Saturday, August 27, 2011

Jake's First Start

This story is from the Harrisonburg VA Daily News Record. (

BRIDGEWATER — Harrisonburg High School senior quarterback Jake Durden had a rough start to his varsity career, going 2-for-8 passing with a couple of fumbled snaps and two sacks in the first quarter.
But, boy, did he finish.

Trailing 14-0, the Blue Streaks rallied behind Durden’s four touchdowns — three through the air — while capitalizing on a go-ahead two-point conversion with 6:23 left and a late fumble recovery to defeat Turner Ashby 36-35 on Friday night in an instant classic to kick off the 2011 season.

“I can’t stand too many of these,” HHS first-year coach Chris Thurman said while catching his breath. “But I’ll take them any way I can get them.”

HHS and TA will meet again on Sept. 23 at Harrisonburg in the Valley District opener. Friday’s game did not count as a district game.

Down 35-28 with less than seven minutes to play, Durden calmly flipped a shovel pass to senior running back Corbin Whitelow for 26 yards to avoid the pass rush. The very next play, the 6-foot-3, 192-pound quarterback stood in and took a lick, but not before uncoiling a 37-yard strike to junior Issiah Smith, who regained his balance after making a spectacular stumbling catch.

“I was on the ground, but I saw him get in and take out the side judge, or whoever that was back there,” Durden said. “I saw the man coverage and tried to put it up there for him. He’s a great playmaker.”

Then, Thurman rolled the dice, opting for an option pitch play for two and the lead.

“We had been playing from behind the whole game, so I was hoping to get some momentum,” Thurman said. “You’ve got to take a risk down there.”

Junior Kasaan Fields took the snap and looked for the pitch. Pressured, the play broke down in a hurry, but the speedy Fields kept would-be tackles at arms’ length and somehow found the end zone around the left corner — precious points on what became the game-winning play.

“It was a called play, but it wasn’t that play,” Fields said. “… I was supposed to pitch it. I just used my speed. I just kept my feet moving.”

For three-plus quarters, the Knights were in control.

Running behind a beefy offensive line, junior running back Keenan Jordan steadily gashed the HHS defense. The two-way starter ran for 82 of his 114 yards in the second half, scoring three touchdowns in the game.

“Keenan was like an iron man,” TA coach Charlie Newman said. “… He becomes a different person with the ball in his hands. He was on the sidelines looking like he was about to die… but he really impressed me with a lot of guts there at the end.”

TA’s self-inflicted wounds in the form of 10 penalties and three turnovers helped gradually sway the momentum over to the Streaks, who took full advantage.

After managing to trim the deficit to 21-14 before halftime with a 1-yard Whitelow plunge and a two-point conversion run by Durden, HHS forced TA’s first punt of the night. Then, Durden —– who threw a picture perfect 20-yard TD to Corey Stader in the second quarter — began finding a veteran-like rhythm.

“He’s going to be –— before it’s all said and done — a spectacular quarterback,” Thurman said of Durden, who finished 13-for-27 for 264 yards with another 72 yards on 19 carries. “He’s a lot smarter than his coach. He’s going to be good.”

Durden tied the game twice on consecutive third-quarter drives. First, he fired a 35-yard strike to Weylin Holmes, who burned his only defender in a blown coverage. Then, he capped off a quick minute-and-a-half drive with a 1-yard keeper, making it 28-28.

“In high school football, the momentum thing is huge,” Newman said. “Once they got back into it and felt good about what they were doing, I knew we were going to have to battle. We had some breakdowns on some coverages… and [HHS] made plays when they had to make plays.”

Still, the Knights wouldn’t relent.

On the very next drive, which carried the game into the fourth quarter, quarterback Trent Hart marched TA down the field with four runs of his own for 23 yards. Jordan punctuated the 14-play drive with a 1-yard score.

But late heroics by Durden and Fields — and a fumble by Hart inside the HHS 35 with 3:15 left — sealed the comeback victory for Harrisonburg.

“What a great job up front there,” said Durden, who helped HHS run out the clock. “What a great job up front to move the chains in the fourth quarter.”

Harrisonburg 0 14 13 8 – 36
Turner Ashby 14 7 7 7 – 35

First Quarter

TA — Jordan 13 run (Martinez kick,) 8:55
TA — Shifflett 26 pass from Hart (Martinez kick), 1:47
Second Quarter

HHS — Stader 20 pass from Durden (kick blocked) 9:26
TA — Hanifee 21 run (Martinez kick), 3:30
HHS — Whitelow 2 run (Durden run), 0:59

Third Quarter

HHS— Holmes 35 pass from Durden (Floros kick), 8:32
TA — Jordan 4 run (Martinez kick), 2:59
HHS — Durden 1 run (Floros kick), 1:15

Fourth Quarter

TA — Jordan 1 run (Martinez kick) 6:57
HHS — Smith 37 pass from Durden (K. Fields run), 6:23

First downs 17 22
Rushes-yards 30-86 44-284
Passing 295 155
Comp-Att-Int 17-34-0 12-26-2
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-1
Punts 1-30 2-29
Penalties-Yards 6-51 10-81
RUSHING-HHS: Durden 20-63, Whitelow 8-22, Floros 1-(minus 2), K. Fields 1-3; TA: Hart 15-104, Jordan 19-135, Brown 7-14, Collins 1-3, Hanifee 2-28.
PASSING- HHS: Durden 17-34-295; TA: Hart 12-26-155.
RECEIVING-HHS: Charles 5-65, Stader 2-42, Holmes 3-62, Burke 1-3, Smith 2-50, Whitelow 4-73. TA: Shumaker 6-71, Jordan 2-27, Knott 1-17, Allman 1-5, Shifflett 2-35.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Waiting on a hurricane

Living on the coast can often be an anxious waiting game during hurricane season. Looking at the current hurricane tracking map, it appears as though Hurricane Irene is headed for the Carolinas, reminiscent of Hurricane Hugo, which came ashore in 1989just north of Charleston, SC.

We were living on Hilton Head Island in 1989, so I remember well the anxiety of waiting for this massive storm as it bore down on the South Carolina coast.

During those days we were able to track the progress of hurricanes thanks to the maps on the side of the Winn Dixie grocery bags. (This was before the era of paper or plastic.)

I remember carefully plotting the coordinates of Hugo as it approached. With every update provided by weatherman Pat Prokop at WSAV TV in Savannah, we would put a dot on our map to chart the progress of the storm.

Hugo was forecast to make landfall on Thursday, and evacuation of Hilton Head began in earnest on the Wednesday before, because it was predicted to make landfall somewhere in the vicinity of Tybee Island GA or Hilton Head, or possibly enter at the mouth of the Savannah River and travel inland.

Living, as we did, in a ranch style house built on a concrete slab atop a berm of sand maybe two feet above sea level, we realized the damage that such a storm could do. It was clear that if Hugo struck just south of us that we would feel the full fury of the storm surge, which, if it had occurred at high tide, would likely have washed our house into the sound and all the way to Bluffton.

But we stayed all day Wednesday. In fact, First Baptist Church, where I served as associate pastor, and which is located almost on the beach on the south end of the island, conducted our mid-week prayer service per usual on that Wednesday evening. And, not only did we have a handful of hardy members in attendance, we also had a CBS 48 Hours film crew with us to document our service. As we stood in a circle and prayed for the Lord's protection and intervention, the cameras rolled.

Various persons prayed around our little circle. All at once, with eyes closed, I heard the unmistakable voice of my friend, Raymond "Catfish" Enslow, who prayed in his inimitable lowcountry baritone drawl; "Lord, you're the master of the winds and the waves, and we believe that you can redirect this storm if it's your will."

Now I'm a person of faith, and I believe, like Catfish, that God can and does intervene supernaturally, but I still went home and boarded up the house.

That next morning I loaded our family into our van and we joined the throng driving across the bridge to higher, or at least, more distant ground. We decided to go stay with our friends Gary and Wanda in Pritchardville, far enough inland and south to be safe, in our opinion.

As we settled in that evening, we decided we'd watch the CBS 48 Hours show to see how they had covered our prayer service. But, just before the program started, we lost power. Gary hurried out to their travel trailer parked out back, and came back in with a battery-powered portable television. We gathered around the tiny black and white tv like families used to gather around the radio to listen to Amos and Andy. Finally we saw the story of our prayer service, and there, for all America to hear, was Catfish praying that the would Lord redirect the storm.

A short time later the weatherman broke in to give an updated forecast. He reported that Hurricane Hugo had made a small shift in direction. As we plotted the coordinates, it was clear to us that Hugo had indeed turned north, and would quite possibly miss us but would likely hit in the Charleston area.

Indeed, late that night Hugo came ashore right in the Charleston area, with the "right hook" storm surge hitting the little fishing village of McCellanville with a force that tossed 60' fishing boats hundreds of feet up onto land and flooded the entire town.

Hugo then roared through the Francis Marion National Forest and all the way inland through Charlotte, where 90 mph winds blew out windows and toppled trees.

I've often wondered what might have happened but for the faithful prayer of my friend, Catfish.