackle. With 10 of his closest friends guiding the way, Hopkins finally powered over the goal line for the go-ahead score with less than two minutes remaining.
The crowd went wild. And they stayed wild when Mullins rolled the dice, dangerously went for two and made it – because Hopkins plowed it in.
“Big props to the o-line,” said Hopkins, who hangs out with his offensive line teammates off the field too. “Without them I don’t get any of the yards I get.”
The Phoenix’s final drive never got a chance to start, as a bad snap on the first play was fallen on by the Patriots. That’s when Hopkins make sure of the ending with a highlight-reel entry.
Smacking straight into the line to kill clock, Hopkins and his mates inched the pile forward some, then some more…then a scrum of Hopkins and a circle of Rock Ridge defenders spilled out into a moving blob that raced downfield as one, still making forward progress…until Hopkins spun loose from all of them, dashing impossibly into the end zone to the delight of the assembled fans.
Mullins of Hopkins, noting that he was among the night’s iron-man Patriots like Mills and Caleb Donofrio, down for every possible snap.
Tallent saw enough from his team to be optimistic about what his second-year program can do, while also being frustrated about what could have been.
“We were in a position to make plays,” Tallent said. “We really felt like we had them on their heels, had the game won.”
The First Three Quarters
It was genuinely such an action-packed game that even the most nimble-worded of sportscribes may find it hard to cram all its big, key, game-changing plays into a story and keep it anything close to brief. But I’ll try anyway.
Describing quarter No. 1 is easy: Tackling practice. The teams exchanged punts as they sized up each other. Rock Ridge nearly scored when a deep ball was snagged in the back of the end zone, but with one foot already out of bounds. The opening stanza ended scorelessly.
Hopkins began the second quarter on a roll. He shouldered the load for a series of first downs to get inside the 5, then let 240-pound Kevin Lopez barge up the middle for the game’s first score.
Exactly seven minutes later, Lopez scored again, exactly the same way. Coming off a recovered Phoenix fumble, Hopkins fueled a short drive that Lopez concluded, storming angrily onto paydirt without letting anyone tackle him. Two Park View touchdowns, both run in by Lopez, both set up by Hopkins and both allowed to continue by costly fourth-down penalties against Rock Ridge.
“The things that happened in the first half,” said Tallent, going over a litany of missed chances and questionable calls, “and to get it back to 28-28, there’s a ton to take from that.”
The Phoenix came back. Vivian took charge and took over, driving Rock Ridge into the red zone where McGovern hit Francisco Shannon slanting into the end zone. The Phoenix’s goose egg was cracked just before halftime.
Rock Ridge’s hopes of equalizing right after halftime were foiled almost immediately. On a 3rd-&-5, McGovern dumped a screen pass that Donofrio stuck a hand in front of, and it stuck. He sped away for a pick-6 and a 21-7 lead.
The visitors responded with a long drive punctuated by McGovern’s scoring connection with Camire, a rollout on 3rd-&-8 that found Camire all by his lonesome. The home team replied back as sophomore Tony Lampe, in his first start at quarterback, found Noah Helmick in a secluded location for a 59-yard gain to the 3, where Hopkins punched it in.
No time was wasted in the Phoenix’s response. With Vivian in full effect, Rock Ridge sliced through the Park View defense to a quick score, shaving their deficit to 28-21. The stage was set for Hopkins to fumble, the lead to evaporate and the series of late decisive plays to ensue.
The coach said it was a great game.
“That might be the thing I’m most proud of,” Mullins said. “When they came back on us, you could see that our kids had more experience to ride it out.”
Hopkins was pleased to have put on a show for all the Sterling Park neighborhoods.
“Little kids came here tonight to watch us, so we had to show up for them,” the senior said. “They’ll be coming here someday so we’ve got to give them a good name to come to.”
Big Band Music
Halftime festivities were headlined by the Marching Patriots and their highly choreographed eight-minute performance entitled “Music For a Darkened Theatre.” A constantly rearranging band of musicians blew a bluesy theme with heavy horn play while a court of eight flagwavers, brandishing mesmorizingly striped flags, weaved amid them. The big number crescendoed to a big finish and got a big hand from the big crowd.
Park View stats –
Rushing: Nikolai Hopkins 29-177, 3 TDs; Caleb Donofrio 4-30; Tony Lampe 6-24; Kevin Lopez 3-16, 2 TDs
Passing: Tony Lampe 2 of 7 for 59, 1 INT
Receiving: Noah Helmick 1-59; Adam Thorne 1-0
Rock Ridge stats –
Rushing: Eric Vivian 30-225, 1 TD; Dawson McGovern 3-12; William Maxwell 3-8; Bo Blacken 1-0; DJ Davis 1-(-4)
Passing: Dawson McGovern 9 of 19 for 106, 3 TDs, 1 INT
Receiving: Will Camire 2-31, 2 TDs; DJ Davis 2-26; David Shapiro 1-34; Francisco Shannon 1-8, 1 TD; Eric Vivian 2-6; Chico Bennett 1-1
Other scores –
Champe 17, Loudoun Valley 14
Woodgrove 24, Dominion 14
Heritage 24, Freedom 14
Potomac Falls 41, Langley 28
Stone Bridge 39, Chantilly 7
Riverside 23, John Paul the Great 14
West Potomac 38, Briar Woods 35
Oakton 31, Tuscarora 20
Centreville 21, Broad Run 9
Off week for: Loudoun County
VivaLoudoun: We Live For Loudoun™
Written by Jason S Rufner
for Viva Loudoun Media Communications