This story is from the Harrisonburg VA Daily News Record. (www.dnronline.com)
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
TA — Jordan 13 run (Martinez kick,) 8:55
TA — Shifflett 26 pass from Hart (Martinez kick), 1:47
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
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
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.