By the end on Thursday, as Essex killed the final seconds in the Trojans’ 26–8 win at King George, the Foxes looked a little run down and a little beat up.
Linebacker Jake Bethem was nursing a calf injury. Senior do-everything athlete Jordan Aley had one shoe off and appeared to have an injured ankle. Fullback Rashad Peyton had his pads off and an ice pack wrapped around his shoulder.
“I don’t want to use that as an excuse,” King George coach Jeff Smith said. “But that’s a factor. Still we’ve got guys going in there and we’ve got to make plays.”
The Foxes trailed just 12–6 and recovered a fumble on the opening kick of the second half at the Essex 21. King George picked up a first and goal at the Trojans’ 9, and a touchdown run was negated by a holding penalty. The drive finally stalled with a fourth-down sack and Essex steadied its hold on the game.
“We knew we had to play a great game against them,” said Foxes coach Jeff Smith, whose team had posted a solid 43–0 last Thursday against Washington & Lee. “We get the ball back and score and we get a penalty. It could have gone either way, but the wheels just feel off after that.”
Peyton—who led King George with 49 first-half rushing yards—didn’t carry the ball again after that drive, and was soon on the sidelines being tended to by the Foxes’ trainer.
Essex held King George to just one net yard of offense and three first downs in the second half. It was a tough ending, after the Foxes’ had shown such promise with a first-quarter drive (powered by Peyton) that resulted in Will Clift’s one-yard quarterback sneak for a 6–0 lead.
The Trojans answered back with a 75-yard march capped by a well-thrown 23-yard fade from Tesahn Nelson to Terrell Hundley, and the game was tied 6–6.
King George kept feeding the ball to Peyton and reached the Essex 5 before getting stopped on fourth down. The Trojans then marched 94 yards and took a 12–6 lead on Rasaun Monroe’s 14-yard run midway through the second quarter.
Both teams sputtered through the third quarter, but Essex switched to a power attack out of a double-wing offense, and needed five plays to go 52 yards with 9:32 remaining in the game. Monroe scored on a 15-yard run to put the Trojans up 19–6.
The Essex attack wasn’t complicated, but the Trojans have a lot of size and their wedge play combined misdirection with a load of blockers out in front.
“If they get you on your heels, you have so many people at the point of the attack,” Smith said. “You just can’t find the ball ... If we don’t get in there or we make a pile, they find that seam and just keep going.”
The King George offense couldn’t get out of neutral, but the defense blocked a punt, leading to a safety which cut the Essex lead to 19–8.
But when the Foxes got the ball back, the Trojans’ Tim Johnson made an interception on the first play from scrimmage and returned it 65 yards for the clinching score.
“They had a couple of big plays, and we’ve really got to execute,” said Smith, whose Foxes (1–1) play at Liberty next Friday. “When we’re inside the 20, we’ve got to find ways to get in the end zone.”
KG-W. Clift 1-yard run (run failed)
Es-T. Hundley 23-yard pass from T. Nelson (kick failed)
Es-R. Monroe 14-yard run (run failed)
Es-R. Monroe 15-yard run (L. Ayala kick)
Es-T. Johnson 65-yard interception (L. Ayala kick)
Rushing: King George—Rashad Peyton 14-52; Aston Howard 4-21; Jordan Aley 4-21; Deon Williams 2-11; Parcarri Brown 2-8; Jacob Bethem 2-3; Devin Williams 1-(-5); Kyree Garrett 3-(-5); Will Clift 6-(-7), TD; Logan Taylor 2-(-13). Essex—Malik Martin 16-85; Tesahn Nelson 12-79; Rasaun Monroe 14-68, 2TD; Kevin Dameon 2-5.
Passing: King George—Logan Taylor 1-9-1 13; Will Clift 0-15-0 0. Essex—Tesahn Nelson 3-4-0 34, TD.
Receiving: King George—Luke Barnum 1-13. Essex—Terrell Hundley 1-23, TD; Malik Martin 2-11.