Never in its 25-game winning streak had the Manassas Park football team entered the fourth quarter down by two touchdowns, the predicament the Cougars found themselves in at home last night against Chatham in the Virginia A Region B Division 2 championship.
And perhaps never before have the Cougars been given so many opportunities to extend their winning streak as they were last night in a 25-21 victory, for a third straight region title.
After committing four turnovers in the first half, Manassas Park (12-0) was the beneficiary of numerous Chatham mistakes in the second half, which helped the Cougars score three fourth-quarter touchdowns, all on runs by senior quarterback Jay Terrell, who also had scored the team's first touchdown.
Chatham's last in a series of fumbles came with 26.6 seconds left after the Cavaliers had picked up a first down at the Manassas Park 28-yard line. Cougars junior lineman Ellery Moore recovered to secure his team's 26th straight win and 29th straight home victory.
Chatham (10-2) led 21-7 at the half and carried that same cushion into the fourth quarter. Manassas Park had two long touchdown passes called back by penalties in the third quarter.
"All my teammates say that they don't know how to lose," said Terrell, who joined the program this season after attending Brentsville. "I think that's what kept us on top. . . . If they would have held on to the ball, I think they would have beat us."
The Cavaliers, who last week snapped Gretna's lengthy winning streak (38 games) on that team's home field, almost did likewise to Manassas Park, by scoring three touchdowns in the final 6 minutes 5 seconds of the first half, all on drives of 50 yards or more.
But in the second half, Chatham turned the ball over on downs at the Cougars 9 and on its own 18 (when the punter's knee inadvertently touched the ground). It fumbled at the Cougars 48, fumbled a punt at its own 36 and fumbled at its own 20. Its next-to-last possession ended with a punt that put Manassas Park just 39 yards away from the winning touchdown, a 10-play drive that included eight Terrell keepers.
"We couldn't hold on to the ball in the second half, and hey, that's it," Chatham Coach Matt Foutz said. "We didn't give ourselves a chance in the second half. That's hard to deal with when you handed it to them like we did tonight."
Manassas Park made its own share of mistakes in the first half, when Terrell threw three of his four interceptions.