Prep football: Coach says Redskins ahead of schedule
HURRICANE, W.Va. - Midway through the football season, Hurricane holds its own fate. What dreams may come if the Redskins continue to execute as in Friday's 23-20 come-from-behind win against Capital.
Hurricane manufactured a 15-play, 80-yard drive to take the lead, leaving just 9 seconds for Capital to respond in what perhaps was a do-or-die game for the Redskins.
"I'm excited about the future here," Coach Jeremy Taylor said. "This team is about a half year ahead of schedule right now - I really think they are. The future's bright."
Taylor added the program's junior varsity, freshman and eighth-grade squads have excelled, too, but it was the varsity Redskins taking center stage and growing up before the fans and coaching staff Friday.
After back-to-back losses to Beckley and George Washington, followed by a bye week, Hurricane was thirsting for a win.
"It felt great, because this is the goal we worked for two weeks, so it finally paid off," quarterback Austin Hensley said.
Hensley certainly left his mark on the game. After throwing two interceptions earlier in the contest, the junior signal caller kept calm in the final minutes.
"Austin was pulling it down and running instead of trying to force stuff in," Taylor said.
Along the game-deciding drive there were several key plays, but the biggest perhaps happened on fourth and 6 from the Redskins' 24-yard line. Taylor elected to go for it rather than punt with approximately 4:30 remaining. The decision paid dividends when Hensley connected with wide receiver Koi Turner for a 17-yard gain.
"I thought, 'Ya know what? We got to go for it. We got to get this,'" Taylor said. "Koi said he would hit that three route, and he did. He hit it and he caught it. If it's in his hands, it's caught - it's just caught."
Three plays later, Hensley converted third-and-9 with his legs. Hensley dropped back to pass, but seeing no receivers open, pulled the ball down and made a sprint 16 yards to the Capital 42-yard line, finding the sideline with 2:55 remaining.
On the play, junior running back Zach Pate keyed the run by clearing a defender with a solid block. Between Pate, Hensley, Turner, the offensive line and others, the entire Hurricane offense put its stamp on the final drive.
"I'm proud of them," Taylor said. "They came together. This could be the turning point of our season - not that we were doing awful. We lost to George Washington and we lose to (Beckley), so we got a good team here."
Hensley eventually capped the drive on a 1-yard touchdown rush with 9 seconds remaining in the contest.
Taylor said he was proud to see Hensley, who led the team with 48 rushing yards, run so effectively considering the junior had not previously been asked to do so.
"I knew going into this game we couldn't hold anything back," Taylor said of the play calling. "You go into games thinking you don't want to show it all because you've got teams down the road, but I knew this game was a must-win for us, and I didn't tell the guys that, but deep down, I know. I'm not stupid and they're not dumb either."
The implications of a loss could have been devastating to a Hurricane team hopefully bound for the playoffs.
"(If we lose,) we're 2-3 and you've got Ripley, Greenbrier East," Taylor said. "You go down to Greenbrier East and you never know what'll happen. Ripley's going to bring everybody. And, then you got Spring Valley. You know how good they are. You got Cabell Midland and Logan."
The Redskins don't have to worry about being 2-3, though. With the win against then-rated No. 10 Capital, 19th-ranked Hurricane should expect to slide into the top 16.
The road doesn't get any easier for the Redskins, but halfway home to the playoffs, Hurricane's in the hunt. It'll be up to the Redskins' execution if they remain there.