As the state semifinal rounds have finally arrived on this brisk Saturday, teams on the verge of state championship appearances heated up. Nansemond River came into Highland Springs for a conference 5A showdown.
With a trip to the championship on the line, both teams played their hearts out, and the two-time defending state champs came out on top. Highland Springs, for the second straight week came to life in the second half, and defeated Nanosecond River 28-18.
Highland Springs started off the game slow, with turnovers being the cause of it. On The Springers second drive of the game, defensive lineman Pheldarius Payne of Nansemond River intercepted the ball and brought it back to the Springers’ 35-yard line, which eventually ended up resulting in 3 points on an 18-yard field goal by Evan Lomax late in the first.
On its next drive, Highland Springs fumbled the ball and defensive lineman Datron Branch of Nansemond River scooped up the football and ran it back 85 yards for a touchdown.
The score was 10-0 Nansemond River up at the end of the first quarter. Highland Springs answered back quickly with a quick drive and quarterback D’Vonte’ Waller ran it in to make it 10-7 early in the second quarter.
At halftime, Nansemond River was up 10-7. As the second half opened up, both teams took shots at scoring, but with no luck. Highland Springs eventually scored late in the third to make it 14-10 on a 9-yard pass to wide receiver Billy Kemp IV.
At the end of the third quarter, Highland Springs was up 14-10. In the fourth quarter, running back Dre’Shaun Tayler of Highland Springs was the big story, with his two touchdowns that propelled the Springers over the Warriors. Early in the fourth, he ran it in from 17-yards out and 2-yards out to put this game out of reach.
Nansemond River scored with 5 minutes to go in the game on a Quijoun Gordon 4-yard run, but ran out of time to come back. Highland Springs won 28-18 in a tough, comeback fashion as they seem to have mastered at.
“We’re going to enjoy this one for tonight, said Highland Springs coach Loren Johnson. “It is going to be a short night, I’ll tell you that right now. We’re going to get to work for next week.”
Quarterback D’Vonte’ Waller had a big role in the Springers victory, and head coach Loren Johnson took note of that.
“He played well. He started off shaky, he didn’t do everything we wanted him to early, but he’s a good football player. He works really hard, and we’re grateful to have him.”
Coach Johnson was happy to say his family will be coming in to watch his team play in the state championship next week down in Hampton against Tuscarora.
“I’m just happy. My dad, my brother and my family can come for another game. They’re in Miami, they don’t get to see many games here. So, we talked about this last week at the Hermitage game. Now we get the opportunity to do it. I got family coming and I’m just going to enjoy the moment and enjoy the time.”
Nansemond River finishes the season with a 9-5 record. Highland Springs will be looking to win their third straight Conference 5A State Championship down in Hampton next week against Tuscarora. The game is on Saturday, Dec. 9 at noon and will be held at Hampton University.