This was published in the December 14, 2016 edition
By Margaret Scott
There was a crisp breeze in the 40 degree weather and fans filed into the Stadium, the band came in and the student section came in, everyone was there to support the Golden Eagles first ever State Championship appearance. Everyone bundled up so tight, just so they could enjoy watching some Staunton River football as the Golden Eagles got set to face the Blacksburg Bruins.
As the Staunton River community got their hot chocolates and coffees they gathered in the stands at William and Mary, the Golden Eagles were in for a 48 minute battle. This was the final game of the season, the final battle the 2016 record setting football team would see.
It was an experience of a life time, history in the making event for the school. The one thing every team member, fan and coach would want to change, if they could, was only the final score: Blacksburg 28, Staunton River 20. But the players had no reason to hang their heads.
“Obviously just the final score, but our preparation I wouldn’t change anything. Our kids were prepared and they were ready to play,” said Coach Chuck Poston. “Our coaches did a great job of preparing them our fan support was awesome. I am so proud of our Staunton River community for showing out the way they did.”
A victory was oh, so close. With less than 15 seconds on the clock, Staunton River trailed by eight, tried for a long pass but the pass was intercepted and Blacksburg took a knee on the next play to secure its 28-20 victory.
“It was a tough loss,” said Poston. “But you had two good teams going at it for a championship and you know it’s not going to be easy. I knew it wasn’t going to be a 70 point blow out or anything like that. I knew it was going to be a tough game, Blacksburg was a good football team and they were on a roll.”
The Golden Eagles won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. The Bruins drove the ball into the redzone, but a sack in the backfield took them out of the redzone and created a fourth and 21. When the fourth down pass failed, Staunton River took over on its own 34-yard line.
River drove down the field and into the redzone, Kalip Jones capped the drive with a 15-yard touchdown run, Grayson Overstreet completeed the two point conversion.
The Golden Eagles took an 8-0 lead with 5:12 left in the first quarter.
On their next drive, the Bruins drove the ball down to the 32-yard line and completed a 32-yard pass for a touchdown, the PAT was good.
SR led 8-7.
The second quarter was a back and forth battle between the defenses. The Golden Eagles made it into the redzone and Jones completed a 4-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Tester, the two point conversion was incomplete.
“I thought both teams played well, both teams played extremely hard. They just came out on the winning side,” said Poston.
Staunton River led 14-7 heading into halftime.
“We kept emphasising to the kids that it’s a four quarter game and we just have to keep playing hard and doing what we have been coached to do,” said Poston. “When you get to that point there is only so many things you can change. You can’t do things you haven’t practiced. Teams make it to a championship game for a reason, they are good. So you just have to keep fighting and playing.”
River received the kickoff to start the second half.
The Bruins forced the Golden Eagles to punt. Koby Karnes was able to recover a bad snap and still got a long punt in.
Blacksburg tried to force its way through the Golden Eagles defense, but SR created a fourth and 10 after the third down pass fell incomplete. The Bruins tried for a fourth down run but the running back was tackled four yards shy of a first down and River took over on its own 46.
Blacksburg then created a similar situation for SR and the Golden Eagles fell just shy of a first down.
On the next play the Bruins completed a 58-yard pass for a touchdown, the PAT was good.
The game was tied 14-14 with 5:02 left in the third.
“You always make a few slight adjustments or move some things around, but I thought we were playing well,” said Poston. “I thought that Blacksburg was doing a good job of trying to take certain things away so we talked about some things that we could exploit.”
The game stayed tied until the end of the third.
On the Bruins first drive of the fourth, a pass interference call against River moved the Bruins to the one yard line. The Bruins completed a one yard run for a touchdown.
Blacksburg took a 21-14 lead.
On Staunton River’s next drive, the Bruins intercepted a pass and returned it for 21-yards. Blacksburg took just three plays to find its way into the endzone, the PAT was good. The Bruins led 28-14.
On their next drive, River completed 11 plays, 68 yard drive with Overstreet running in a two yard touchdown, the two point conversion failed.
That would be the last touchdown of the contest.
Staunton River tried for another touchdown with less than a minute on the clock, The Golden Eagles were passing the ball to cover ground. The Bruins intercepted a pass with only 10 seconds left in the game and ended River’s comeback hopes.
Blacksburg took a knee on its next play to end the game.
“They did a good job of reading the pass, the kid made a break for the football on the pass. You just have to tip your hat to them, they were well prepared,” said Poston. “That’s a tough area of the field to throw in but it was a good play call and the kids executed well but their kid made a good play.”
Staunton River fell 28-20 to Blacksburg and became the State runner up.
“Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the other team. Their coaches did a good job and my coaches did a good job. I thought our kids fought, there was no panic or anything like that,” said Poston. “Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the other guy and say well done.”
For the Golden Eagles: Overstreet had 29 carries for 109 yards, Jones had 10 carries for 32 yards, Tester had three carries for one yard, and Jordan Thompson had two carries for 11 yards. Jones completed five of nine passes for 50 yards and threw two interceptions.
“Sometimes in sports, as much as it hurts that’s just the way it is, there has to be a winner and there has to be a loser,” said Poston. “But I wouldn’t change anything about what we did. Our kids played their guts out and we fought back. We got a touchdown there at the end and got a chance for an onside kick that came up a little short. But what a high school football game to be a part of.”
Staunton River had 13 first downs, had 44 carries for 153 yards, and completed six of 11 passes with two interceptions for 76 yards. The Golden Eagles offense totaled 229 yards. The Eagles punted four time for an average of 36-yards. SR had three penalties for a loss of 26-yards.
“That’s the thing about a good championship football game like that. Sometimes it comes down to a play or two like that and sometimes you make the play and sometimes they make play. In that particular instance they made the play,” said Poston. “So kudos to their kid on that, but I can’t fault any of our kids for that.”
Blacksburg had eight first downs, had 17 carries for 41 yards, and completed 7-15 passes for 166 yards totaling 207 yards. The Bruins punted four times averaging 35 yards and had one penalty for a loss of 15 yards.
“The big thing you emphasis to kids in that situation is just how proud you are of them, and how much you love them for their effort, there’s nothing to hang their head about,” said Poston. “We played for a state championship and that has never been a whisper at Staunton River much less has it come to reality like that. I just reminded everyone of how far we’ve come and what we’ve done and told them to look in the stands to see how many people made that four hour drive to see them play. That is a testament to your work and to your effort. I reiterated how proud of them I was. They are my guys and I wouldn’t trade any of them for anything.”
As the team was leaving the stadium, families, friends and fans gathered around them to let them know just how proud they were.
Season stats: Overstreet had 299 carries for 2,992 yards and 46 touchdowns; Jones had 195 carries for 1,838 yards and 25 touchdowns; Tester had 82 carries for 1,109 yards and 15 touchdowns; Hunter Nezbeth had 10 carries for 167 yards and one touchdown; Jaden Kenny had 35 carries for 209 yards and two touchdowns; and Jordan Thompson had eight carries for 43 yards and three touchdowns.
Passing stats: Jones completed 16 of 38 passing attempts and had two interceptions for 245 yards. Tester completed two of three passing attempts for 42 yards.
Receiving stats: Tester received 10 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns; Sam Kirtley received four passes for 74 yards and one touchdown; Derrick Waller received two passes for 54 yards and one touchdown; Jones received one pass for 16 yards; and Thompson received one pass for three yards.
Punting stats: Koby Karnes punted 11 times for 270 yards; Jones punted five times for 202 yards; and Thompson punted one time for 35 yards.
Kick returns: Tester returned seven for 248 yards and one touchdown; Jones returned eight for 144 yards; Nezbeth returned six for 205 yards; Overstreet returned five for 107 yards; and Bryar Ferguson returned one for 10 yards.
Interception returns: Tester intercepted seven for 83 yards; Nezbeth returned four for 114 yards; Overstreet returned two for 150 yards; Thompson returned one for 10 yards; Terrance Drew returned one for eight yards; and Waller returned one for six yards.
Fumble returns: Overstreet returned one fumble for 40 yards and one touchdown.
Scoring: Overstreet scored 49 touchdowns and 32 extra points for a total of 358 points; Jones scored 25 touchdowns and 16 extra points for 182 points; Tester scored 18 touchdowns and three extra points for 114 points; Thompson scored three touchdowns, two field goals, 22 extra point kicks and one extra point for 48 points; Nezbeth scored two touchdowns; Jaden Kenny scored two touchdowns; and Waller, James Holden and Kirtley all scored one touchdown.
As they should have been. The 2016 Golden Eagles had put together a season like no other in school history.