By Owen Gotimer
Leesburg (August 30, 2015) — It’s not every year that two of the top teams in a given area meet early in both teams’ seasons, but that didn’t stop reigning VHSL 5A state runner up Tuscarora High School and three time VHSL AA Division 4 state champions Briar Woods High School from meeting in their season openers on August 28 in Leesburg.
“We put it on the schedule. It was good for both of us – because we have such a long schedule, such a tough schedule – to move it up front,” Tuscarora head coach Michael Burnett said. “Both coach Pierce and I knew what we were getting into. I think if you asked us if we thought this was the kind of game it was going to be – a play here, a play there – we would have agreed. It was fun, it’s just good to have this behind us.”
With a packed house at Fortune Field, a back-and-forth battle ended when Husky senior quarterback Daniel Smith pushed his way to a 1-yard touchdown run in the waning minutes of the game to give Tuscarora a 22-16 lead over the Falcons, the score by which the Huskies would win.
“It’s huge, we needed that win. Coach Burnett said all week this is a must win game because if you lose you start behind in the conference and region,” Smith said. “It’s a big win over a rival school and something the crowd can enjoy and look forward to for the rest of the year.
While Smith’s quarterback sneak capped off the eventual game-winning drive, the play of the drive – and of the game – came just a play before when Smith found junior Bryce Sorrell down the middle of the field – after evading Briar Woods’ four-star recruit Mark Birmingham in the backfield – on 4th-and-14 to give the Huskies a first down on the Falcon 1-yard line.
“You put the ball in Daniel’s hands. I had a pretty good idea they were going to bring pressure, I had a pretty good idea he was going to loot it. I was just hoping he was going to make a play,” Burnett said. “He’s so calm. It’s not only his athleticism, he sees guys coming, he sees everything happen really slowly in front of him, and he’s able to make guys miss. Once you’re able to do that, all of a sudden the field opens up.”
With a defensive back in Sorrell’s back pocket, Smith dropped the pass into his hands and Sorrell held on as the Tusky Terror rocked the stadium.
“That’s just a freakish play. Every once in a while you’ll see a play like that on film,” Burnett said. “It wasn’t great coaching, it wasn’t a great play call. It was just a great player making a great play and winning a great football game.”
While all eyes were on Smith – who played part in all three Tuscarora touchdowns – the humble senior leader credited Sorrell for the desperation play.
“He was one-on-one with a linebacker, and Bryce can move so I was waiting for him to open up, I just kind of flicked it to him,” Smith said. “That was a great catch. There was a guy all over him, so you have to give him props for making a big time catch on 4th-and-14.”
Trailing Briar Woods by two points at the half, Sorrell and Smith both noted some anxiety on the sideline early in the second half, but some words of encouragement at halftime gave the Huskies the little extra momentum they needed to come back and win game one.
“We got in the locker room and everybody was a little hectic,” Sorrell said. “Everyone was saying that we needed to get our heads right: we’re more conditioned than them, we’re stronger than them, we worked harder than them. And we came out and showed it.”
With the emotions flying high, Smith made it clear that he’s happy football is back.
“Week one, not a bad way to start, huh?”
1Q 5:46 T Daniel Smith to Bryce Sorrell 35-yard TD pass (Underhill PAT)
1Q 0:00 BW D’Andre Thomas 7-yard TD run (2pt good)
2Q 5:37 T Daniel Smith 1-yard TD run (Underhill PAT)
2Q 0:03 BW D’Andre Thomas 23-yard TD run (2pt good)
4Q 2:39 T Daniel Smith 1-yard TD run (2pt good)