Langley outside linebacker Brian Pitts is most comfortable rushing the quarterback or playing the zone in the flat, so when coach John Howerton decided to drop eight defenders in coverage late in Friday’s Virginia 6A North first-round game, he was admittedly nervous. But on a third-and-10 with 10 seconds remaining and the No. 18 Saxons clinging to a seven-point lead, Pitts made his coach feel like a genius.
The junior stepped in front of a Battlefield pass into the end zone to secure a 28-21 victory for the Saxons and a spot in the region quarterfinals. Langley will travel to Stonewall Jackson, which upset fourth-seeded Washington-Lee, 42-34.
“I made a few mistakes on the outside contain, so I was nervous that entire drive,” Pitts said. “Then we changed up the defense and when the ball came towards me on the last play, my heart stopped.”
Pitts and the Saxons defense had allowed the Bobcats to drive 57 yards to Langley’s 23-yard line. But the interception eliminated any chance of an overtime session in McLean.
Langley quarterback Nick Casso was outstanding running the read option all night. With the Battlefield defenders constantly keying on running back Tyler West (169 yards), the senior signal-caller always had room to run when he decided to keep it.
Casso and West combined for 318 rushing yards but it didn’t result in the 40 points per game they came in averaging due drive killing penalties and several snaps that went over Casso’s head.
“We were moving the ball the whole game, it was penalties and bad snaps that were stopping us,” Langley Coach John Howerton said.
Langley took a 14-7 lead into the half and on the Saxons’ first possession of the half, West took a read option 42 yards to the right to put his team ahead by two touchdowns.
But Battlefield answered with two drives of 80 and 66 yards to knot the game at 21 with 10:21 left. Bobcats junior quarterback Matt Gallagher was 17 of 28 for 176 yards and threw a touchdown pass.
Howerton sent his team on the field with the goal of leaving Battlefield as little time as possible after scoring a touchdown.
The Saxons started on their own 20, had the ball for eight minutes and ran 14 plays, 12 of them runs. Casso scored from one yard out to put Langley up for good.
“I wasn’t as concerned as you think when we started the drive,” Casso said. “I knew we had to chug it down the field and get it done and chew up some clock as we did it, too.”