By HARRISON HAMLET
(DRY FORK, Va.) – Bassett’s football team started fast on Friday night at Tunstall, then held on late, riding a 21-point first half to a 27-20 road victory, spoiling homecoming for the Trojans.
The Bengals exploded out of the gate, scoring on their opening drive. Demetrius Gill capped the nine-play, 75-yard drive with a 12-yard rushing touchdown and Bassett was off to the races.
Simeon Walker-Muse scored on a four-yard rush and Elijah Stokes scored on a 24-yard reception from Jaricous Hairston to give the Bengals a 21-6 halftime lead and the game looked to be an easy win if they continued to execute at a high level, with Stokes’ 134 total yards powering the Bassett offense.
Walker-Muse and Stokes, both sophomores who started the season playing JV football before getting the call up to varsity in Week Four, continue to impress with their play.
“They’re players, they’re young but they’re players,” Bassett head coach Brandon Johnson said of the sophomore duo. “They’ve been a huge asset to us. They gained a lot of confidence playing at the JV level the first half of the season, and now they have picked it right up. I have enjoyed seeing their growth.”
According Johnson, however, the final 18 minutes of play were not up to a high standard.
“For a lot of years, these kids aren’t used to coming into halftime and having a big lead. We’re trying to teach them how to handle that,” Johnson said. “We lost a lot of focus at halftime, and once you lose that it is hard to get it back.”
Bassett forced a turnover on downs to open the second half, then scored immediately on a Keshaun Valentine jet sweep to take a 27-6 lead. Johnson forced the issue, opting for an onside kick, which the Bengals recovered. From that moment on, the game turned in Tunstall’s favor.
The Trojans held the Bengals after the onside recovery, then scored 14 unanswered and had the ball late in the game in position to tie, largely thanks to the outstanding play of speedster receiver William Blackwell, who burned Bassett’s secondary for 148 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
“Our lack of execution and discipline in the second half was frustrating,” Johnson said. “We went up 27-6 and recovered an onside kick and had a chance to be the team we want to be and suffered penalty after penalty and lacked discipline… Every big penalty led to a touchdown for them. If you give up a big play or penalty, it is probably going to bite you and it bit us tonight. I felt like we lost focus.”
One group that remained focused through the final whistle for Bassett was the defensive front seven. The Bengals front tallied six sacks on the night and drew multiple holding penalties on the Trojans’ offensive line.
The key play for the pass-rushers came with under three minutes to play, when Austin McDaniel got to Tunstall quarterback Dylan Burnett for a sack that stalled the Trojans’ last-ditch attempt to tie the game.
“We call our defensive line ‘the hot boys’ because we get off the ball fast and are going to do whatever it takes to get pressure on the quarterback,” McDaniel said. “We’re a back against the wall defense and if you put us under pressure, diamonds are formed under pressure.”
Johnson credited his pass-rushers with playing at a high level late in the game.
“They’re relentless, they’re always going to be relentless. It’s always a green light for them,” Johnson said. “At the end of the game, they came up big with some sacks just by pinning their ears back and just not stopping.”
Now, after surviving a trip to Tunstall and escaping with a 27-20 win, Bassett (4-3) must travel into Martinsville to play their oldest rival, the Bulldogs (0-7).
Despite Martinsville’s struggles in the win-loss column, Johnson said he knows his Bengals are in for a fight on Friday night. When asked if two poor quarters in Dry Fork would help re-focus his team ahead of the rivalry game, Johnson said “if it doesn’t (refocus the team) we’re not the team I thought we were.”
“Martinsville is very athletic, young, hungry for a win and I told my guys we have to come out and be ready to play,” Johnson continued. “Any given night when you’re playing a sport, anybody can beat anybody – especially in the Piedmont District and especially if you’re not ready to play.”
Bassett High School 27, Tunstall High School 20
BHS – 6 14 7 0 – 27
THS – 6 0 7 7 – 20
7:27 – BHS – Demetrius Gill 12 rush (PAT fail)
3:01 – THS – William Blackwell 47 pass from Dylan Burnett (PAT fail)
9:21 – BHS – Simeon Walker-Muse 4 rush (Freddi Lopez PAT good)
6:29 – BHS – Elijah Stokes 24 pass from Jaricous Hairston (Freddi Lopez PAT good)
7:31 – BHS – Keshaun Valentine 7 rush (Freddi Lopez PAT good)
4:03 – THS – William Blackwell 42 pass from Dylan Burnett (Thomas Barker PAT good)
5:28 – THS – William Blackwell 30 pass from Dylan Burnett (Thomas Barker PAT good)
BASSETT HIGH SCHOOL
Elijah Stokes 8 for 86; Simeon Walker Muse 14 for 68, TD; Kevon Smith 13 for 55; Demetrius Gill 3 for 25, TD; Ty Cline 1 for 25; Jaricous Hairston 3 for 11; Keshaun Valentine 1 for 7, TD.
Jaricous Hairston 5 of 14 for 59, TD.
Elijah Stokes 4 for 48, TD; Keshaun Valentine 1 for 11.
TUNSTALL HIGH SCHOOL
Donovan Dickerson 9 for 49; William Blackwell 2 for 11; Dylan Burnett 7 for 8; Jalan Troy 5 for 2, fumble; Tyler Moss 1 for 1; Jamison Graves 1 for -10.
Dylan Burnett 12 of 25 for 208, 3TD, INT; Jamison Graves 0 for 1.
William Blackwell 4 for 148, 3TD; Jamison Graves 2 for 17; Damoni Hairston 1 for 17; Ethan Broyles 2 for 16; Jalan Troy 1 for 3.