Virginia AA Division 4 semifinal
T.J. Peeler shoulders the load as Broad Run beats Powhatan, 20-7
POWHATAN, VA. -- There are moments in games in which certain players are counted on to simply take over, to do the job that has elevated them to star status.
On Saturday afternoon, on a field that had been churned into a mud pit on a cold, rainy day, Broad Run took over on its own 26-yard line leading by five points with 9 minutes 18 seconds to play in the fourth quarter and put the game on the shoulders of its marquee player, running back T.J. Peeler.
"You can't blame us [for] why," sophomore quarterback Connor Jessop said.
Peeler, a Pittsburgh recruit, promptly showcased why he is considered one of the top running backs in the area, carrying the ball on 14 of 16 plays for 74 yards in a drive that ate up 8:03. Jessop capped the march with a 16-yard, game-sealing touchdown as the defending state champion Spartans downed Powhatan, 20-7, and advanced to the Virginia AA Division 4 championship.
"Coach told me I was going to get the ball," Peeler said. "And he really meant it."
On the critical drive, the Spartans (13-0) were called twice for holding and once for illegal procedure, wiping out a touchdown and forcing them back in key situations. No. 2 Broad Run was able to keep the ball moving, however, behind an offensive line that, despite a size disadvantage, provided adequate push for Peeler to grind out yards on the counter.
After two penalties had pushed the Spartans back to first and 25, Broad Run gave the ball twice to Peeler, then faked a handoff to the senior on third and 14. Jessop ran a bootleg in the opposite direction and scored untouched.
"I think we ran counter at least 20 times on that drive and then we just did a fake counter," Jessop said. "Coach told me that if nobody's open just run it. There was somebody open, but I was just trying to get a first down or stay in bounds and waste the clock."
The Indians (12-1) had done well to keep Broad Run off the scoreboard for most of the first half and led 7-0 with two minutes remaining before halftime.
But the Spartans blocked a punt and took over on Powhatan's 15-yard line with 1:54 remaining. Four plays later, Peeler scored from one yard out to make it 7-6.
Peeler struck again on a 20-yard run to cap off a 14-play, 76-yard drive in the third quarter and finished with 179 yards on 36 carries -- 144 of which came in the second half.
"I'm a senior and I know what my role is on this team," Peeler said. "And I had to get the team up for the second half."