HARRISONBURG - After a humbling 25-point home loss to Rockbridge County two weeks ago, the Harrisonburg High School football team went back to the drawing board, and came back with its most complete game of the season.
Buoyed by the return of star senior running back Alex Owah and a defense that forced four turnovers, the Blue Streaks got back on track with a 31-7 Massanutten District victory over Broadway on Friday.
The win puts the Streaks (5-3 overall, 2-0 in the Massanutten District) in the driver's seat for the district title heading into next week's showdown with Turner Ashby (6-2, 1-0). If HHS wins, it clinches the crown.
Owah, who hadn't played since sustaining a stress fracture in his team's loss at R.E. Lee on Sept. 12, finished with 19 carries for 190 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Todd Barksdale and sophomore Michael Holmes also scored on the ground for HHS, which rolled up 418 yards of total offense.
"I was a little concerned," HHS coach Tim Sarver said of the Virginia-bound Owah. "I didn't know how he was going to react out there, not having played much live for a few weeks, but he did real well. Michael, Todd, all three of them did a real good job."
HHS sophomore quarterback Jake Johnson also had a solid night, going 6-of-12 for 169 yards with one interception. His top target was 5-foot-6 junior speedster Troy Jones, who caught three balls for 98 yards. His first two receptions were screen passes that he turned into 41 and 15-yard gains, respectively.
"They told us that Broadway plays deeper," Jones said of his coaches, "so we were going to see a lot of [bubble screens] and all that stuff."
The Gobblers (4-4, 0-1) seemed ready to make a statement on their opening drive, which was a methodical 14-play, 80-yard march that took 7:30 off the clock, capped by junior quarterback Adam Caplinger's 21-yard run.
BHS wouldn't score again due to a series of HHS adjustments - and Broadway's own inability to hang on to the ball. BHS fumbled twice - the first which was forced by Marshall-bound HHS defensive end
James Rouse on a sack - and senior defensive back Hunar Abdul intercepted two passes.
"Coach [David] Long's been pushing us," HHS junior defensive end Michael Clopper said, "and Coach [Grant] Thompson, he's been giving us that speech that if we don't beat Broadway, no playoffs. So, that amped us up pretty good."
After the opening drive, the Streaks played their linebackers up and shifted their defensive line to stop runs up the middle. As a result, the Gobblers tried to get to the edge against the Streaks' speedy defense.
"They took away some things we wanted to do," BHS coach Frank Sorrells said, "and we went to other things and we didn't execute them that good at all. ... Defensively we played decent, we just turned it over four times and put our defense in the hole too much. It's the worst offensive game we've had all year - we just didn't execute."
Broadway has one final chance to get into the game. After HHS went up 23-7 on an 18-yard Owah run with 5:43 to play in the third quarter, Joel Phillips returned the ensuing kickoff 83 yards to the HHS 7-yard line. BHS couldn't capitalize, though, and on fourth-and-goal from the 3, running back Chris Miller was dropped by Rouse and Tanner Johnson for a 2-yard loss.
Broadway 7 0 0 0 - 7
Harrisonburg 7 10 6 8 - 31
B- Caplinger 21 run (Hall kick), 4:29
H - Barksdale 8 run (LeMasters kick), 1:49
H - Owah 1 run (LeMasters kick), 10:49
H - LeMasters 20 field goal, 1:20
H - Owah 18 run (kick failed), 5:43
H - Holmes 1 run (Pouncey pass from Atkinson), 10:22
RUSHING- BHS: Lohr 11-60, Caplinger 15-45, Phillips 1-5, Miller 8- 4, Wilson 2-2, Moore 2 - -2. HHS: Owah 19-190, Holmes 6-23, Barskdale 2-20, J. Johnson 3-10, Brevard 2-8, K. Jones 4-8.
PASSING- BHS: Caplinger 3-9-27-2. HHS: J. Johnson 6-12-169-1.
RECEIVING- BHS: Lohr 1-12, Jameson 1-11, Phillips 1-4. HHS: T. Jones 3-98. Atkinson 2-61, Taylor 1-10.