Two teams with state championship aspirations squared off at Colonial Forge Friday night, and neither left satisfied.

Four-time defending Class 5 state titlist Highland Springs escaped with a 27–20 victory that left its demanding coach, Loren Johnson, visibly angry.

The host Eagles came away with their second loss of the season—both to currently unbeaten foes—and a laundry list of things to clean up before the Virginia High School League playoffs begin in two weeks.

“When we put this game on the schedule,” Colonial Forge coach John Brown said, “we knew we would be exposed. We knew we’d get a chance to see what we need to fix before the playoffs. It was good to have.”

The short-handed Eagles (7–2) know they need to be more creative and efficient on offense after managing just 172 yards against the Springers (9–0). They have fewer qualms about their defense or their competitiveness after scoring two fourth-quarter touchdowns and getting the ball back in the final minutes with a chance to tie.

“We’ve just got to clean up a lot of mistakes,” said senior Avery Johnson–Edmonds, who scored on a spectacular 28-yard first-half catch and returned a fourth-quarter interception 35 yards for another score. “We’ve got to finish. We can’t get too far down.”

That’s exactly what the Eagles did against the Springers, who held on for their 38th straight victory, dating back to 2017. Highland Springs muscled its way to a 27–7 lead late in the third quarter when Kalil Bradford, who rushed for a game-high 118 yards, scored on a 10-yard run.

Colonial Forge didn’t quit, though. The Eagles forced a fumble by Juwan Dent, one of the Springers’ two rotating quarterbacks, early in the fourth quarter, and Desmond Cook recovered on the Springers’ 11. Two plays later, Madden Lowe hit Michael Vinson from 10 yards to make it 27–13.

On Highland Springs’ next possession, Johnson–Edmonds intercepted Dent and sprinted into the end zone to make it 27–20 with 7:44 left. It was the fourth of Highland Springs’ five turnovers on the night.

“That was a sloppy game of football,” said Johnson, the Springers’ head coach. “Hats off to Colonial Forge; they forced a lot of turnovers. But for our team to play that sloppy means I did a ... poor job of coaching.”

Johnson–Edmonds interception return gave the home crowd hope, but Highland Springs ate up more than 5 1/2 minutes before Colonial Forge’s DeLyn Palmer picked off a pass and returned it to the Eagles’ 29 with 2:02 remaining. Colonial Forge managed just one first down, though, before turning the ball over on downs, and Springers ran out the clock to keep their win streak alive.

The Eagles played without several starters, including standout junior Elijah Sarratt, who wore a walking boot on his left foot. Brown said Sarratt is day to day and could return for next Friday’s regular-season finale at home against Stafford.

The Eagles are battle-tested, including one-possession losses to 2018 Class 6 state runner-up Freedom and now Highland Springs. They think the scars will help them in the weeks ahead.

“We want to be an elite team,” Brown said. “We talk about it from the beginning of workouts. When we get to the last three weeks of the season, we want to be in the conversation.”

Highland Springs      6   7   140   —   27
Colonial Forge070   13   —20

First Quarter

HS—LaQuan Veney 23 pass from Jamareeh Jones (kick blocked).

Second Quarter

CF—Avery Johnson-Edmonds 28 pass from Madden Lowe (Phillip Lovelace kick).

HS—Jordan Jackson 6 run (Ahren Alsheskie kick).

Third Quarter

HS—Jordan Jackson 6 run (Alsheskie kick).

HS—Kalil Bradford 10 run (Alsheskie kick).

Fourth Quarter

CF—Michael Vinson 10 pass from Lowe (kick failed).

HS—Johnson-Edmonds 35 interception return (Lovelace kick).

 HSCF
First downs168
Rushes-yards   47-17123-76
Passing yards12996
Comp-Att-Int7-14-3   8-23-2
Punts-Avg.1-45.03-23.7
Fumbles-lost5-20-0
Penalties-yards7-697-65

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: Highland Springs—Kalil Bradford 14–116, 1 TD; Jordan Jackson 13–52, 1 TD; Jamareeh Jones 8–36; Le’Quan Bassett 7–19; Dominic Keel 1–(minus 4); Kerry King 1–(minus 6); Juwan Dent 1–(minus 7); Team 2–(minus 25). Colonial Forge—Jaelan Black 9–40; Madden Lowe 3–11; Max Kauthen 6–10; Jordan Barnett 2–8; Jamal Thomas 3–7.

PASSING: Highland Springs—Jones 7–12–2, 129 yards, 1 TD; Dent 0–2–1. Colonial Forge—Lowe 7–22–2, 87 yards, 2 TDs; Maliek Dixon 1–1–0, 9 yards.

RECEIVING: Highland Springs—LaQuan Veney 2–37, 1 TD; Jabari Parker 1–37; Michael Hodge 2–27; Jamel Johnson 1–17, 1 TD; King 1–11. Colonial Forge—Johnson-Edmonds 1–28, 1 TD; Josiah Jones 2–22; DeLyn Palmer 2–20; Michael Vinson 1–10, 1 TD; Kauthen 1–9; Cade Bills 1–7.

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Steve DeShazo: 374-5443

sdeshazo@freelancestar.com

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