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Comets’ playoff hopes shattered

For two weeks there had been a glimmer of hope that the Halifax County High School varsity football team could earn a berth in the Northwest Region Division 5 playoffs.

That hope is now gone.

A second-half rally that saw the Comets score nine unanswered points wasn’t enough as the Comets fell to previously winless William Fleming High School 18-17 Friday night in Roanoke.

The loss was a stunner for the Comets, who struggled with miscues and tackling woes against a quick William Fleming High School team that managed to snap a nine-game losing streak in its Senior Night game.

“We took them lightly,” said Comets Head Coach Michael Roark following the loss that dropped the Comets to 3-6 overall and 1-2 in Western Valley District play.

“They (William Fleming) are a very good team. They’ve played everybody tough. We told them (the players) all week they’re a very good team. I guess everybody didn’t hear me when I said that.”

The Comets failed to convert on fourth down on three trips inside the Colonels’ 30-yard line. On another occasion that came early in the fourth quarter, the Comets drove to the Colonels’ 4-yard line only to have to settle for a 26-yard field goal from Kyle Lacks with 8:35 left in the game that brought the Comets to within a point at 18-17.

Halifax County High School had an opportunity to pull the game out of the fire in the final four minutes, but couldn’t pull it off.

Starting at their own 25-yard line, the Comets deftly marched into William Fleming High School territory. With the ball at the Colonels’ 36-yard line and the Comets facing a third down and seven yards to go situation, Comets senior running back Alonzo Bennett, who had scored a pair of touchdowns, ran into a wall and was stopped for a one-yard loss. The Comets also failed to move the ball on fourth down, with Bennett getting hammered a second time for no gain.

After that, the Colonels ran the final 57 seconds off of the clock to seal the win.

Roark said that with his team struggling with the passing game in the second half, he opted to take his chances on the final drive with Bennett, who finished the game with 226 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns.

Comets quarterback Tyler Stephens had hit only four of 11 passes for 46 yards in the first half, and had had one pass intercepted. He did not complete a pass in the second half and was penalized once in the second half for intentionally grounding a pass.

“Normally, we would have been running some play-action, but I was afraid to throw the ball,” Roark explained.

“We had a bad night trying to throw (the ball). That made us one-dimensional. Once we became one-dimensional, they (William Fleming High School) were putting nine and 10 guys in the box.”

The Comets got on the scoreboard first with a 14-yard touchdown run by Bennett with 6:23 left in the first quarter. That run, and a two-point conversion on a run by Tre’ Morgan gave the Comets an 8-0 lead on their opening possession of the game.

William Fleming High School answered with a 58-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tyrell Adams to Khalil Bonds with 4:16 left in the first quarter to cap a four-play, 70-yard drive and make it an 8-6 score.

The Colonels took advantage of a Comets fumble and a pair of penalties against the Comets to get the ball at the Comets’ 12-yard line. Adams, after another penalty against the Comets, scored a touchdown on a 6-yard run with 5:38 left in the first half to take the lead at 12-8.

William Fleming then intercepted a pass by Stephens to get the ball back at the Comets’ 41-yard line. The Colonels scored in five plays, with Adams connecting with Bonds on a 16-yard pass for a touchdown with 2:53 left in the first half to produce an 18-8 lead that held up until halftime.

The Comets got back into contention when Bennett scored his second touchdown of the game on a 66-yard run with 4:22 left in the third quarter. Bennett’s touchdown brought the Comets to within four points at 18-14.

Lacks’ fourth-quarter field goal got the Comets to within a point before their final possession of the game came up empty.

“We said when we came here if they (William Fleming High School) keep this thing close we’re going to be in a dogfight,” Roark pointed out.

“This is the one (game) they circle. They circled it and they fought and we came in second.”