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Tuscarora defeats Massaponax 41-21, Advances to State Finals

Photo by Hanna Duenkel
Photo by Hanna Duenkel
Photo by Hanna Duenkel

By Hanna Duenkel

The rain didn’t faze the Tuscarora Huskies as they battled the Massaponax Panthers on Friday, December 5th, defeating their foes 41-21 in a wild game.

The game started with the Panthers gaining possession, but fumbled the ball early on. Tuscarora senior Ishmael Williams picked up the fumbled ball and sprinted downfield 86 yards before hitting the end zone, putting the first touchdown on the board 3 minutes and 28 seconds into the game. Junior kicker Finley Underhill’s extra point was blocked, but the Huskies had an early lead of 6-0.

“That gave us the momentum for the game,” said Tuscarora running back and senior Noah Reimers.  “Our emotions were so high and we were playing with such passion, I knew that nothing could stop us,” he said.

Massaponax regained possession after the kickoff, but were soon forced to punt on a fourth down, giving the Huskies the ball again.  The Huskies brought the ball down field in a series of handoffs before Reimers broke free from the Panther defenders, rushing 32 yards for the touchdown.  That would count as the first of Reimers’ four touchdowns of the night, helping the Huskies rack up a high score in the heavily defended game.

Massaponax received the ball and pushed their lineup field ending the quarter trailing the Huskies 13-0.

When the second quarter started, the Huskies immediately continued with their well executed plan of handoffs to their running backs. Junior quarterback Daniel Smith handed the ball to Reimers, which led to a 43 yard touchdown that raised the score. The Huskies widened their lead to 20-0 in the first ten seconds of the second quarter.

There was 8:27 left in the half when Massaponax had their first of three touchdowns that night.  Junior quarterback Kurt Perges threw a sharp pass to senior running back Daniel Flowe.  Panthers still trailed Tuscarora 20-7.

Tuscarora fired back with an 18 yard passing touchdown from Smith to senior Riley Hartman.  Since the ball was slick, Smith had relied on handoffs until this touchdown, which created a new way that the Huskies could battle the Panthers. Massaponax senior Bo Fields dashed 5 yards into the end zone. The Panthers ended the half still trailing the Huskies 27-14.

The visiting team gained the ball and rushed it downfield again, but the Husky defense caused a repossession of the ball by a punt on downs.

“We prepared so much on film and game planned so much that we took away all of their options; they had to force it outside.  We have some great athletes outside, so we knew that we could stop them out there,” said Tuscarora lineman David Chalmers.

Reimers made for one more 48-yard touchdown to end with the Huskies leading by 27 points.

Massaponax’s final touchdown of the night was early in the fourth quarter, when sophomore Trey Carson ran 19 yards to their end zone.

The rest of the final quarter comprised of the Huskies giving the Panthers a turnover on downs by the twenty-yard line and then the Panthers turning over to the Huskies.  A long and almost successful drive by the home team ended when Smith took a knee with 19 seconds left in the game.

“Coach Burnett told us before this game that if we came out and played with passion and with love, that we could do something like this and win,” said Reimers. “When everybody’s playing hard, when everybody’s playing like this, I really don’t think that anyone can stop us.  It’s a beautiful thing to work so hard for so long for something like this and then it finally comes true with just one more game.”

“It’s bittersweet to get off this field, but to go out like this and to go out to a state championship is such a beautiful thing.  I’ve said the word beautiful tonight, but there’s nothing else that can describe how we feel tonight and all the work we’ve put in. It’s going to be sad never playing on this field again, but Coach Fortune’s looking down on us and we’ll know that he’ll be with us next week in Charlottesville,” said Reimers.

With this win, Tuscarora now advances to the VHSL 5A State Championships on Saturday, December 13th at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, VA.  The championship game is a matchup between the #5 Tuscarora High School and the #2 L.C. Bird High School. Kickoff starts at 12:07 pm.

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