By Kris Freeman for White House Football
CROSS PLAINS — Nick Rowell‘s only tackle of the game proved to be a big one as White House defeated Fairview, 2-0, in a sloppy two-quarter exhibition at the Robertson County Jamboree.
Junior Luke Hopkins had two interceptions, the first setting up the winning score, and the second sealing the game with his back falling into the end zone. Fairview lost its starting quarterback, Hunter Zimmerman, to an injury earlier in the week. Freshman Khristian Harris-Lusk was 5-of-11 for 39 yards, but picked off once by Hopkins when Caleb Huffines deflected the pass at the Fairview 20, and Hopkins caught it at the 16. Hopkins then snared the final throw of the game in the end zone as the Yellow Jackets desperately tried to score and win the game.
Zimmerman is expected to be the Player of the Year favorite in District 11-AA. The Yellow Jackets were 11-2 last season, and White House was 10-3. Both teams played in the same jamboree at East Robertson last season.
This time, Fairview had two turnovers, seven penalties for 45 yards and managed just 85 yards of total offense. Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, the stats weren’t much better. White House ended with 43 total yards, and lost three fumbles, one on the exchange to quarterback Steven Rankin, and the other two by tailback Josh Flynn.
“We made a lot of mistakes tonight, and it’s going to take a much better effort than this in a much bigger atmosphere when we kick it off in two weeks at Portland,” said White House head coach Jeff Porter. “Portland is going to have game experience under their belt (week zero against Westmoreland), so we have to continue to improve and get better. But tonight was a sloppy game.”
Ironically, the second fumble led to the win.
After Hopkins picked off Harris-Lusk at the 16, Flynn managed one of two first downs on the night for White House with an 11-yard run to set up 1st-and-goal at the 4. But his fumble was recovered at the 6, and Fairview took over with 7:51 left in the second quarter.
Freshman Brian McCreery had four tackles for White House and sacked Harris-Lusk for a loss of four, and then a pitch to the tailback was swallowed up by Rowell in the far side of the end zone for a 2-0 score with 6:44 remaining.
The mistakes did not stop, and nearly led to a Fairview win. Flynn also ran for 11 on his next carry from the White House 30 after the safety, but fumbled again, with Fairview recovering at the 44. A skirmish after the play resulted in five penalty flags, offsetting penalties, and finally a 15-yard walk off against White House.
“I don’t know what happened there, really,” Porter said. “I’m going to have to go back and watch the film and see what we can determine. But the bottom line is, we have to keep our composure in pressure situations and those are mistakes we cannot make in game action.”
Fairview moved from the 29 to 1st-and-goal at the 9. Brennan Harshaw and Denis Schaffer made a one-yard stop on first down, but Trey Hyde saved a touchdown on second down with a tackle at the two. Hyde led all players with seven tackles in the game. On 3rd-and-goal, Drezmond English barreled into the backfield for a one-yard loss, setting up a potential go-ahead field goal from the 3 with 4:04 left.
Playing jamboree rules, the defense was still (no contact) on the extra-point distance kick, and Fairview still missed low and wide to leave the score 2-0.
White House ran three plays and Logan Trimmer punted for the third time on the night, averaging 33.0 yards per attempt, and the Yellow Jackets marched from their own 47 to the White House 23 in the final 2:57.
Chris Baldwin swatted away a wide receiver screen on 2nd-and-6, then Hopkins picked off the final throw deep and time expired.
“There are a lot of things we have to get corrected, and mistakes in key areas of the game are really going to hurt us,” Porter said. “We are going to have to go back to the practice field on Monday and continue to improve and we have got two weeks to get better and be ready for the kickoff of the season.”
Huffines, Baldwin and Long all broke up passes, with Huffines and Long both dropping potential interceptions.
Fairview rushed 17 times for 46 yards and White House 10 for 38.
The jamboree was a matchup of two quarterfinal teams from 2013, as Fairview played in the third round of Class 3-A and the Blue Devils in the third round of Class 4-A. Fairview opens the season against Cheatham County, while White House travels to Portland on August 29.