By HARRISON HAMLET
(BASSETT, Va.) – Bassett’s football team has been looking up at the top end of the Piedmont District while head coach Brandon Johnson got his program pointed in the right direction.
On Friday night, Bassett looked eye-to-eye with G.W.-Danville, a perennial power in the area. Although the Bengals fell 42-28, Johnson said that he was happy with his team’s performance and felt like they were never out of the game.
“I hate losing football games, because we feel like we match up well with anybody,” Johnson said. “We told the kids all week, do not back down. Usually, we are mentally defeated before we go in to a game against a team that talented. But, our game plan gave us a chance to win and at the end of the night they just made more plays than we did.”
In the second quarter, Bassett was within a touchdown at 14-7. In a three-minute span, G.W.-Danville flexed their muscles, scoring three times to take a 28-7 halftime lead.
“Defensively, our plan was to make them beat us by throwing the ball. They have a division one talent at running back,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, they also have a division one wide receiver, and he got us three times. He made it happen. We knew more bad could happen if we made them throw the ball, so we took our chances with that. They just made some plays.”
At halftime, Johnson said the Bengals stuck with their ground-and-pound approach on offense and it paid off as they climbed back into the game.
Kevon Smith scored back-to-back touchdowns on the ground to get Bassett within a score at 35-28 in the fourth quarter. Smith was dominant on the ground, rushing 21 times for 134 yards and four touchdowns.
“Physically we were able to matchup with them,” Johnson said. “They have some bruisers and some athletes but with our style of play, we were able to control the clock with the running game and complete a couple of big passes.”
A big play on defense could have tied the game late, as a G.W.-Danville pass fluttered into the hands of a Bassett defensive back. The Bengal was able to knock the pass down, but not intercept it and return it to tie or give Bassett the lead. The Eagles capitalized on the missed opportunity by the Bassett player, and scored to make it 42-28, the final margin.
“The defense started playing better and forcing second and third and long and really worked hard for us in the second half,” Johnson said. “We made two mistakes. We fumbled in the third quarter and they recovered and scored which put us down 21 in the third quarter. Then, when it was a seven-point game late, we dropped a pick-six that could have tied it or given us the lead if we got a two-point conversion.
“Ultimately, the kids had never been in a game with them and it could’ve gone either way. I am proud of those guys. We were down 21 at the half and they were still fighting at the final buzzer.”
Simeon Walker-Muse and Tyheim Cline combined for 51 yards to support Smith in the running game, while Jaricous Hairston was not asked to throw very much in the game plan, completing a pair of passes for 64 yards on the night.
Despite the evident talent on the G.W.-Danville side of the ball, Bassett was only outgained 339-243 yards, an impressive effort against the Eagles.
Now, Bassett (5-4) gets a bye to rest ahead of their matchup with Magna Vista (6-2), where a rivalry trophy will be up for grabs.
“We’re getting a bye at a perfect time. It is the latest bye week I’ve ever had as a coach, but it is coming at a great time for us,” Johnson said. “Elijah Stokes didn’t play Friday, so it is a chance to get him and some other guys healthy and fix some things for us before we go into Magna Vista week.”
Magna Vista is coming off a loss to Halifax County (6-2), and the Warriors must travel to face the same G.W.-Danville (6-2) team this week, before playing at Bassett.
Bassett won the rivalry matchup a year ago. Johnson, however, emphasized that schedules and records might as well be thrown away when Magna Vista comes to town on November 8.
“It’s a rivalry game, you can throw the records out the window,” Johnson said of the Warriors. “It’s one of those few games that mean something and the kids are playing for something. We’re excited to defend that trophy for the first time in a long time. Those guys are going to want to win it, too. We’re excited to have the chance to play for it.”
GWHS – 7 21 0 14 – 42
BHS – 0 7 7 14 – 28