Tuscarora Takes the Runner-Up Spot In the 5A State Championship

Photo+by+Hanna+Duenkel

Photo by Hanna Duenkel

By: Rikki Pepino

Photo by Hanna Duenkel
Photo by Hanna Duenkel

L.C. Bird (13-2) got ahold of its third consecutive state championship, beating the Tuscarora Huskies (14-1) in their first state championship appearance, with the Skyhawks just barely managing to escape from a 13-point deficit in the second half to win 22-19 at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville.

All throughout the game, Tuscarora senior Noah Reimers found a way to break through L.C. Bird’s defense. The D1 Harvard-bound running back ended the game running for 129 yards and two scores on 31 carries leading to his impressive 3005 yards to end his high school football career.

“When you’ve come so far, there’s so much excitement around the program, so much energy, and you just want to finish it off right,” said Reimers during the post-game press conference. “We haven’t lost in 13 months. It feels like forever. It stings a lot to end your season and your high school career like this.”

L.C. Bird’s junior runnerbacks Stephen Mines and J.B. Wright couldn’t compete with the Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year as they ran for 108 yards and for 74 more, respectively. The Skyhawks won the Group 6 Championship in 2012 and the Group 5A title last year. Junior quarterback Jalen Elliott finished 6 of 8 for 92 yards, including his 24th touchdown pass of the season, which was what gave the Skyhawks the win.

“Obviously, it’s disappointing to finish a season like this. But the only thing we really focused on [after the game] was [that] this is the best group of people I’ve ever been around,” said Head Coach Michael Burnett during the press conference. “For me, it’s not really about a football game today. It’s about the time I’ve gotten to spend with these kids and what they have accomplished in a really short period of time.This is the best team I’ve ever been a part of. I love these kids. Things didn’t go our way today, but that’s why it’s a game. Nothing is proven by a score. Things are proven by how you act and behave, and they’ve been outstanding. We had some tough breaks today, but you worry about how they handle it. At the end of the day, my job is to build young men. I look at what happened out there today, and I feel I’ve done a pretty darn good job.”

Tuscarora junior quarterback Daniel Smith led the Huskies’ offense down the field in just handing the ball off only twice, once to Reimers and once to sophomore running back Bryce Sorrell. Smith completed 4-4 passes including a 39-yard touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Duron Norris with only 5 seconds left in the first half.

Unfortunately, seniors Jason Chubbuck and David Chalmers were injured earlier in the game. Chalmers returned in the second half only to be brought back to the bench due to the sustaining effects of his initial injury.

The Tusky Terror was considered one the most spirited and respectful student sections present. Despite the loss, the Terror never showed any dismay, and chanted, “We are Fortune Strong” and “I Believe” until the end of the game. Game Day Nation’s Andy Hayes commented about the Terror and the team’s spirit and morale saying, “It was one of the biggest and loudest crowds we have seen since we began covering the championships in 2007. This Tuscarora team showed us how to respond with a heart of a champion, and they will forever be etched in my mind as one of the greatest teams we have covered both on and off the field.”

The Huskies ended their season with an almost flawless 14-1 record. The Tuscarora football team dedicated their season and their field to their late coach and defensive coordinator Adam Fortune, and sloganed “Fortune Strong” as their motto.

“After the tragedy of Coach Fortune, we set out not only to play for him but for each other and our community and make everyone proud,” said Reimers in an attempt to finish his statement. “It may not have ended the way we wanted, but that’s not what [Fortune] was all about. Sometimes you’re not supposed to win. I think we made him happy today.”

“A game and a championship is a number on a scoreboard, and life is so much more than that. We’ve learned that this year,” said Burnett. “As bad as it hurts today, I got a call on July 7 that put things in perspective in terms of pain and disappointment and hurt, and this one doesn’t come close. [Fortune] didn’t want you to be a good person on the field and not off the field. The way [the players] handle adversity and success is what I hope everyone wants to see out of young men playing football.”