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Lions gridders win title crown

It came down to the final game, but the Halifax County Middle School football team got the win it needed to win the Southside Middle School Conference championship. Halifax County Middle School defeated Park View Middle School in South Hill 22-8 to win its sixth straight Southside Middle School Conference football championship. The championship was the eighth for the Lions in their 10 years under the direction of Head Coach Frank Shealy.

The win gave the Lions a perfect 6-0 slate in Southside Middle School Conference play and a 9-1 overall record for the season.

“It was a great season,” noted Shealy

“This wasn’t the most talented team I have ever had, but rather a combination of good young men that pulled together to fulfill our goal, a sixth championship in a row and the eighth in my tenure here as head football coach.

“We have played a lot of solid teams over the years, and the coaching staff does a great job of getting players in the right spot,” Shealy continued.

“We work on the fundamentals throughout the year, and I hope the eighth-graders will continue playing in high school and do us proud.”

Offensively, Justin Logan led the team with 62 rushing yards and a 75-yard kick return for a touchdown. James Smith Jr. logged 40 rushing yards, passed for 71 yards, threw for one touchdown and ran for a pair of two-point conversions. Kelonte Gutrich had 61 receiving yards and a touchdown, and Jacob Garrett ran for 30 yards and had 10 receiving yards.

Ryan Waller led the Lions’ defense with 12 tackles, three of which resulted in losses of eight or more yards. Jamal Chism had 10 tackles in the game. Tyler Lewis had eight tackles and Zack Carlson had five tackles.

The Lions led in every statistical column with 276 yards of total offense that included 130 yards rushing, 71 yards passing, and 75 return yards.

Park View Middle School tallied 174 yards of total offense including 102 yards rushing 19 yards passing, and 53 return yards.

“It was a great job onboth sides of the ball,” Shealy pointed out.

“I can’t say enough about the offensive line. Brandon Hollowell, Logan Blake, R.J. Scott, Nelson Pringle and Shannon Moore have been great all year long.   They don’t get the glory, but we ran the ball well this year because of them. They make everything possible on the offense.”

The Lions took advantage of a Park View Middle School fumble to grab the early lead. Park View fumbled the ball on the second play of the game and the Lions’ Kelemente Poloa recovered the ball on the Park View 15-yard line.

Smith scored on the Lions’ second offensive play of the game, racing into the end zone from 11 yards out. An attempted two-point conversion failed, leaving the Lions with a 6-0 lead with 6:25 left in the first quarter.

Halifax County Middle School lost the ball on a fumble during its second possession of the game and Park View got the ball back. The hosts put together a 14-play scoring drive and added a two-point conversion to take an 8-6 lead with 3:22 left in the first half.

The Lions got back on top before the first half ended as Logan returned the ensuing kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown. That and a run by Smith for a two-point conversion gave the Lions a 14-8 lead with 2:59 left in the first half. They never lost the lead after that.

Halifax County Middle School came up with what would be the final score of the game on its first offensive possession of the second half. A three-play drive capped by a 33-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Gutrich and a run by Smith for a two-point conversion put the Lions up by the eventual 22-8 final score with 6:30 left in the third quarter.

The Lions’ defense came up big in stopping a Park View Middle School drive in the third quarter. Park View Middle School consumed the majority of the fourth quarter with a 12-play drive that also came up empty.