By LARRY HYPES
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
ABINGDON, Va. —
Oh no, not again.
Tazewell's luckless Bulldogs had nearly every statistical advantage Friday over Abingdon except the score as the Falcons escaped with a 43-40 come-from-behind victory.
Hunter Norris scored four touchdowns to anchor Abingdon's victory.
For the second week in a row and third time in five games the Dogs scored 40 or more points but in two of three contests could not prevent an opponent from putting even more points on the board.
The Bulldogs (2-7) piled up 434 yards in total offense to Abingdon's 307 and led 17-12 in first downs, had fewer penalties, yet came up just short on the all-important scoreboard.
Abingdon (4-5) led 21-7 in the first quarter before Tazewell got untracked and from that juncture, it was game-on right to the closing bell.
Leading 40-36 with 4:37 remaining in the game, the Bulldog defense allowed Abingdon to march 69 yards in just six plays, as Jaylen Claridy danced in 13 yards for the winning score and put a severe damper on Tazewell's fragile playoff hopes.
In addition, Tazewell sophomore running standout Nick Blankenship was blindsided on a brutal tackle in the closing seconds of the first half and had to leave the game with a concussion. Blankenship had scored two touchdowns and rushed for 105 yards on only 10 carries before being knocked to the ground while trailing a play near the sidelines. His status for the upcoming contest with Lebanon is doubtful.
Jacob McReynolds stepped back into his fullback slot, however, in only his second game after missing more than a month with an injury and scored two touchdowns for Tazewell including a 31-yard tally just after halftime.
In the hard-hitting game, Falcon quarterback Tyler Arnold, who finished with 185 yards passing, was also shaken up midway in the third quarter. He came back to orchestrate the comeback but Abingdon also got a dazzling play from freshman passer Jake Sturgill, who had a dramatic 34-yard completion to Ashton Bassham that set up yet another AHS touchdown.
Tazewell's Malik Davis continued his stellar play with 53 rushing yards, 178 yards passing, and fired a 42-yard touchdown strike to Jesse Mountain in the first half. Davis powered over for a score himself on a two-yard bolt with 7:32 left in the game as the Bulldogs battled gamely to hold the advantage.
Norris, a 210-pound senior fullback, scored on runs of two, 13, 15, and 15 yards to pace the Abingdon ground game. One score was set up by a Tazewell fumble on an attempted kickoff return recovered by Abingdon on the THS 23-yard line in the first quarter.
Down 14-0, Tazewell answered when a 13-yard run by Davis set up Blankenship's 49-yard scamper for a score with 2:42 left in the opening stanza to cap a four-play drive.
Norris scored on the next series, however, icing another four-play march as the teams traded points in furious fashion.
Mountain caught a sharp spiral from Davis and zoomed to a 42-yard TD for the Dogs with 10:51 left in the first half. It was an impressive five-play drive for the Bulldogs, who had to go 97 yards with the ball after a kick returner stepped on the sideline at the three yard stripe.
Blankenship scored from a yard away with 1:29 to play before the break but the extra point was blocked and the Dogs trailed 21-20.
McReynolds gave THS the lead with his 31-yard touchdown burst at the 7:59 mark in the third quarter and Carter Rasnick's extra point kick pushed the Bulldogs to a 27-21 advantage.
Norris, however, continued to wreak havoc for Abingdon his 15-yard score pushed the Falcons in front 28-27 by the end of the quarter.
Davis got the next Tazewell touchdown, a two-yard effort but a try for two points failed and the Bulldogs held a 33-28 lead.
On the very next play, however, Falcon freshman Jeffery Wallace cut to his left and raced 85 yards for a kickoff return touchdown that sent AHS right back in front with 7:17 to go, and Lucas Hart's two-point conversion catch gave Abingdon a 36-33 advantage.
Mountain and Davis, however, refused to stop and Tazewell marched right back downfield on the next series. A 42-yard pass from Davis pushed Mountain to the one and McReynolds rushed in from there. Rasnick's kick made it 40-36.
The Falcons then mounted the winning drive.
“I don't know what else to say,” said dejected Tazewell coach Shane Allen. “We messed up a couple of special teams plays, we had a critical fumble to set up a touchdown for them (Abingdon) and we didn't stop their big plays.
“You can't do that and win. I feel bad for our offense. We're clicking on all cylinders when we have the ball. Malik (Davis) had another good game, and so did Jesse (Mountain). Nick (Blankenship) is going to be OK but he was really nailed on that sideways hit just before the half.
“I was proud of Jacob (McReynolds) stepping up big tonight with a couple of touchdowns. When you go on the road and score 40 points, you almost always win.”
Tazewell hosts Lebanon on Friday to conclude the regular season.
Abingdon............................21 0 7 13 — 43
Tazewell...............................7 13 7 13 — 40