Photo by DeMill DixonJulian Moore of H.W. Byers carries with a couple of Blue Devils trying to make the tackle, including Zayvon Knox (5).
Photos by DeMill DixonPressuring Ashland quarterback Zqwon Johnson (15) are Lions Theodore Stephens (54) and Cedric Watson. (80).
Byers’ Malik Glover (15) looks for running room as a teammate, Zachary Snow, tries to fend off Ashland’s Zayvon Knox (5).
Lions rally big-time for win
Down 20-0 at halftime after failing to convert a fourth and 3 at the Ashland 6-yard line, H.W. Byers had little life.
But the second half was indeed a revival.
The Lions scored 32 unanswered points after intermission and stunned the host team, the Blue Devils, 32-20 Thursday night.
“We fought; we fought; we fought; and we fought,” said a happy coach Chris Daniels, whose team ended the season with a thrilling victory. “I can’t say how proud I am of them.”
And believe it or not, Byers made the huge rally with only 12 players in uniform.
“They gave me everything they had, and then some,” he said. “With just 12 players, you’re not supposed to win a football game.”
Momentum swung the Blue Devils’ way on the opening possession of the game. They cashed in a 55-yard drive when Erik Bell got loose to the end zone on a 29-yard reverse. Zqwon Johnson threw to Zayvon Knox for the two-point conversion.
Late in the first quarter, Ashland went up 14-0 on a 47-yard pass play from Johnson to Knox. A pass attempt for the conversion was intercepted by Byers’ Zachary Snow.
The Blue Devils upped their lead midway through the second quarter. Johnson threw to Danny Hamer, who avoided a would-be tackler, and completed the 10-yard touchdown play. The conversion try failed.
Byers then put together its best drive of the first half, trying to cut into the 20-0 deficit. Julian Moore had a pair of first-down runs and Malik Glover another. But the drive stalled inside the Devils’ 10.
Coach Daniels said he made some “subtle” halftime adjustments along the defensive line to give his players “some better angles” to make tackles.
The gutsy Lions started swinging the momentum on the opening possession of the second half.
They drove 53 yards in 11 plays to get on the scoreboard. Moore was the workhorse, earning a pair of first downs behind his offensive linemen, and then plunging into the end zone from 1 yard out. A pass try for the conversion fell incomplete.
Byers then surprised Ashland with a pooch kick, which Jaylan Gibson recovered at the Devils’ 40.
“That was a big turning point in the game,” Daniels said.
Moore had a big 27-yard burst, and he later scored on a 1-yard carry. The try-for-two failed. Byers was down 20-12 with 5:46 to go in the third.
Moore intercepted a pass to halt Ashland’s next possession and then Ashland’s Bell answered with his own interception.
The Devils next faced a fourth and 13 from their own 42 and decided to go for the first down. They were stopped an inch short with 8:30 left in the game.
“I’ve always been told, football is a game of inches,” Daniels said. “That was as close as close can get without it being a first down. We stepped up big-time there. That really broke their (the Blue Devils’) spirits.”
The Lions drove to tie the Region 1-1A contest. Moore found running room up the middle, made a spin move and gained 26 yards. On fourth and goal from the 9, Glover neared the end zone, reached for the line and lost control of the football. Teammate Snow recovered just across the line for the touchdown. Glover ran for the two-pointer to knot the game at 20 with just 4:55 left.
The Lions went to the onside kick this time and recovered just beyond the required 10 yards.
The offense traveled 50 yards in three plays. Glover kept the football on the option and dashed 46 yards for a go-ahead touchdown. The two-point play was not successful. Byers was up 26-20.
Ashland fumbled early in its next possession and the Lions recovered.
Four plays later Moore darted through a huge hole provided by the Byers offensive line and went 29 yards to seal the come-from-behind win with 1:39 left. The conversion attempt failed.
“This group has not quit on me all year,” said Daniels, whose team finished 2-10 overall and 1-7 in the district. “They never gave up.
“We controlled the ball a lot the second half. That was our plan, to keep their defense on the field a lot and their offense off the field as much as possible.”
He said the exciting win gives the Lions a boost going to the off-season.
“It’s a big lift in morale,” Daniels said. “We just have to have a big spring. We were young this year – just three seniors.”
Ashland finished at 2-9 overall and 2-6 in the district.