Up and down the sideline paced M.J. Stewart, yelling encouragement to his teammates while occasionally shifting his body in rhythm with the play unfolding several yards away from him. Rarely did the Yorktown All-Met running back look comfortable in his temporary role as assistant coach while sitting out Friday’s game against Chantilly with a sprained ankle. The same could be said for the Patriots, who appeared unsettled while facing a 12-point deficit in the second half.
With their most reliable weapon on the sidelines, the Patriots ultimately drew success from the unexpected, riding a converted fake punt and several turnovers forced by a defense featuring several first-year starters to rally for a 30-28 win in Arlington.
Da’Jhaun Short led Yorktown’s run by committee approach by racking up 90 of the team’s 217 rushing yards and scoring two touchdowns, including the go-ahead score late in the third quarter.
“Everybody was expecting us to lose without M.J. and that’s why I’m proud of myself, proud of our line, proud of the whole team for getting this win,” Short said. “That scoreboard looked beautiful after the game.”
Most of the points were piled up during a back-and-forth first half. After Will Roebuck capped Yorktown’s opening drive with a one-yard touchdown run, Chantilly’s Deandre Harris returned the ensuing kickoff 87 yards for a score. Harris would score two more times, the last of which came following a Yorktown fumble that extinguished the Patriots’ momentum and helped Chantilly take a 21-16 lead at halftime.
Chantilly extended its lead early in the third period when David Sydnor found Raeshawn Smith (107 receving yards) for a 43-yard touchdown. But Yorktown found a spark in its ground attack, feeding Short four straight carries in a hurry-up offense before Tayvon Brown raced 31 yards for a score.
On the ensuing kickoff, Harris took a knee to the head while being tackled. The Chantilly senior was soon ruled out for the remainder of the contest, forcing the Chargers to improvise in a fashion similar to their undermanned opponent.
Chantilly struggled to find offense thereafter, losing two fumbles and throwing an interception on three of its last four drives. Yorktown took advantage of the extra opportunities on an array of Short runs and mid-range throws from Roebuck, who connected with six different receivers for his 82 passing yards on the night.
After Short punched in a two-yard touchdown run to put the Patriots ahead for good, Yorktown attempted to minimize Chantilly’s comeback chances with a fake punt midway through the fourth quarter.
Jack Storrs fielded the snap but nearly bobbled the ball as he ran forward. As he moved closer to the first-down marker, Storrs bounced off several Charger defenders before rushing 29 yards for the first down.
“I might have to give him a kiss because that was a huge play,” Roebuck said. “There was a lot of doubt with M.J. being out, but we all did what we needed to do.”