By MIKE DAVIS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
RICHLANDS, Va. —
The Richlands Blue Tornado staged a late comeback and advanced to the Virginia 2A West semifinals with a 37-34 triple overtime win over the Virginia High Bearcats, Friday night at Ernie Hicks Stadium/ Emats Field. Richlands’ River Michaels’ pass on third down in the third ovrtime to Ben Brown proved to be the game winner.
“We made too many mistakes, but, the great thing about a great football team is this bunch never quit,” Richlands head coach Greg Mance said. “We looked into our guys eyes and all Virginia High had to do was get a first down at the end of the game or kick a field goal and it’s done, but, I told the kids we were going to block the kick.”
“Benny Brown made a great play and the fans were the difference in the football game,” Mance added. “They got in the game and we found a way to win.”
The Bearcats had held a 17-10 lead for the entire second half and hadn’t committed a turnover in the game and had the ball inside the Richlands 20-yard line with less than two minutes to go after Richlands muffed a punt. The Bearcats began to take steps to run out the clock and then on third down Justin Brown took the snapand ran wide. Richlands’ Ben Brown closed in, wrestled the ball free and raced 85 yards to tie the game and send it into overtime, 17-17.
Still on their heels after the Tornado score, the Bearcats opened the first overtime with Brown tossing a 10-yard score to Chandler Davis. Richlands answered with Colton Staten running in a 10-yard score.
In the second overtime, Richlands scored first on a four -yard run and Virginia High answered with Justin Brown adding a two-yard touchdown bringing the score to 31-31 through two overtimes.
The Blue Tornado defense rolled up their sleeves, went to work and stopped the Bearcats in three plays to begin the third overtime, forcing Virginia High to kick a 24-yard field goal. Richlands answered in three plays and capped the game winning drive in overtime with Michaels’ pass to Ben Brown for the win.
“It didn’t look like it was our night,” Mance said. “But the kids made enough plays to win and our hearts go out to Virginia High because both teams deserved to win.”
Virginia High lit its side of the scoreboard first with 6:31 on the first quarter clock when Austin Kiser bulled in from the one yard line. Kiser set up the touchdown on the previous play when he hit Austin Miles for a 32-yard pass. Gray Mumpower booted the point after to put the Bearcats ahead 7-0.
Richlands answered five minutes later on a drive that began at its own 37. Staten carried the ball twice for 17 yards across midfield and Michaels found Staten out of the backfield for a screen for a 19-yard gain. The Blue Tornado scored six plays later when Michaels punched in from three yards out Brown added the extra point to pull the game even.
The Blues added a 37-yard field goal nearly four minutes into the second quarter before Derrick Lee hauled in a 40-yard touchdown pass from Kiser. Mumpower booted a 45-yard field goal before the end of the opening half to round out the scoring.
Following a defensive battle in the second half, the game was scoreless until Brown returned the fumble in the final minutes to push the game into overtime.
Michaels led the Tornado offense completing 12-of-27 passes for 177 yards, two interceptions and one touchdown. He also ran for 46 yards on 14 attempts and scored a touchdown. Staten was the workhorse for Richlands with 101 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns. Brown caught six passes for the Blues for 119 yards and a score.
Kiser led Virginia in passing completing eight for 162 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a score. Justin Brown carried the ball 27 times for 76 yards and a TD.
Richlands will play Giles next week in the Region 2A West championship game.
At Ernie Hicks Stadium/Emats Field
Virginia High...............7 10 0 0 7 7 3 — 34
Richlands....................7 3 0 0 7 7 6 — 37
V – Kiser 1-yard run (Mumpower kick) 6:31
R – Michaels 3-yard run (Brown kick) 1:33
R – Brown 37-yard field goal 8:16
V – Lee 40-yard pass from Kiser (Mumpower kick) 5:31
V – Mumpower 45-yard field goal :47
R – Ben Brown 85-yard fumble recovery (Brown kick) 1:39
V – Davis 10-yard pass from Justin (Mumpower kick)
R – Staten 10-yard run (Brown kick)
R – Staten 4-yard run (Brown kick)
V – Justin Brown 2-yard run (Mumpower kick)
V – Mumpower 24-yard kick
R – Ben Brown 7-yard pass from Michaels