By Kris Freeman for The White House Connection
Valiant effort not enough for Devils against Knights
WHITE HOUSE – Pope John Paul II held off an explosive start and late surge by White House Friday night, beating the Blue Devils on the road as both teams closed the regular season, 18-10.
The Knights (4-6) took control of the game by halftime after Josh Mullins opened the contest with a 69-yard kick return for White House, setting up a field goal and 3-0 lead. But leading 15-3 and dominating offensive stats, PJP held on as the Blue Devils mounted a late rally and had the ball three times in the final quarter down just one score.
“I was very encouraged by the way our kids fought in the second half,” said White House head coach Jeff Porter. “Obviously, we would have liked to get more than a field goal on the opening drive, but we battled and had some kids hurt and still had a chance to tie the game at the end.”
Querdarius Hunter rushed 21 times for 112 yards and a touchdown, but it was fullback Gunner Scholato who kick-started the Knights offense in the first quarter. Despite being stopped on fourth down on the first possession of the game for his team, Scholato finished with 10 carries for 71 yards and a score.
PJP put together back-to-back scoring drives in the first and second quarter of 44 and 39 yards, after short punts by White House with a 3-0 lead. The first drive ended with a three-yard run by Hunter, then Jacob Jarreau found tight end Austin Hayes for the two-point conversion and an 8-3 lead.
Scholato scored on fourth down for the Knights with 5:59 remaining in the second quarter and Jackson Morris converted the extra point for a 15-3 lead after a penalty.
“That’s the thing we have avoided all year, and a short field bit us twice in the first half,” Porter said.
Starting the third quarter, Lane Spivey of White House dropped Jocquise Upton for a five-yard loss and then Wyatt Bailey and Austin Browne stopped Hunter on third down to force a Knights punt, and that’s when White House put on one of the most impressive drives in school history.
Using 10:12 of the clock, the Devils marched 22 plays and 81 yards, converting three third downs and three fourth downs to finally get the ball into the endzone in the fourth quarter when Ryan Pool handed off to Alex Felts for the three-yard touchdown. Dillon Anderson kicked the extra point and was roughed on the play, allowing White House to kick off from the Pope John Paul 45.
“I don’t think I have ever seen a drive that long in all the time I have been coaching,” Porter explained. “We did some things well there that have been a very positive area for our football team, converting third and fourth downs and scoring in the red zone.”
Chance Lamberth booted the ball through the end zone for a touchback, and a penalty moved it back to the 15. The Knights were penalized nine times for 80 yards.
After a short run, another penalty placed the ball at the 13 on second down, but Scholato broke through the offensive slump and gained 20 yards combined on two plays, then Hunter busted for 16. The drive stalled at midfield, but the punt backed White House up to the 10. The Devils kicked it back four plays later with 5:34 remaining at the WHHS 34.
Morris converted a 34-yard field goal for an 18-10 edge with 3:06 left, but Austin Whitmer intercepted Alex Lyon at the White House 45 on fourth down with 2:04 to play.
Using their timeouts, White House forced a field goal attempt and Tyler Ellis blitzed the kick and blocked the 39-yard field goal try by Morris, with Jamie Futch recovering the ball at the White House 29 with 48 seconds left and all timeouts expired.
An encroachment penalty gave White House one final shot with four seconds left, but needing 59 yards and a miracle, Pool was intercepted by Hayes at the Pope John Paul 40 to end the game.
The Knights had 281 total yards to White House’s 123. White House was just 3-of-13 on third down even though PJP converted just 1-of-7. Forcing turnovers all season, the Blue Devils failed to pick up a takeaway, while giving it away twice.
Felts carried 20 times for 52 yards but Pool completed just 5-of-14 for 36 yards and Lyon missed on all three attempts. Jarreau and Ben Brooks combined for 7-of-8 passing for 94 yards, with Hayes catching three passes for 44 plus the two-pointer.
Seniors Wood and Wesley James led the White House defense with 14 and 10 tackles, respectively.
Pope John Paul opens the playoffs at Chattanooga Baylor and White House hosts Page.