The parking lot at King George High School was full an hour before kickoff.
Some fans that flocked to the Foxes’ football season opener against Orange Thursday night had to park in the grass.
The King George faithful were treated to a heart-stopping 31–27 victory that the Foxes are hoping sets the stage for a turnaround season from a 1–9 campaign a year ago.
King George’s defense was able make a goal-line stand in the closing moments as Orange senior quarterback Walker Johnson tripped on third-and-goal from the 3 for a 5-yard loss.
Johnson then mistakenly spiked the ball on fourth down with 0.8 seconds remaining and the Foxes exhaled.
“I had a lot of faith in the defense to make a play,” King George head coach Vern Lunsford said. “We were fortunate he slipped down. Defense played a great game and slowed them down when we needed to … It was a total team win.”
It starts with the play of junior quarterback Charles Mutter. The Brooke Point transfer demonstrated that the Foxes are no longer the run-heavy offense they were in the past.
Mutter’s first pass of the game sailed through the hands of a King George receiver and was intercepted by Orange defensive back Hylton Hale.
But Mutter didn’t let that deter him. He completed 13 of 27 passes for 341 yards, including a 74-yard bomb to junior wide receiver Von Whiting for the game’s first score.
Whiting finished with 181 receiving yards on four catches.
“That’s a deadly duo,” King George sophomore running back Gabe Aley said of Mutter and Whiting. “It’s probably the best duo around right now. Nobody’s keeping up with them.”
Mutter also rushed for two 1-yard scores in the second quarter. The final scoring run came with 2 seconds remaining before halftime one play after a 44-yard strike to Whiting.
The Foxes held a 24–14 advantage at halftime.
But the Hornets—behind the running and receiving of senior running back Jaylen Alexander—weren’t done.
Alexander finished with 125 rushing yards and three scores (one on a fumble recovery in the end zone). He hauled in three catches for 71 yards. His 5-yard touchdown burst cut the Foxes’ lead to 24–21 with 9:01 to go in the third quarter.
Hale’s 51-yard sprint with 5:17 remaining in the third gave the Hornets their first lead since 7–6. But King George responded behind Aley, who stepped in for the banged up Javon Campbell. In his first varsity action, Aley rushed for 94 yards on 17 carries. His 8-yard scoring run gave the Foxes a 31–27 lead with 2:06 to go in the game.
“He stepped up fantastic,” Mutter said of Aley.
A big kickoff return set the Hornets up on the Foxes’ 49-yard line with 1:56 left to play.
Immediately Johnson found Alexander for a screen pass down to the King George 18. Alexander went sprinting in the end zone but officials ruled he stepped out of bounds.
“I didn’t think he [stepped out of bounds] but I didn’t have the best angle,” Orange head coach Jesse Lohr said. “We had some plays go our way and we had some plays that didn’t go our way.”
The Hornets kept coming. Fullback Noah Carey converted fourth-and-1 from the King George 9 with a 2-yard plunge.
A 5-yard run by Alexander on first-and-goal set the stage for the wild final sequence.
Johnson spiked the ball to stop the clock on second down. He dropped back to pass and stumbled on third down and then spiked the ball to effectively end the game.
“I thought it was second down,” Lohr said of the sequence when Johnson lost five yards. “The clock said second down. We’ve been running this motion action to run the ball and it’s 15 seconds and we’ve got no timeouts left. I’m scared with three yards to go to come up short and not have another play. We tried to ball-fake our base play and throw it to the flats. I thought it was there. I don’t know what happened.”
The Foxes celebrated. After a difficult schedule led to an 0-4 start the previous two years, Lunsford is hopeful this gives his players a confidence boost.
King George will be back in action next Friday at Stafford. Orange visits North Stafford the same night.
KG—Von Whiting 74 pass from Charles Mutter (kick failed).
O—Jaylen Alexander 16 run (Jireek Washington kick).
KG—Mutter 1 run (pass failed).
KG—Javon Campbell 1 run (pass failed).
O—Alexander fumble recovered in end zone (Washington kick).
KG—Mutter 1 run (pass failed).
O—Alexander 5 run (Washington kick).
O—Hylton Hale 51 run (kick failed).
KG—Gabe Aley 8 run (Ryan Kuberick kick).
RUSHING: Orange—Jaylen Alexander 23-125, 3 TDs; Hylton Hale 7-64, TD; Paul Poirier 1-11; Noah Carey 3-4; Siboniso Mthethwa 1-4; Jireek Washington 1-(-1); Walker Johnson 1-(-5). King George—Gabe Aley 17-94, TD; Javon Campbell 13-25, TD; Charles Mutter 4-20, 2 TDs; J.J. Kidd 2-4; Kyle Reviello 1-3.
PASSING: Orange—Walker Johnson 9-18-0, 121 yards. King George—Mutter 13-27-1, 341 yards, TD.
RECEIVING: Orange—Alexander 3-71; Mthethwa 2-21; Hale 1-16; Washington 3-10. King George—Von Whiting 4-181, TD; Aidan Parr 2-61; Reviello 3-45; Chris Cox 3-41; Aley 1-13.