The top seeded football team in the state is packing their bags this upcoming weekend for the Group A Division 2 State Football Championship in Salem. This comes after the Essex Trojans extended their winning streak to 14, defeating John Battle High School, 40-9, last Saturday afternoon in Tappahannock.
“I really felt like our guys played as close to a complete game as you could in a playoff game. I was pleased with both sides of the ball,” said Essex head coach John Fulks.
The coach said one of the key moments in the game following a late score before halftime presumably made an impact on Battle.
“12-1 they came down here with a lot of fire and I didn’t feel like they quit. We just hit them with some major homeruns,” Fulks said.
Battle opened the game giving to ball to Essex and differing until the second half. In the opening drives for both teams, they failed to sustain any drives after penalties.
But Essex followed up with a score on their second possession. The touchdown was credited to wide receiver DeAndre Baylor catching a 27-yard pass from quarterback Dominek Broaddus. Kicker Jason Compton helped put the team up 7-0 after a 46-yard drive.
Battle utilized the clock in what was left of the first quarter, but was held to only scoring a field goal before the quarter ended. The kick was made by Adam Jones leaving the score at the end of the quarter 7-3 in favor of Essex.
Essex maintained possession of the football to start the second quarter, but the offense was forced to kick the ball back to Battle on a fourth and nine situation from their 21-yard line. But the kick was short giving Battle the ball at Essex’s 27-yard line.
The Essex defense again responded in the redzone forcing two incomplete passes. The field goal attempt was no good. Essex’s defense would soon thereafter stop Battle again.
In the next two drives for Essex, Broaddus connected both times with receiver Dartanious Jones for touchdowns. The first score was from 69 yards out and the second from 54. Both of Compton’s kicks gave Essex a 21-3 lead.
On a Battle position a few minutes before half ended, the team was able to sustain some drives following two personal foul penalties giving the visiting team 30-yards. But with Battle lined up at Essex’s 14-yard line on a fourth down situation, the home town’s defense responded with another stop.
Essex’s offense failed to convert a score after Battle turned over the ball on downs with 1:30 left in the second quarter. In the quickest amount of time, Battle turned the ball over trying to score before the end of the half. Essex’s defensive back Sterling Hammond was credited with an interception.
In the ensuing drive, Essex opened their playbook with a surprising score to end the half. At Battle’s own 48-yard line with four seconds left, Broaddus connected with Jones for a pass, but the receiver pulled a hook-and-ladder play, giving the Baylor for an open field run up the sidelines for the score. The extra point score was no good after the snap was fumbled. Essex led the game 27-3.
Battle made some strides to get back in the game, but was unable to score on their opening drive after four minutes in the game. But there defense was able to force Essex to turn over the ball following an interception by Cody Rogers from Broaddus. Again on the next drive by Battle, Essex’s defense stopped them from scoring.
With less than four minutes in the third quarter, Broaddus connected with Jones for another touchdown reception for 25 yards. The extra point was no good, but the touchdown extended Essex’s lead, 33-3.
On the next possession for Battle, the visiting team was able to move the ball. But on a third down situation, Essex’s Leo Gaskins recovered a fumble to give the ball back to his team. In the final possession for Essex, Jones caught his fourth touchdown from Broaddus from 17-yards out. Compton kicked in the extra point to give Essex a 40-3 lead.
Battle’s defense was held from scoring a single touchdown in the game until late in the fourth quarter. This came after quarterback Logan Honaker connected with Josh Matney for a 26-yard reception. Essex’s Issac Gray blocked the extra point attempt to end the game at 40-9 in favor of the home team.
Battle coach Steve Wright said after the game he was impressed with his opponents.
“They are a really good football team. Very talented,” said Wright. “The coach and his staff did a great job and put them in great positions to make plays. I wish them luck next week.”
After the game, Battle fans and players were saddened by the loss. Wright comforted them before having a final prayer.
“I told them that I love them and appreciate their effort,” Wright said. “Winning or losing doesn’t define us as people. It goes deeper than that, but it hurts to lose.”
The championship game will be held at Salem City Stadium against Goochland with kick off at 4:30 p.m. following the Group A Division 1 championship at 12 p.m.
“Hopefully we’ll get a large crowd there,” Fulks said. “It’s a long trip, but it’s a big deal, so I hope we get a lot of support.”