FUQUAY-VARINA – Fuquay-Varina’s football team found itself in a similar position during its rematch against fellow Tri-Nine Conference foe Green Hope Friday night in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs.
The Bengals trailed by 14 points early but rallied with the help of big plays in all three phases – offense, defense and special teams – to defeat the Falcons 42-33, setting up a second-round contest at perennial power Richmond County this Friday.
“We struggled early and were 1-3 with a young inexperienced team,” said Bengals’ coach Ryan Habich, whose squad improved to 7-4. “We got better as the year went along, but honestly, all of our games have been struggles like this. I don’t think having our bye week last week helped us.
“But when it came down to making plays, we were able to make them. That’s how you have to win in the playoffs. Green Hope is a good football team, and we were happy to get the win tonight.”
Fuquay, which trailed 17-7 at halftime against Green Hope but rallied for a 21-17 win in the first meeting several weeks ago, fell behind 14-0 with just 6:38 off the clock. A 13-yard pass from Chris Tutwiler to John Nassif capped a 61-yard opening drive in seven plays, and the Falcons went ahead two scores when Ridge Ford returned a fumble 61 yards for a TD on the Bengals’ opening drive.
“The thing I can say about these kids is, no matter what the circumstances are, they never seem to panic,” Habich said. “Every game has been close and we’ve been behind a lot. Our kids are used to it and don’t panic. They make me nervous but they find a way to win.”
A 46-yard TD pass from Tyler Williams to Garrett Suggs cut it to 14-7 with 3:24 left in the first quarter.
Green Hope (6-5 overall) led 17-7 with 54.6 seconds left in the second quarter on a 34-yard field goal by Anthony Lawson, but Fuquay came right back as Williams ran for 19 yards and then tossed a screen pass to Quincy Mangum, who turned it into a 54-yard TD to pull the Bengals within 17-14 at the break.
Another 34-yard field goal by Lawson made it 20-14 before Fuquay made its move.
On the kickoff after the field goal, Donte Campbell’s 70-yard return to the Falcons’ 19 set up a four-play drive capped by a one-yard run by Damarus Williams. William Mann’s extra point gave the Bengals a 21-20 lead with 1:55 left in the third quarter.
Tyler Hinton’s bone-jarring hit forced a GH fumble and Devon Gasparovic returned it 19 yard to the 4. After two personal foul penalties moved the ball back to the 30, Williams hooked up with Mangum on a 30-yard TD pass to make it 28-20 at the end of the quarter.
Green Hope had the ball on its own 26 to start the final period but a holding call pushed the ball back. On first-and-30 from the 6, Tutwiler threw a backwards pass to Dylan Hartigan. It was dropped and ruled a lateral, and Fuquay’s Tyler McBride fell on the fumble in the end zone for a 35-20 lead with 11:37 left.
The Bengal defense then came up a big stop at their own 2 to end Green Hope’s 15-play, 71-yard drive.
The Falcons cut the deficit to 35-27 on Tutwiler’s one-yard run with 3:23 remaining, but McBride leaped in the air and pulled down the onsides kick at the Falcon 49. He raced untouched into the end zone for what turned out to be the clinching score with 3:15 left.
The Falcons did score again (Tutwiler’s 26-yard pass to Demetrice Massenburg) with 2:08 left, but the extra point was unsuccessful, leaving it a nine-point deficit.
Green Hope outgained FVHS 414-324 and ran more pass plays (46) than the Bengals had total plays (43). The Falcons had 76 total plays.
Fuquay rushed for 175 yards on 35 attempts as Williams led the way with 108 yards on 13 carries. He also completed five of eight passes for 149 yards (two to Suggs for 61 yards and two to Mangum covered 84 yards).
Tutwiler completed 28 of 46 passes for 343 yards. The Falcons were held to 71 yards rushing on 30 attempts.