Springbrook steals Homecoming, Blair finishes 5-5 after winless season
BLAZER STADIUM, Oct. 7 -
Although the Homecoming finale to the season did not go as planned in a 41-33 loss to Springbrook Friday night, Blair's varsity football team was able to walk off the field with their heads held high. Just one year removed from a disastrous 0-10 season, the Blazers surprised everyone as they churned out their best start to the season in 44 years en route to a respectable 5-5 finish. Along the way, Blair even shocked defending 3A state champion Damascus (7-3) in a 28-26 Halloween night overtime thriller.
"We put this program back on the map," three-year varsity veteran and senior defensive captain Andy Holmes said after the game. "We made sure that the rest of the county knows we should be taken seriously again – and that's enough."
Senior star running back and linebacker Dayne Bolt, who was unable to play in the second half after aggravating a nagging ankle injury, echoed Holmes' sentiments. "We accomplished a lot this year," Bolt said. "We fought hard all season and turned it around from last year. We gave it our all, and that's what matters the most." Despite the injury, Bolt amassed 74 yards on the ground and finished the season with over 700 yards rushing.
Although the outcome Friday night had no postseason implications for either team, Blair opened with an intensity that startled the Blue Devils (6-4). The Blazers had to punt on the first possession of the game following a quick three-and-out. However, the Blue Devil punt returner muffed the punt and Blair was able to recover deep in Springbrook territory. The Blazers kept the ball on the ground and Bolt was able to score on a 20-yard touchdown run to give the Blazers a 7-0 lead.
The Blazers struck again before the quarter ended following a great defensive stop of the Blue Devils. The Blazers once again kept the ball on the ground and used their traditional power running game to move the ball down the field against a strong Blue Devil defense. Senior running back Keith Ayensu busted out a 10-yard touchdown run to give Blair a 13-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Blair stumped Springbrook's offense until a little over eight minutes left in the half, when senior Blue Devil quarterback Phoenix Butler-Poole led a re-energized Springbrook team downfield to cut the deficit to 13-7. But Junior all-around player Andrew Gondor answered dramatically, returning the ensuing kickoff 88 yards to return the momentum and two-possession lead back to Blair, 19-7.
However, the rest of the half belonged to Butler-Poole, who exploited Blair's overcompensation for the run to lead the Blue Devils through the air and right back into the game. On Springbrook's next possession, Butler-Poole nailed a 28-yard completion to move into Blazer territory and then hit a wide open receiver on a slant route for a 34-yard touchdown, bringing the Blue Devils within five, 19-14.
After a Blair punt, Butler-Poole, who finished with 263 passing yards on the night, orchestrated a 2-mintue drill for another score, seizing a narrow 21-19 lead with 43 seconds left in the half.
Springbrook rode the momentum into the third quarter, quickly adding to their lead on a 48-yard aerial strike and capitalizing on an interception they returned to the Blair 11-yard line. But down 35-19, Blair demonstrated impressive resiliency characteristic of all season. Led by senior quarterback Victor Wang, who ran for 39 yards on two options in the drive, Blair narrowed the deficit on a 10-yard touchdown run up the left wing by Ayensu. Wang took the two-point conversion in himself to bring Springbrook within one possession, 35-27, with 4:34 left in the third quarter.
However, Butler-Poole's success in the air forced Blair to pull pressure off the line, opening up the running game for Springbrook. The Blue Devils used the ground game to move the ball and eat up time. Blair was able to stop Springbrook on a long third-down, but a costly passing-interference penalty resulted in a Blue Devil first down on the Blair 20-yard line. A few plays later, Blair made the most of a goal-line stand, but Springbrook was able to find an opening on third and goal, increasing their lead to 41-27.
Blair got the ball back with a little over nine minutes left in the game, but the Blue Devils picked off Wang on their own 24-yard line, seemingly dashing the Blazers' hopes. But Blair's defense rose to the occasion, forcing Springbrook to go three and out. Blair received the ball near mid-field with 7:28 left.
Senior running backs Chernor Jah and Pablo Moreno took turns moving the chains, eventually setting up Wang for a two-yard touchdown run and bringing Blair back to within eight, 41-33. But without a timeout left, the Blazers were unable to stop the clock from running out on the game and their season.
Despite the loss, head coach Jeffery Seals saw nothing wrong with the way his team played. "We did the best we could," Seals said. "I can't complain. [Our players] never game up. They tried to come back from behind and win and I can't say how proud I am of them."
The Blazers' season ends without a playoff berth but that doesn't take away from the success the Blazers had on the field. "We had a great season, it was a good turn-around," Seals said. "They are young men and they are learning the game and I have no regrets this season. Never was I disappointed in our team's performance."
Holmes felt that same way after his final season in the Blazer red. "We wish we could have finished 6-4," he said. "We wish we finished 10-0 also! But we're passing the torch onto a bunch of young great guys."
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