By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Oct. 11 — On Friday night, Page County entered the ballgame looking for its first win over East Rockingham since the inception of the rivalry, while the Eagles were simply searching for their first win of the season. Both teams were hungry and performed well overall, in what proved to be a competitive contest that went down to the final minutes.
After a three and out on their opening possession, the Panthers were ignited by senior Dylan Hensley, who grabbed East Rock’s first pass attempt and sprinted 32 yards for a pick six to open the scoring at 7-0. Page then caught the Eagles off-balance and beautifully executed an onside kick that prompted a nine-play drive. The Panthers went 51 yards in just over four minutes, and junior quarterback Hayden Plum plunged in from four yards out to take a 14-0 lead with six minutes remaining in the first quarter.
East Rock then put together an impressive drive of their own, covering 45 yards in eight plays in just under four minutes. A 21-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Jakari Eaves to junior wide receiver Xavier Butler brought the game to 14-7.
Page County senior Blake Turpin then dominated the remainder of the first half, as he broke away on runs of 57 and 92 yards to put Page up 27-7 at the half. Turpin’s first touchdown came benefit of a high snap. The senior running back turned punter pulled down the high snap and turned a 4th and 8 into a 57-yard score. His second trip to the end zone came on the first play of the Panthers’ sixth possession of the half.
East Rockingham committed three turnovers in the first half — two fumbles and an interception — and gave up another possession to an onside kick that lead to Page’s second score. But the Eagles flipped the script in the second half, as Eaves began to show tremendous accuracy to a variety of targets. The sophomore quarterback threw four touchdown passes on the night, including three in the second half as East Rock scored 27 unanswered in the last 13:39 of the game.
Eaves hit junior Zachary Joyner from 15 yards out near the end of the third quarter to bring the score to 27-14. He found Butler again from 12 yards out just four minutes later to make the score 27-21 with 9:31 remaining in the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, the ball was mishandled and the Panthers started out on their own seven-yard line. While they were able to get two first downs and take about five-and-a-half minutes off the clock, East Rock took three consecutive time outs to give themselves 3:54 to work with.
Seven plays later, the Eagles took their first lead of the game when Eaves hit senior Logan Frye from 15 yards out to go up 28-27 with 2:28 remaining. East Rock went 71 yards on eight plays in just 1:26 as the Eagles’ passing game was clearly the difference in the second half.
Another key moment came near the end of the first half, when Page quarterback Hayden Plum suffered a lower back injury and left the game. His injury is severe enough that it will likely prevent him from further play this season. Without the normal spark plug that runs the Panther offense, Page remained scoreless in the second half. The defense lacked Plum’s spark as well, as Page only forced two East Rock punts in the second half.
Page’s final possession ended with an interception. East Rock ran four plays, including a fourth-and-one at the one-yard line that capped the scoring as the clock expired at 34-27.
Next up, Page County (3-4) will host Petersburg (W.Va.) this Friday night, Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. East Rockingham (1-3) will host Luray in Bull Run District action. The Bulldogs, along with Clarke County, remain undefeated.
Pre-game ceremonies on Friday night officially dedicated the facilities at Page County High School as “Buddy Comer Stadium at Panther Field”. A number of special guests were on hand, including by Dr. Billy Haun, Executive Director of the Virginia High School League, Dr. Antonia Fox, Superintendent of Page County Public Schools, and members of the Page County School Board, who presented a plaque to Coach Comer’s siblings, children and immediate extended family. Former football and track athletes who played under Coach Comer were also on hand to mark the occasion. Fireworks were shot off after the game to honor the longtime coach who passed away in April.
The PVN Sports broadcast crew selected
as the Blue Ridge Bank “Player of the Game“.
Turpen recorded two touchdowns against East Rock Friday night on runs of 57 and 92 yards.
To check schedules, rosters, results and standings for local high school sports,
see the Bull Run District website.