TAZEWELL, Va. — District champions.
Abingdon parlayed a pair of first-quarter touchdowns into a soggy 21-0 Halloween win over Tazewell to capture the Southwest District football championship Friday. The Falcons (8-1) clinched the top spot and virtually assured themselves a favorable playoff position with one week remaining in the regular season.
Tazewell (5-4) lost for the first time in five home games but are also headed to the Virginia High School League playoffs, albeit in a road contest with the site yet to be determined. A victory at Lebanon this coming week would ensure a winning record at THS for the first time since 2008.
“We played hard,” said Bulldog mentor Shane Allen. “Abingdon is the most talented all around of any team we have faced this year. They deserve the district championship. They are well coached and are not going to beat themselves.”
Abingdon mixed the run and pass in the opening half, slowly grinding out yardage and time in the final two quarters. The Falcons finished with 223 total yards to 195 for Tazewell.
As it turned out, the win was assured in the opening minutes when Falcon quarterback Jake Sturgill dropped back and fired a 32-yard touchdown pass down the middle to Jeff Wallace. That capped an 8-play, 75-yard march perfectly balanced with four runs and four passes.
Wallace slipped slightly as he crossed the plane but managed to hang on to the ball for the score. Skyler Simcox drilled the PAT high over the cross bar and Abingdon secured what proved to be the winning points with a 7-0 advantage at the 9:23 mark of the opening stanza.
Sturgill, who finished with 90 yards passing, got a crucial five on a touchdown toss to Derrick Yates on the next possession. Simcox again split the uprights as AHS moved in front 14-0 with 3:13 left in the period. Sturgill managed the game in the drizzle, getting all the aerial yards in the first half and directing a running attack as the contest concluded.
Tazewell’s defense played shut down for virtually the next three quarters. Garrett Jessee, Daniel Smith, and Diante Cecil were among the defenders who time and again were able to contain the talented Falcons. Juwan Jordan, coming up from his cornerback slot, was also effective.
Jordan, in fact, halted a serious Abingdon scoring threat with a leaping end zone interception with only :18 seconds left in the first period. That play, stopping what was nearly a third straight Falcon scoring drive, swung the defensive momentum Tazewell s way for much of the next two quarters.
The Bulldogs encountered a fierce defense to contend with, as well. Tazewell was only able to penetrate the Falcon 50 on two drives. The Falcons recovered a pair of THS fumbles and the Dogs’ most serious scoring threat was stopped at the 8-yard line on a turnover.
“We played some good defense,” noted THS quarterback Malik Davis. “Abingdon is a very talented team. If we had executed a little better, we could have put more pressure on them.”
Nick Blankenship, sidelined for the past month due to illness, returned in limited action to pace Tazewell with 62 rushing yards. He now has 922 yards on the ground in less than six full games.
Raequon Jordan, the Falcon running star, had 70 yards on 20 carries. He tallied the final touchdown on a one-yard burst with 10:31 to go. Abingdon had only 31 yards to cover on the final scoring march. Simcox hit his third extra point for the 21-0 margin.
Simcox missed a 33-yard field goal attempt late in the second stanza.
Austin Weddle finished any remaining drama when he grabbed an interception for the Falcons in the closing seconds on a tipped ball.
Davis finished with 94 yards passing including 28 to Jordan. Overall, Abingdon led 15-6 in first downs.
The game marked the final home game in a 34-year career for veteran Bulldog assistant coach Ernie Yost, who is retiring after the playoffs. Yost began as a star player for Coach Dave Rider in the late 1960s when the Bulldogs made their first-ever state playoff appearance.
At Bulldog Stadium/Witten Field
Abingdon............................14 0 0 7 — 21
Tazewell...............................0 0 0 0 — 0
A - Wallace, 32-yard pass from Sturgill (Simcox kick) 9:23
A - Yates, 5-yard pass from Sturgill (Simcox kick) 3:13
A - Jordan, 1-yard run (Simcox kick) 10:31C