So Close and yet so far.
The weather was ugly, the game not so much.
On a rain filled and wind swept night, Hurricane played their hearts out and all but beat #1 Huntington. But in the end it was yet another 2nd round loss which pushed Hurricane's all-time record to 0-6 in such contests.
This was was different, if not heartbreaking.
It did not start well. After a Jadon Hayes 43 yard kickoff return, which begs the question why were we kicking the ball to him, Hayes found the end-zone from 38 yards out on the 2nd play from scrimmage at the Highlanders went up 7-0.
The rain soaked Hurricane fans, who travel better than any fan base in the state, knew their Redskins would fight back, they were correct in that assumption.
After the defense led by Cameron Kimble (career high 15 tackles) held, Curon Cordon's 24 yard punt return set up Hurricane in positive field position.
It was now time for Christian Hill and Power football. Hill ran over 3 Highlander would-be defenders for a Skins first down at the Huntington 35.
2 plays later Nathan Roy (6-16-107 yards-2 tds and no interceptions) found Cordon on a 23 yard over the shoulder touchdown pass. Tim McCutchen's PAT knotted the score at 7-7 with 7.7 seconds left in the 1st quarter.
But before the "go" in "Let's go Redskins" were uttered by the visitor's fan base, that man did it again. Hayes sprinted untouched for a 64 yard touchdown, and he appeared to be virtually as unstoppable as he was in Hurricane earlier this season, when setting the Huntington school record of 326 yard rushing against the Redskins.
With the rain coming in sideways and the wind gusting, the defense for each team were able to force consecutive punts. That is until Christian Hill took matters into his own hands. Hill running hard broke through for a 44 yard touchdown and the game was tied at 14 all.
After a 43 yard Hayes run was called back for holding, the Redskins forced another Highlander punt. With 3 time outs at his disposal Coach Taylor decided to play it safe and go into the locker room tied.
Taylor completely owned Huntington's head Coach Billy Seals on the first play of the 2nd half. For the first time all season he called for Dakota Williams on a Jet Sweep, 65 yards later the Highlanders trailed in the 2nd half for the first time since their first game of the season. In fact before the night was over, Hurricane would put up more points on Huntington than any other team had all season in the state of West Virginia!
It was now time for the game's first potential pivotal play. The Highlander's looked to become unraveled as they fumbled on their next play from scrimmage with Hurricane's Charlie Womack recovering at Huntington's 19 yard line. On this night of horrible weather this marked the game's first turnover.
However the Redskins failed to put what may have been a nail in the potential Highlander coffin, as 3 penalties later, the Redskins had to settle for a 50 yard McCutchen Field goal attempt. On a normal night this would have seemed preposterous, but with the wind at his back anything was possible. The attempt landed harmlessly in the Highlander end-zone. And the Redskins let a huge opportunity slip away.
Given this reprieve of perhaps falling behind by two touchdowns, Huntington had new life, and any questions of their demise were answered by Hayes. He traveled 76 yards this time on his way to a tying score, leaving Redskin fans pondering if one player could defeat their team.
Unfortunately Hurricane was going to give the ball right back to Hayes and the Highlanders. Hill running strong had the ball knocked from his grasp and fumbled for a very rare time.
Hayes (25-286-4tds) would score his 4th TD from 5 yards out to give Huntington the lead 28-21 with 3 minutes left in the 3rd quarter.
After the Redskins were forced to punt. McCutchen had a great effort to get off his punt after a poor snap, somehow alluding defenders and punting the ball on the run for a touch-back. However he was injured on the play and was helped off the field.
Hayes had another TD run negated by a penalty and Huntington was forced to punt. The teams traded punts and Hurricane got the ball at their own 20 with 5:10 remaining in the game.
Hill (28-148) picked up a 1st down at hurricane's 47 with 3:28 left.
On a 3rd and 9, Roy scrambled to the Huntington 44 setting up a 4th and inches, he then picked up the 1st down on a QB sneak. Facing 3rd and long with just over a minute remaining Roy found Bo Adkins on a 25 yard completion to the Huntington 17.
Taylor called his last timeout with 47 seconds left and the Skins facing 2nd and 8 from the 15.
During the Time out, Taylor called for a play Hurricane had not used all season long. Roy faked a handoff to Hill and fired a strike to a wide open Steven Shine for the touchdown. Shine's first reception of the season pulled Hurricane to within a point at 28-27.
What happened next will be talked about for years to come in Hurricane.
Perhaps concerned with McCutchen's earlier injury or not, Taylor made the gutsiest decision of his coaching career and putting his faith in his players and went for the win and the 2 point conversion. Most agreed with the decision as this was chance for the underdog and road team to knock off the #1 seed.
Hurricane tried the Jet Sweep to Williams that was successful earlier, and as they play developed it appeared that it was destined to work, but Jarod Hayes one last time broke Hurricanes' heart, this time stopping Williams at the one yard line.
Coach Hayes claimed he knew the play was coming, to this I say "Bull-Shirt", "They'd burned us on it earlier," Seals said of a 65-yard touchdown run by Williams on the first play of the third quarter to give Hurricane a 21-14 lead. "We figured they'd put the ball in (Williams') hands. Jadon made the stop and Malik came in and finished it up."
After two Highlander personal fouls, Hurricane attempted on onside kick from Huntington's 30 yard line with 37 seconds remaining. A recovery would have the Redskins in range for a potential game winning field goal attempt. However the Football Gods were not shinning upon them, as Huntington recovered the attempt, putting the final dagger in the Redskins' heart.
To the Redskins and especially the Seniors who played their last game last night I leave you with this thought:
Some days are diamonds
Some days are rocks
Some doors are open
Some roads are blocked
You got a heart so big It could crush this town!