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Late touchdown, interception seal victory for Lions

The Halifax County Middle School football team came up with just enough offense and a timely defensive play when it needed it most. With the score tied at 22-22 and the ball in hand with 54 seconds left in Monday’s non-conference game against Ben Franklin Middle School at Tuck Dillard Stadium, it appeared the two teams were going to have to settle for a deadlock.

That was before the Lions’ Justin Logan took over.

With the ball at the Lions’ 43-yard line, Logan ran for 12 yards and a first down before scooting out of bounds to stop the clock. On the next play, Logan began running another sweep to the outside, but he found a hole, cut back inside and broke free for a 45-yard touchdown run with 37.7 seconds left in the game to put the Lions up 28-22.

Later, with 18 seconds left on the clock, the Lions’ Zack Carlson picked off a Ben Franklin Middle School pass and returned it to midfield to seal the win for the Lions.

“Justin is a heck of a runner,” pointed out Halifax County Middle School Head Coach Frank Shealy.

“We had no timeouts and very little time left. He (Logan) did exactly what he was instructed to do on his first run, and ran out of bounds to stop the clock. The second play was another sweep to get him back outside. He scared me when he cut it back inside, but he made it.”

Shealy also praised the effort of the team’s defense, especially with the big stop at the end of the game with Carlson’s interception.

“It was a good job on their (the defense’s) part to pull through,” he noted.

“They scuffled a little bit in the first half and early in the second half.”

Monday’s game was a see-saw affair that saw several momentum shifts.

Halifax County took the early lead with a touchdown run by Tyrus Pannell with 2:46 left in the first quarter. A pass from quarterback James Smith Jr. to Kelonte Gutrich for a two-point conversion put the Lions up 8-0.

Ben Franklin Middle School answered with a pair of scores, the second coming in the wake of a Lions fumble, to take a 16-8 lead with 5:06 left in the first half.

Halifax County Middle School scored first in the second half, with the score coming on a 49-yard touchdown run by Logan on the Lions’ third play from scrimmage in the half.

Smith ran for the two-point conversion to tie the game at 16-16.

The Lions scored again before the third quarter ended, with Smith scoring on a 8-yard run with 1.8 seconds left in the period, to take a 22-16 lead after three quarters of action.

Ben Franklin Middle School posted its final score of the game on a 3-yard touchdown run with 5:03 left in the contest, setting the stage for the dramatic ending.

“It was a good comeback,” Shealy said.

“We played a little flat, and that has been kind of our forte when it comes to playing on Mondays. We just happened to have the ball last. It was a good victory for this club.”

The Lions have one more game remaining on their schedule, that coming Monday when they travel to South Hill to face Park View Middle School in a game that will determine the Southside Middle School Conference championship. Kickoff time is 5:30 p.m.