For most of the season, the Hylton High football team looked to senior quarterback Kenny Irby to pilot a run-oriented, error-free offense. Tonight, down 20 points after a series of uncharacteristic blunders, the Bulldogs unleashed Irby the passer and scored 21 consecutive points in a 28-27 victory over Varina for their second straight Virginia AAA Division 6 championship--and 30th consecutive win--before an estimated 14,000 at University of Richmond Stadium.
Irby completed just 5 of 14 passes, but those five completions went for 142 yards and two of the three comeback touchdowns. On the final play of the first half, Irby connected on a 40-yard heave to senior Delondre Simpson, after the Bulldogs had taken possession at their 33-yard line with 54 seconds left.
"We said tonight we're not going to leave anything on the shelf," said Hylton Coach Bill Brown, who had been conservative with Irby throughout the season for fear of injury. "Kenny's done with us, and we were going to use all his talents and the way the game unfolded it was Kenny Irby night. That's what I know he can do. If anyone had any questions before, I'm sure they don't have any questions now."
Hylton (14-0) threw two interceptions in the first half--one by junior D.J. Walton on a halfback option pass, the other by Irby on a ball tipped by a receiver--to set up Varina touchdowns that enabled the Blue Devils (13-1) to take a stunning 27-7 lead on the defending state champion. The Bulldogs' touchdown came on a 91-yard kickoff return by senior Alex Mason just seconds after Mason had blocked what turned out to be a crucial extra point attempt.
"When you're down, you know you have to throw the ball," said Irby, who scored on a two-yard keeper midway through the third quarter to pull the Woodbridge school to 27-21. "At the beginning we were missing the short routes, but we came through."
The completion to Simpson, who somehow had slipped behind coverage on the final play of the first half, was a foreshadowing of the third quarter. Sophomore Ahmad Brooks intercepted a pass after Irby's touchdown run. Five plays later, Irby found a wide-open Brooks down the right sideline for a 30-yard touchdown to tie the score at 27.
Senior Andy Wilfong, who would later miss a 33-yard field goal attempt, sneaked his extra-point attempt just inside the left upright for the game-winning point with 4 minutes 29 seconds to play in the third.
Varina had the ball for about eight minutes in the final period, driving from its 20 to the Hylton 37. But the Bulldogs stopped senior Lamont Abrams after a one-yard run, nailed quarterback Michael Robinson in the backfield for a two-yard loss and recorded a six-yard loss on third down when Varina fumbled in the backfield. On Varina's final offensive play, with about 3:30 left, Robinson could not connect with senior DeAndre Mickleberry on a 30-yard pass down the middle of the field.
The Blue Devils gained just three first downs in the second half, when Hylton abandoned its blitzes and stuck with its base defense. Hylton's sparkling second half stood in stark contrast to a first half that included the two interceptions, a fumbled punt and 161 yards allowed.
"If you beat us, you're going to have to beat us," Brown said. "At halftime, we discussed that we played just god-awful in the first half, and if we could be down by 13 and play that poorly, we could come back in the second half and play like we can and be in the game."