Appomattox wins wild game with R.E. Lee, 38-34, to claim third straight title
SALEM, Va. (WSET) - For three quarters, both Appomattox and R.E. Lee played a game filled with solid defense, and a measured offensive attack.
Then the fourth quarter came.
The two squads took to the skies, using big passes and deep kickoff returns to light up the scoreboard often. Raiders QB Javon Scruggs' pass to Devin Dews with 1:26 left gave Appomattox (14-1) the 38-34 win over a game R.E. Lee (13-2) squad, and clinched their third straight VHSL title.
An early mistake helped the Leemen take an early lead. A muffed punt, recovered by Lee, set up Jarret Lawler from 11 yards out to make it 7-nothing. But the Raiders responded just 15 seconds later, with Scruggs going deep for De'Von Graves, hitting him in stride for the 48 yard touchdown. A tight half saw the Raiders trail 17-10 at the break.
In the 3rd quarter, Scruggs provided the lone score on his feet, scrambling in from 10 yards out to tie it at 17, entering the wild and wacky fourth quarter, that saw the Leemen return their own punt for a TD to take a 24-17 lead. After the Lee punter shanked a punt, Appomattox headed for their sideline. But a heads up from Lee's Dylan Culpen turned it into a 62-yard TD run. The referee ruled the punt did not cross the line of scrimmage, making it a live ball situation, allowing Lee to return their own punt for a touchdown.
But Appomattox didn't buckle, adding another Scruggs TD run, and a 17-yard TD pass from Scruggs to tie the game at 31. After Lee kicked a field goal to take a 3 point lead, the Raiders got one final opportunity to deliver a third straight title to the Raiders fans who packed the visiting stands at a frigid Salem Stadium. After driving down to the 6, Scruggs found Devin Dews on the left wing, who outstretched the ball to the goal line to make a 38-34 game.
The defense, then, came up with their best series of the game, stopping Lee QB Jayden Williams. After three straight incompletions, Williams hit a wide receiver, only for De'Von Graves to stop him short of the first down, kicking off a wild celebration in the stands, and on the sidelines, as chants of "Three-Peat! Three-Peat!" rained down onto the frozen Salem turf.
After the game, coach Doug Smith told reporters "Our kids believed, they always believed they'd get another opportunity, they'd get another chance. And so, I was very proud to see them, in the second half, do what they did. And then, even when they were down, come back. It was just incredible.
Devin Dews, who made the game winning TD catch for Appomattox, said it was Coach Smith's words, and the Raiders fans, that helped spark the fire for the 2nd half, saying "First half, we came out a little slow, but then coach gave us a pep talk in the locker room, and we came out very hard, and the fans? They're amazing, we love them so much."
When asked if the significance of the Raiders' accomplishments had hit him yet, running back Omar Bailey, who finished with 138 yards on 11 carries, admitted "Not yet! Maybe in like two weeks or something, but it's incredible what the team did tonight. Just so blessed that this happened, I'm so excited."
Quarterback Javon Scruggs went 8-12 passing for 169 yards and 3 TD's, adding 32 yards and two rushing TD's. After the celebration, an emotional Scruggs praised his team's effort, saying "We had injuries, and people were still playing. I think that is one of the greatest things about playing this sport right here. The sacrifice, and everything coming out here - game by game, week by week, play by play, and doing everything you can to succeed, off and on the field."