Seth Little regretted throwing the pass the moment it left his hand. The Turner Ashby quarterback knew he slightly underthrew wideout Jamie Webb, and a Handley defender was positioned near the goal line for an interception that would have stymied the Knights' late comeback bid.
But the ball slipped through the defender's fingers and fell into Webb's lap, resulting in a 27-yard touchdown and the deciding score in Turner Ashby's wild 22-21 win over Handley in the Virginia AA Region II Division 3 final on Saturday.
"It was a matter of inches whether it was intercepted or a touchdown pass," Little said. "I knew it wasn't a great ball when I first threw it. But it ended up having a great outcome, and I guess that's all that matters."
Turner Ashby (10-2) trailed by 11 with less than four minutes to play but scored two touchdowns in a span of 2 minutes 18 seconds to deny the Judges (10-2) their second straight region title and the seventh in program history.
Two big pass plays by Turner Ashby in the final minutes and a pair of special teams miscues by Handley spoiled fine efforts by Handley's defense and Judges quarterback J.J. Dorsey.
"Each play we were right there to make the play, but we ended up not being able to make it," Handley linebacker Jeremy Lewis said. "They made the plays they needed to make to win the game."
With Handley's defense battering Little in the second half, the Judges appeared to take control of the game when Dorsey scored on a 12-yard scamper that made the score 21-10 with 4:39 remaining.
The Knights, however, switched to an aerial attack to spark their offense. It took only four plays for Little to connect with Daniel Harvey on a 30-yard touchdown bomb that made the score 21-16 with 3:26 left. The two-point conversion attempt failed.
On the ensuing kickoff, Turner Ashby kicker Cody Ochoa kicked a line drive into the back of a Handley player near midfield, and Knights defensive back Jimmy Young recovered the loose ball. It was the second time Turner Ashby recovered a kickoff that Handley did not field.
Three plays later, Little and Webb were the beneficiaries of a fortuitous break: Handley turned over the ball on downs on its final possession. "We made a lot of mistakes on special teams [today]," Handley wide receiver-kick returner Charles Washington said. "That just really turned the game. After that, it was hard to get back into the rhythm and the flow."
Sherando Holds Off Harrisonburg
In the Region II Division 4 final, Sherando foiled a late Harrisonburg rally and won, 41-34, in overtime.
Harrisonburg (11-1) scored 10 fourth-quarter points, including a touchdown with 32 seconds left. But in overtime, Joe Oher ran it in for Sherando (10-2) on fourth and goal from the 1, and Brandon Ramy intercepted a pass on Harrisonburg's possession to secure the win.
Sherando will play at Region I champion Powhatan in next week's state semifinals.