Handley High thought it would cruise to its dream of a third state title tonight when senior running back Robert Fowler turned a three-yard, quick-out pass pattern into a 70-yard touchdown reception on the Judges' first offensive play 20 seconds into the game. But the dream soon turned into a nightmare.
Brookville High of Lynchburg stopped the sixth-ranked Judges on their final eight possessions, and junior Dejon Kennedy rushed for 178 yards and two touchdowns on 39 carries to give the Bees a 14-6 victory and their first Virginia AA Division 3 state title before 6,217 at James Madison University's Bridgeforth Stadium.
"We've been stressing this all year long," Brookville Coach Bobby Johnson said. "Keep your composure. Don't get too high when something great happens, don't get too low when something bad happens. Keep an even keel, keep working and good things will happen if you believe in it."
Brookville (11-3) used two crucial interceptions by senior linebacker Martellus Braxton and secured possession for 18 minutes 52 seconds in the second half, to just 5:08 for Handley (12-2).
Leading 7-6 at halftime, the Bees opened the third quarter with a 17-play, 70-yard touchdown drive--which ate 8:40 off the clock--to take a 14-6 lead. Kennedy rushed 10 times for 41 yards on the drive, including a five-yard gain on fourth and two from the Handley 31, and scored on a one-yard plunge with 3:20 remaining in the quarter. Brookville converted two fourth downs on the drive and ran the ball on all 17 plays.
"That drive after halftime was something special," Johnson said. "It wasn't any big secret what we were going to do tonight. I told everyone we were going to do what got us here, and that's run the football and take time off the clock."
On Handley's next possession, Braxton stepped in front of a pass intended for junior wide receiver Adam Dutton to stop the Judges' drive on the Brookville 46. Two possessions later, Braxton again picked off quarterback Lang Campbell (9 of 18, 167 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions) deep in Handley territory with 2:56 to play, when his pass went through the hands of senior wide receiver Daniel Vipperman.
"I knew I had to get that," Braxton said. "If I got that the game would be over. I did it, and it was over."
Handley got the ball on its 32 with 25 seconds left. Campbell threw three straight incompletions and fumbled on fourth down to end the game.
"We played extremely well in spurts," Handley Coach Todd Hill said. "We just couldn't seem to get drives going. We'd get two or three first downs, then have a tough penalty. We had turnovers and we just couldn't seem to get consistent."
After being stopped on its first three drives, Brookville started its fourth possession on the Handley 37 when Levar Anthony picked up a punt off a hop and returned it 23 yards. Four plays later, Kennedy, who rushed for 95 yards on 16 carries in the first half, broke loose up the middle for an 11-yard touchdown to put Brookville up, 7-6.
"The left side of my line broke the hole right up," Kennedy said. "I just ran right through. Home free. You could have run a Mack truck through that thing--it was huge. I love my team."