By MIKE DAVIS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BIG STONE GAP, Va. —
The Richlands Blue Tornado needed five minutes to close the deal against the Union Bears. The Blues owned a one-touchdown lead with the ball before the Bears clawed their way back into the game, scoring two touchdowns in the final minute and sent Blues packing 27-21.
“We made nine mistakes in the final five minutes,” said Richlands head coach Greg Mance. “You can’t do that against a good football team and be successful.
“It comes back to coaching. When you can’t get lined up in the final minute of the game and then we throw an interception and they run it back for a touchdown, that’s on me. I should’ve never put our quarterback in that position.”
The Blues defense had made a late-game stand against a potent Bears offense that could not get a successful run against them. With 5:06 left in the game, two incomplete passes gave the Blues the ball and 4:50 left to defense their lead.
After playing dominate football on both sides of the ball, the Tornado self self-distructed in the final minutes and three bad snaps forced them to punt with 1:37 left in the game.
However, the Bears were hungry and set up shop on their own 30-yard line. Quarterback Tanner Hall went to the air and consecutive completions to Dez Burney and Mekyah Davis pushed the ball across midfield. Three plays later, Hall hit Jay Gavin for a 37-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline. The point after would surely send the game into overtime.
However, two plays into the Tornado drive after the ensuing kickoff, Richlands put an errant pass into Bears’ Brandon Hubbard’s hands at the Richlands 45-yard line. From there, he scored with time running out to get the win.
“I still can’t believe they passed it,” Bears head coach Travis Turner said. “But, we’ll take it, we’ve lost some close ones that way, finally we had one go our way.”
Richlands came into the game scoring on their second possession with 7:51 left in the opening quarter. River Michaels found Ben Brown on the right side and the duo hooked up for a 73-yard touchdown pass. Brown added his first of three extra points.
The Blues added another touchdown the next time they touched the ball on a 56-yard drive capped by Michaels finding Colton Staten in the middle for a 10-yard touchdown pass.
Union answered with a touchdown two minutes alter when Hall found Gavin for a 60-yard touchdown pass before Brandon Simon added the point after. The Bears scored again before intermission on a 6-yard run by Jake McCray with 4:13 left in the half.
Richlands scored on their first possession of the first half on a 62-yard drive in six plays. Staten ran 54 of those yards on four carries before Michaels bowled in from the 1-yard line.
Union finished the night with 338 yards with Hall completing 10-of-21 passing attempts for 175 yards. Gavin caught four passes for 111 yards and a touchdown. Davis rushed for 82 yards on 12 carries and McCray carried the ball 12 times for 43 yards.
Richlands was led by Staten on the ground with 185 yards on 24 carries with a touchdown rushing and one receiving. Brown caught three passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. Michaels threw for 105 yards completing 4-of-11 with two interceptions and a touchdown.
The Tornado returns home this week to take on the G-Men in another non-district matchup.
Richlands..................................14 0 7 0 — 21
Union.........................................7 7 0 13 — 27