Two TD’s down, Raiders win in 4th quarter

Two TD’s down, Raiders win in 4th quarter 150 150 SWVA High School Sports


Fork Union Military Academy, Fork Union, VA – The second go-round between teams, you expect to be a better game. They know each other, personnel and tendencies, what each other wants to do. This second contest between North Cross and Fork Union at Fork Union didn’t disappoint. In the end, the visiting Raiders of North Cross (3-0) overcame a couple earlier turnovers and a two touchdown first quarter deficit to upend the Fork Union Blue Devils 28-20, and stay undefeated. Don’t let the score fool you. It was even closer than then the final tally. North Cross added a late TD pass to extend the margin. Not only was the score close but the two teams were flying around and giving it their all on both sides of the ball. A field that started out okay, got sloppy as the game moved along. You might make that case for the Raiders as well. They were a little sloppy early on with two fumbles, but once they found their footing, turned it on to shut out the Blue Devils in the second half and score just enough to get the ‘W’.

Fork Union WR/DB 7 Miles Garrett makes a one hand catch for the games second score

Qtr 1 – Turnovers played a big role especially early. Fork Union received the opening kick off, but turned it over on their second play from scrimmage. RB 2 V’jon Hampton (11/15 rush) coughed it up and Raider LB 10 Zack Morgan fell on the loose ball. It was a short lived celebration for the visitors though as North Cross QB 9 Gabe Zappia (17/30, 251, 3TDs pass; 7/7, TD rush) lost the handle on his first down pass attempt and DE/QB 12 Alex Williams scooped it up and took it 54-yards for the games first points. Less than a minute into the game, Fork Union led 7-0. North Cross Coach Stephen Alexander knew limiting giveaways would be key, “Turnovers were a big part just because it was sloppy. This was a tough track for us to play on. We are a smaller, more of a finesse team.”
North Crosses’ luck didn’t improve on their next possession as the fumble bug hit again. This time it was RB 13 Carlton Ward (Ward wore 13 for this game, usually he wears 12) who caught a pass and then was stripped by DB 7 Myles Garrett. DL 65 Andrew Jordan dove on the pigskin and the Blue Devils were in business again at their own forty-three. In arguably their best series of the day, Fork Union put together a 12-play drive that ended with WR/DB 7 Garrett finishing what he started with a 10-yard TD grab in the left corner of the end zone. QB 12 Williams (11/21,95,TD,3INTs) put it right on his finger tips and the Senior hauled it in. At the 5:07 mark, Fork Union looked poised to run away with this one, up 14-0. 

DB/RB 13 Carlton Ward ends a Fork Union drive with an interception

Qtr 2 – North Cross started to get all their oars in the water at the end of the first quarter, moving into the second. And fourth down’s would play a part in the drive. Behind the passing of Zappia, the Raiders moved the ball 66-yards on 13 plays to get on the scoreboard. It wasn’t easy though, as the Raiders needed to pick up two fourth downs to make it to paydirt. The first one was middle screen to RB 13 Ward and the last was the final four yards on a run by QB 9 Zappia. Raiders Head Coach Alexander agreed, “Big fourth downs were key….Carlton (RB 13 Ward) had a slow-RB screen on 4th down and then we scored on a 4th down (Zappia from the 4-yardline). This was probably Zappia’s best all-around game.” The TD scamper at the 9:16 mark tightened the game at 14-7 after K 55 Vedant Muse’s extra point. Fork Union answered right back on their next drive. This time the Blue Devils ate up clock and yardage on a 65-yard drive consuming 11 plays. QB 12 Williams took it himself in from the one. The big play was again a Williams to WR 7 Garrett pass connection on fourth down for 33-yards down to the Raider two. The all important point after was no good though and Fork Union took at 20-7 lead into half.

Fork Union RB/DB 2 V’jon Hampton is brought down by a North Cross committee – DL 53 Chase Daniel, 50 Raleigh Cundiff, DB 7 Cross Thompson, and LB 4 Kamden Johnson

Qtr 3 – The third quarter was all defense on both sides. Assistant Coach and Defensive Coordinator Shannon Taylor liked what he saw on Friday, “They made some adjustments from our first game, called some plays quick. We settled down and were able to get some turnovers to give the ball back to our offense.” North Cross took the second half kick off and again went on one of their long, time consuming drives making to down to the Blue Devils twenty six. But on fourth down the snap came up short and Zappia had to fall on it. The Blue Devils took over. North Cross got it right back three plays later as Linebackers 3 Jackson and 21 Mack teamed up to create a turnover. LB 3 Jackson, in taking down QB 12 Williams for the sack, stripped the ball and LB 21 Mack, pursuing, fell on it at the Fork Union thirteen. But again the Blue Devil defense held their ground. On fourth and five from the eight, RB 12 Ward was stopped short by DB 13 Alek Jacob, DL 54 Isaiah Marcum, and DB 8 Jordan Colbert. Fork Union couldn’t move the football though and three plays later had to punt it back to North Cross. LB 21 Mack was called for running into the punter 12 Williams, but it wasn’t enough to pick up the first down so the Blue Devils had to kick it again.

Qtr 4 – In the final quarter, North Cross found their offense. With 9:41 left in the game, the Raiders started their drive on their own thirty five. Zappia found WR 1 Ian Cann (5/96,TD) for 25 yards. Next ward carried it three straight times for twelve, one, and eight yards respectively. Facing a third down it looked like Zappia tied the score up with a touchdown pass in the flat to WR 21 Mack, but it was called back for holding.


North Cross WR/LB 21 Michael Mack catches at tipped TD pass by 3 James Jackson for the tying score in the fourth quarter

Three plays later though, WR 21 Mack did it again on a deflection in the corner of the end zone meant for WR 3 Jackson and defended by DB 17 Dominic Primavera. The ball came off Jackson’s hands as he tried to highpoint it straight into Mack’s mitts for the tying score. K 55 Muse nailed the pressure extra point attempt and North Cross had their first lead of the game with 6:55 left in the contest, 21-20. On Fork Union’s next possession, DB 7 Cross Thompson picked off a Williams pass and returned it to the Raiders forty-eight. From there North Cross, looking to control the ball and the clock, headed towards their endzone one last time. The big play was a fourth down at the Blue Devils forty-one. Facing a fourth and three, Raider Coach Alexander decided to go for it instead of punting. North Cross ran a reverse to WR 11 Mehki Hines (3/15 rec; 1/4 rush) who broke a couple tackles and somehow made it just past the stick for the first down. Five plays later Zappia finished it up with a 25-yard scoring toss to WR 21 Mack down the left sidelines for the games final score. North Cross forced one more interception on Fork Union’s last drive. DB 11 Hines tipped QB 12 Williams pass and LB 3 Jackson picked it off, settling the matter. Coach Taylor’s Fork Union number and jersey were retired so it was doubly good, “I’m excited about my guys, a day and a half practice this week and to finish it off here on a day where I got recognized (Fork Union retired his jersey) was amazing. One of the best feelings in the world right now.”

Coach Alexander maybe summed up his team’s efforts best, “we decided not to punt and ran that trick play late instead of punting the ball. We didn’t block it perfect, but 11 Mehki Hines…unbelievable effort, breaks two tackles and gets the first down by a half a foot… That’s Raider pride. We talk about Raider pride all the time. These guys are not playing for a championship, not a conference championship… just out here gutting it out. It’s seventeen versus seventy, because football matters.”

Offense: RushingNorth Cross– Ward 25-84, Zappia 7-7,TD, Jackson 1-6, Cann 1-5, Hines 1-4 Team- 1-(-5). Fork Union– Williams 9-5,TD, Hampton 11-15, Kirkov 1-0 PassingNorth Cross– Zappia 21/34, 265, 3TDs  Fork Union– Williams 11/21, 95, 3INTs  ReceivingNorth Cross– Cann 5-96,TD, Mack 4-56,2TDs, Jackson 3-59, Hines 3-15, Ward 3-23, Fork Union– Garrett 4-55, TD, Billingslea 2-9, Hampton 2-14, Dominique Julius 2-12, Mayfield 1-5  PuntingNorth Cross– Carter Cole 1-30. Fork Union Williams 2-37.

Defense: TacklesNorth Cross leadersMack 8 tkls, 2 pressures, fumble recovery, Thompson 7 tkls, INT, BU


  • FU: Williams 54-yd fumble recovery; Ward PAT
  • FU: Williams to Garrett 10-yd TD Pass; Ward PAT
  • NC: Zappia 4-yd TD run; Muse PAT
  • FU: Williams 1-yd TD run: Ward missed PAT
  • NC: Zappia to Mack 13-yd TD pass; Muse PAT
  • NC: Zappia to Mack 25-yd TD pass; Muse PAT

North Cross Head Coach
Stephen Alexander

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