Avery Armstrong, Lorenzo Ward and the 30 other Dreher players in uniform Friday night showed a lot grit and determination.
After a tumultuous week of player suspensions and a postseason ban because of a postgame brawl last week, the Blue Devils faced a gut-check situation against Chapin on Friday night for homecoming at Memorial Stadium.
The Eagles scored on a 34-yard pass from Logan Bailey to Noah Schelble on the final play to pull the visitors within 35-33. On the two-point conversion try, Armstrong hit the Chapin receiver just as the ball arrived, and he was unable to hang on, setting off a wild celebration on the Dreher sideline.
“I’m unbelievably proud. We kept preaching to these guys that we still had 11 and that’s all that it takes. We told them they would be fatigued and tired and we would ask some people to do things they haven’t done,” Dreher coach Treigh Sullivan said.
“This is the proudest win I’ve been a part of at Dreher as an assistant or head coach. These guys believed when not a lot of people gave them a chance.”
Armstrong, the Blue Devils quarterback, who rushed for 135 yards and threw for another 153, had not played defense in the first eight weeks of the season. He played sparingly on defense throughout the game but was in the on the final drive. He scored on a 15-yard run with 1:22 remaining to give the Blue Devils an 8-point lead.
Chapin twice converted fourth downs on the final drive, but Armstrong was there for the most important play of the night.
“It’s a blur, but I hit the receiver hard enough that he dropped the ball,” Armstrong said of the final play. “It was a gut-check time. I wanted to do whatever I could to help my team, and that’s what was needed at that point.”
Sullivan hardly could watch the final play but felt confident someone would make a play.
“We told our guys they would face adversity, but they had to get lined back up and make the next play,” he said. “They took that to heart and made the play.”
Ward was instrumental as well. Dreher (7-2, 3-1 in Region 4-3A) was missing five starters on defense and two on offense and Ward did a little bit of everything. The senior is nursing an injured ankle but found a way to run for 133 yards on 25 carries to go along with four receptions for 34 yards. He also saw spot duty on defense and he blocked the extra point attempt in the fourth quarter that preserved a 28-27 Blue Devils lead with 5:09 remaining. That blocked PAT forced Chapin (6-3, 2-2) to go for two on the final play.
“Those are two great competitors that hate to lose,” Sullivan said of Armstrong and Ward. “That’s all I can say. This team gave us one hundred percent effort, and that’s all we can ask.”
Ward marveled that Armstrong made the final play despite his inexperience on defense. But after the week Dreher faced, he wasn’t surprised.
“That was the quarterback that made a play on defense,” he said. “I feel this week we learned the true value of family and sticking together. After we lost our players to suspension, we knew we had to come together to get this win and that’s what we did.”
It was back and forth from the beginning, with neither team leading by more than a score. Bailey accounted for 457 yards of offense – 191 yards rushing and 266 passing – and had a part in all five Chapin touchdowns. He had scoring runs of 7, 24 and 7 and added touchdown passes of 10 yards to Evan Estridge and 34 yards to Schelble.
“Bailey is one heck of a quarterback,” Sullivan said. “When we thought we had him in the backfield, he would escape and make a play.”
Armstrong threw two touchdowns to Jaliq Tinsley – a 36-yarder in the first quarter and a 10-yard strike in the fourth – to go along with rushing touchdowns from 10 and 15 yards. Ward added an eight-yard scoring run in the third quarter that gave the Blue Devils a 21-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
That set the stage for the two teams to combine for 33 points in a wild final period.
“That was a quality win against a very good and very well-coached team,” Sullivan said. “They didn’t give us anything. We made plays when we had to and deserved to win.”
C – Evan Estridge 10 pass from Logan Bailey (Smith Dawsey kick) 5:22
D – Jaliq Tinsley 36 pass from Avery Armstrong (Wesley Mousseau kick) 1:32
D – Armstrong 10 run (Mousseau kick) 8:22
C – Bailey 7 run (Dawsey kick) 5:00
D – Lorenzo Ward 8 run (Mousseau kick) 1:19
C – Bailey 24 run (Dawsey kick) 11:22
D – Tinsley 10 pass from Armstrong (Mousseau kick) 7:09
C – Bailey 7 run (kick blocked) 5:02
D – Armstrong 15 run (Mousseau kick) 1:22
C – Noah Schelble 34 pass from Bailey (pass failed) 0:00
C – Logan Bailey 18-191, Ben Fischer 11-50, Chandler Engel 2-20, Nate Blankenship 1-13. D – Avery Armstrong 16-135, Lorenzo Ward 25-133, Chris Cooke 3-29, Justice Smalls 3-4, Team 1-(-1).
C – Bailey 19-37-1-266. D – Armstrong 10-17-0-153
C – Noah Schelble 5-118, Nate Blankenship 7-59, Evan Estridge 3-45, Will Register 2-21, Justin Dodd 2-23. D – Ward 4-34, Jaliq Tinsley 2-46, Isaiah Drayton 2-14, Tyler Fleming 1-53, Cooke 1-6.