Trojans collapse in fourth quarter, Tabb completes epic 20-18 comeback
Even with the unfortunate loss of senior athlete C.J. Reeders due to injury, New Kent’s Trojans held an 18-0 lead with 11:30 remaining in Friday night’s contest against the visiting Tabb Tigers. But Reeders’ presence was missed in the defensive secondary.
Tabb orchestrated a miraculous comeback, scoring 20 points in the remainder of the game to pull off a 20-18 upset of New Kent in the home opening gridiron contest.
After a 90-minute lightning delay, the homestanding Trojans didn’t let it faze their offense. New Kent quarterback Brody Smith connected with running back Evan Branch on a 24-yard pass play. Smith called his own number and toted the ball in from eight yards out, giving the hosts a 6-0 advantage. Another Smith to Branch connection at the end of the second quarter set up kicker Adam Caldwell’s 19-yard field as time expired to bestow a 9-0 lead for the Trojans heading into the halftime intermission.
Tabb made a mistake by kicking off to Branch to begin the second half. Branch, fielding the ball from his own 10-yard line, ran up the sideline before cutting back towards the middle of the field to find the end zone on a return to up the advantage to 15-0. A Branch interception of Tabb quarterback Emmit Marks led to Smith connecting with Adam Cable set up Caldwell’s 33-yard field goal to start the fourth quarter and give the hosts what was thought to be a comfortable lead at 18-0.
But the Trojans decent began with an apparent self-destruction on the defensive side of the ball. A pass interference penalty against the Trojans set Tabb up at the six-yard line. Marks connected with Zack Coldsnow on a touchdown pass and subsequent two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 10 (18-8).
On the next drive, New Kent elected to go for a fourth down conversion, resulting in an incomplete pass by Smith and giving the visitors possession at midfield. Three consecutive Tiger completions through the air positioned the guests at the 18-yard line. Marks four-yard pass to the end zone bounced off the hands of New Kent’s defending Smith and into those of Coldsnow for a score. The conversion failed, but the Tigers had cut the lead to four (18-14) with five minutes remaining in the contest.
The Trojans returned to the ground game in efforts to run time off the clock. And while Branch’s first run of 19 yards provided some hope, Tabb stacked the box, dropping New Kent’s running backs on three consecutive plays for minus two yards.
Facing a fourth and 12 at Tabb’s 38-yard line, New Kent head coach John Fulks elected to go for it instead of pinning Tabb deep in their own territory. The decision backfired, as Smith dropped back to pass but kept retreating, losing 22 yards courtesy of a Tigers’ sack and returning the ball to the visitors in New Kent territory.
Three incomplete passes by Tabb set up a fourth and 10 for the guests. Marks lined up and launched the pigskin up in the air. The ball went over the outstretched hands of Branch, landing into the waiting arms of Tiger receiver Joel Martin from 42 yards out and giving the visitors its first lead with 2:12 left in the contest (20-18).
New Kent received great starting position inside of Tabb’s territory thanks to a big return and a 15-yard penalty against the visitors. With the ball placed on Tabb’s 44-yard line, Smith’s first pass to teammate Jeremy Hughlett was dropped. Two plays later, a pass to teammate Joey Campbell was ruled incomplete. Facing fourth and 11, one final pass attempt fell errantly, sealing the comeback victory for the Tigers.
After the contest, a frustrated Fulks talked about the team’s inability to complete all four quarters of the game.
“We had the 18-0 lead in the fourth quarter and we just did not finish,” the disappointed coach said. “From the offensive side of the ball, we ran many different formations and they didn’t work.
“We could have done things better as players and coaches,” Fulks continued, pointing to the more than 100 yards in penalties the team accumulated on the night. “But this is a tribute to Tabb; they never gave up and kept playing hard and they won the game tonight.”
New Kent, now 1-1, saw Smith pass for 101 yards with Branch the recipient of 80 of those yards.