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Comets Lose Heartbreaker

It was another chapter of the too-familiar story that has surrounded the Halifax County High School football team this fall.

Just when the Comets appeared to be on the brink of grabbing a victory, it would slip through their fingers.

Victory slipped through the hands of the Comets in the final four minutes, as Patrick Henry High School escaped with a 26-23 win Saturday afternoon in Roanoke in the final game of the season for both teams.

“We were just unable to close the deal today,” remarked Comets head coach Stan Hodgin after the loss that left the Comets with a 1-9 overall record and winless in four Western Valley District contests.

“We had some things to happen that are unfortunate and certainly will bite you against a good football team.”

Two of the unfortunate events occurred early and allowed Patrick Henry (3-7 overall, 1-3 district) to take a 14-0 lead in the first 10 minutes of the game.

The first occurred when the Patriots’ Shaheed Fitzgerald blocked a punt by the Comets’ Dru Henderson on Halifax County’s first possession of the game. Jaquese Whorley picked up the loose ball and raced 10 yards into the end zone for a touchdown to put PH up 6-0 with just a minute and 19 seconds having ticked off of the clock.

Later, on the Comets’ third possession of the first quarter, the Patriots’ Devontae Casey picked off a pass by Comets quarterback Dale Trent and ran it back 40 yards for a touchdown with 2:39 left in the first quarter. A two-point conversion gave PH a 14-0 lead.

The stunned Comets team looked all but beaten at that point. However, as they have done all season, they battled back to score 20 unanswered points, starting with two touchdowns in the final minute and a half of the first half that allowed them to deadlock the game at 14-14 at halftime.

Halifax County’s first touchdown came on a 28-yard toss from Trent to Lemal Adams with 1:30 left in the first half. The throw to Adams, who finished the day with seven catches for 156 yards and a touchdown, followed a 22-yard strike from Trent to Markee Brooks on the opening play of the possession.

The Comets’ defense held and a lengthy punt return by Kendall Adams set up the Comets deep in Patriots territory. Halifax scored on the first play with Trent hitting Davon Greene with a 24-yard pass for a touchdown with 16.7 seconds left in the half. Jordan Keck’s kick tied the game at 14-14.

“Our defense played as well in the first half as it had played all season,” Hodgin pointed out.

“Our defense pitched a shutout in the first half. With two minutes to go in the half and us down 14-0, our offense hadn’t done anything to gain any momentum for us to jump-start what we were doing off of. Then, all of a sudden, we made a couple of plays and got back in it.

“That was a turning point of the game,” added Hodgin.

“It just didn’t turn out to be the final turning point.”

The Comets took advantage of a Patrick Henry fumble to set up a score in the third quarter. An 11-play, 57-yard drive capped by a 3-yard run by Trent with 7:10 left in the third quarter put the Comets up 20-14.

Then, misfortune struck again. PH blocked another punt by Henderson, with Fitzgerald again making a block to set the table for a score.

The Patriots marched 23 yards in seven plays with Brandon Terry scoring on a 2-yard run to tie the game at 20-20 with 10:16 left in the game.

Halifax County answered on its next possession with a 26-yard field goal from Keck with 7:52 to play to take a 23-20 lead.

Unfortunately for the Comets, misfortune struck yet again – this time at the most inopportune point of the game.

The Comets had taken over the ball on their own 9-yard line with 4:38 left in the game and were looking to take time off of the clock. A penalty against PH gave the Comets a first down at their own 25-yard line, giving the Comets some breathing room and four more downs with which to use up more clock time.

But, on the first down play, the Patriots’ Aaron Heath and Shaq Stanley stripped the ball from Comets running back Thomas Logan and PH got the ball back at the Comets’ 26-yard line with 3:39 left.

“Thomas played well today and has played well this season.” Hodgin said.

“He was a big part of our running game today.”

Two penalties against the Comets on a fourth down-and five play, the second of which gave the Patriots a first down-and goal situation at the one-and a half yard line, put the Comets in deeper trouble.

The Patriots’ Zach Cochran punched the ball in from there with 2:47 left to give the Patriots what would be the game-winning score and the 26-23 lead.

Halifax got the ball back at its own 34-yard line and drove to the Patriots’ 45-yard line. That’s where the Comets’ bid to set up a possible game-tying field goal ended with the Comets failing to convert on fourth down and turning the ball over on downs with 1:35 to play.

PH coach Brad Bradley pointed out that his team was fortunate to get the right break at the right time.

“It’s about time we got a break,” Bradley said.

“That’s what football is all about. You’ve got to take advantage of the breaks. We did that today. It’s something we haven’t been able to do in the past.
“Halifax is a good football team and they fought hard,” added Bradley.

“This was a hard fought football game. It would have been easy for both teams to come out and not given it everything they’ve got with our records the way they are. But, both teams played hard.”