By Hanna Duenkel
LoCoSports Staff Writer
Leesburg (December 7, 2014) – The rain did not faze the Tuscarora High School football team on Dec. 5 at Fortune Field as they battled Massaponax High School, defeating the previously undefeated Panthers, 41-21, in a wild and quite wet VHSL 5A North region championship game.
“They’ve just grown up together, for lack of a better word,” Tuscarora head coach Michael Burnett said. “It seems kind of corny, but when you see them together, you know that it’s real.”
With this win, the Huskies will advance to the VHSL 5A state championship on Saturday, Dec. 13 at Scott Stadium at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville against the VHSL 5A South region champion and back-to-back reigning state champion L.C. Bird High School. Kickoff is set for 12:07 p.m.
“Coach Burnett told us before this game that if we came out and played with passion, we played with love, that we could do something like this and win. When everybody’s playing hard, when everybody’s playing like this, I really don’t think that anyone can stop us,” Tuscarora senior running back Noah Reimers said. “He told us that at the half that if we got a score and stopped, that the game was over. That’s exactly what we did. After that, 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.”
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It started off with a bang for the Huskies as the Panthers – who started with the football – fumbled the ball early on. Tuscarora senior linebacker Ishmael Williams picked up the fumbled ball and sprinted downfield 86 yards before hitting the end zone, putting the first points on the board after only three minutes and 28 seconds.
“They’re moving the ball on us a little bit and when you have something like that, with such a swing, then that gave us the momentum for the game,” Reimers said. “I think that after that, our emotions were so high, and we were playing with such passion so then I knew that nothing could stop us. With such a swing like that and our [offensive]line blocking in front of me, then beautiful things can happen.”
After the Tuscarora defense forced a Massaponax punt, 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 score was the first of Reimers’ four touchdowns of the night as the workhorse ran for 307 yards on just 28 carries and four scores adding to his already out-of-this-world rushing numbers on the season of 2,911 rushing yards on 333 carries and 45 rushing touchdowns.
“We spend a lot of time knowing everybody is going to key on him,” Burnett said. “The offensive line knows Noah is going to get the ball, and he makes them better. They know he’s going to make somebody miss, break a tackle and keep going, and that fuels them.”
When the second quarter started, the Huskies immediately continued with their well-executed plan of handoffs to their running backs and junior quarterback Daniel Smith handed the ball to Reimers, which led to a 43-yard touchdown to increase Tuscarora’s lead just ten seconds into the second frame.
Three minutes later Massaponax junior quarterback Kurt Perges – who started in place of injured junior quarterback Joey Benden – threw a sharp pass to senior receiver Daniel Flowe for a 25-yard touchdown and the Panthers first score of the game.
“We’re so proud of these guys,” Massaponax head coach Eric Ludden said. “No one gave this team a chance. It didn’t matter. They believed it the whole time. To end the season like this, yeah it feels bad because you’re one step away from going to the big one, but we tied the school record for victories with a team that wasn’t expected to do much.”
Tuscarora fired back with an 18-yard passing touchdown from Smith to senior tight end Riley Hartman.
The scoring continued to seesaw back-and-forth as three minutes later Massaponax senior running back Bo Fields dashed 5 yards into the end zone bringing the Panthers within two touchdowns at the half.
Tuscarora received the kickoff to start the second half and carefully drove down field, in a series of short handoffs and quick passes. Just over five minutes into the third quarter, Reimers found his way back into the end zone for his third touchdown of the night.
Following the Huskies score, the Tuscarora defense forced another Massaponax turnover as the game seemed to be slipping away from the then 13-0 Panthers.
“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,” Tuscarora defensive lineman David Chalmers said.
Smith took the final snap of the game in victory formation, and as he ran to the sideline to hug his coach, the clock expired, and the Tuscarora Huskies had won their final home game of the season improving to 14-0.
“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 how all the work we’ve put in,” Reimers said. “Leaving this field, there’s no better way to leave it like this. It’s going to be sad never playing on this field again, but coach [Adam] Fortune’s looking down on us, and we’ll know that he’ll be with us next week in Charlottesville.”
Daniel Smith 5-for-7, 76 yards, 1 TD
Noah Reimers 28 carries, 307 yards, 4 TD
Ishmael Williams 8 carries, 47 yards
Mateo Taylor 6 carries, 15 yards
Daniel Smith 3 carries, 54 yards
Bryce Sorrell 2 receptions, 36 yards
Noah Reimers 1 reception, 23 yards
Riley Hartman 1 reception, 17 yards, 1 TD
1Q 8:32 T Ishmael Williams 86-yard TD fumble return (PAT missed)
1Q 3:07 T Noah Reimers 32-yard TD run (Underhill PAT)
2Q 11:50 T Noah Reimers 43-yard TD run (Underhill PAT)
2Q 8:27 M Kurt Perges to Daniel Flowe 25-yard TD pass (Hildebrand PAT)
2Q 3:11 T Daniel Smith to Riley Hartman 18-yard TD pass (Underhill PAT)
2Q 0:23 M Bo Fields 5-yard TD run (Hildebrand PAT)
3Q 6:42 T Noah Reimers 22-yard TD run (Underhill PAT)
3Q 3:33 T Noah Reimers 48-yard TD run (Underhill PAT)
4Q 0:19 M Trey Carson 19-yard TD run (Hildebrand PAT)