By Kris Freeman, Sports Information Director, White House High School
WHITE HOUSE – Trailing 26-7 after a Chester County touchdown with two seconds left in the first half, White House rallied for 29 unanswered points for the largest playoff comeback in school history on Friday in the first round of the Class 4-A playoffs. White House won the game, 36-26.
The momentum turned on a huge fourth down scramble of 18 yards by junior quarterback Andrew Nixon in the third quarter, and the rest was a swing the Eagles could not recover from.
White House (11-0) advanced to the second round again at home, welcoming Jackson South Side next Friday night at 7 p.m. South Side defeated Greenbrier, 21-7. It will be the first meeting between the two schools.
“Third quarter was big and the first half was just kind of crazy. At times we played well and then we just gave up big plays, and it just didn’t look good,” White House head coach Jeff Porter said. “We get to practice Monday and we will find out about who we play, but what matters is we get to advance and practice on Monday.”
The White House defense stepped up immediately after halftime, with Dawson Bragg and Tyler McMurtry sacking Jack Cagle on back to back plays to force a punt.
Nixon faced 4th-and-10 following an incomplete pass at the Chester County 33. But when he was flushed right out of the pocket by four Eagles defenders, he found a crease on the left side and scrambled to the 15. Will Frazer took it down to the two, and Nixon sneaked in for the touchdown to make it 26-14 with Jacob Harper’s kick.
Momentum began to roll, and White House was on a second half mission that ended with a playoff victory.
Nixon completed 8-of-17 for 171 yards and a touchdown, and rushed eight times for 20 yards and two scores. Preston Sharber had 71 yards rushing and Will Frazer 59.
“The first drive of the third quarter was really big,” Porter said. “We forced a punt and get a stop and then keeping that drive alive was a huge part of the game.”
McMurtry, who broke the single-season sack record with 2.5 sacks in the game to pass Robert Curtis (9.0 sacks), stripped the football on a sack but Cagle recovered. The punt put the ball at the White House 32, but the Blue Devils struck gold again on a long conversion.
Nixon found tight end Curtis Palmer on a screen pass on 3rd-and-11 with lineman Colby Jackson sprung the 14-yard first down with a key block. Frazer then went for 14, and White House pulled out the bag of tricks.
Coming out of a timeout, White House left Logan Neufeld on the edge of the sideline as the formation developed on the far side of the field. The result was a 41-yard “sneaky Pete” pass from Nixon as the uncovered receiver went untouched to the end zone for a 26-21 margin with 3:35 left in the third.
“We were able to get stops on the first few drives of the second half and that changed the field position and gave us a short field,” Porter said. “We got some momentum and the play to Neufeld was really big.”
Neufeld wasn’t finished. White House defense forced its third straight punt, and then Nixon struck Neufeld for 66 yards to set up the Devils first and goal at the 4, following a penalty on Chester County. The Eagles were penalized 19 times for 136 yards including two offsetting penalties plus four that were declined.
On the second play of the fourth quarter, White House took the lead with a Nixon sneak and then Nixon scrambled for the two-point conversion and a 29-26 edge with 11:41 to go.
Then, things got insane. Chester County fumbled the kickoff, with Landon Deming recovering, but Nixon immediately threw an interception at the 15. But Payton Doles fumbled, recovered by Dawson Bragg, and then White House drove inside the five yard line and Frazer fumbled the ball away. There were four turnovers in two minutes, and Chester County took over at its own 3 with 8:52 left.
“You have to give them credit,” Porter said. “Chester County was very physical and very good up front and in the interior and they gave us a lot of problems tonight. That is a good football team.”
This time, Chester County moved the football in position to retake the lead. But after a 53-yard run by Cagle, the Eagles faced 4th-and-5 at the 32 and Cagle was intercepted by Colby Taylor. The Devils drove nine plays and 61 yards to seal the game with Frazer scoring from four yards away, the drive including a 27-yard run by Sharber. The touchdown with 1:29 left put the Devils up by double digits.
Chester County jumped out to leads of 12 and 19 points in the first half by capitalizing on big plays, including three long touchdown passes from Jack Cagle to Brandon Lewis. Cagle finished 6-of-14 for 171 yards and three scores and an interception, and rushed 10 times for 53. Lewis had three receptions for 157 yards, finding the end zone each time. The longest was 67, the shortest was 22.
But when Lewis hauled in the 22-yarder before halftime, that was the final time Chester County came close to putting points on the board. With 283 yards of total offense in the first half, the Eagles were limited to 86 in the second half and zero points.
White House lone touchdown in the first half cut the initial lead to 12-7 when Carter Hunt found the end zone for a touchdown.
The game was marred by 33 penalty flags, 26 of them accepted for 204 yards combined. Each team had three turnovers. The White House defense held Chester County to 2-of-10 on third down and 1-of-2 on fourth down.
McMurtry led the defense with 10 tackles, giving him 100 for the season. Taylor added eight stops, and Bragg had seven with a sack, a tackle for loss and a fumble caused and fumble recovery.