JAMES CITY —If scorelines are the primary indicator, Warhill entered Thursday’s 19-16, double-overtime defeat to Poquoson as the clear underdog on paper.
The Lions, still searching for their first win, had last lost 36-26 to Smithfield Sept. 24 and Poquoson (5-1, 4-1 Bay Rivers District) rolled over Smithfield 47-6 last week.
“It would be easy to go through the motions, but they didn’t do that,” Warhill coach Thad Wheeler said of his team’s practice sessions leading up to Thursday. “They went out and got better and it showed.”
Poquoson won on Chris Coccimiglio's 20-yard field goal on fourth down in the second overtime. The Islanders made it into the second overtime because Dylan Freeman blocked Warhill kicker Fletcher Whalen's 18-yard field-goal attempt at the end of the first overtime.
Warhill had the first chance to win after the Islanders' Robert Henesey fumbled on first down in the first overtime. But a high snap on the field-goal attempt gave Freeman the opportunity to block the kick.
Freeman recovered an errant pitchout by the Lions on first down of the second overtime. The Islanders ran the ball three times to the 2, then sent on Coccimiglio, who had made a 43-yard field goal a week earlier.
Wheeler said it was the best he’s seen his team play this season. It was Warhill’s closest loss since opening the year with a 24-20 loss at Churchland.
Warhill, which hosts Grafton (4-1) next week, led 16-0 Thursday after three quarters, dominating mostly with its defense. But Poquoson finished off a 90-yard drive with Henesey's 15-yard touchdown run. Islanders quarterback Trey Hicks, who had passed 54-yards to Matt Blaser moments earlier, pulled the Islanders to within 16-8 by passing to Dylan Freeman on the two-point conversion with 11:29 to play in the fourth quarter.
Islanders safety Trevor Dunagan tackled Bryce Koob (19 carries, 110 yards) after a yard gain on third down of the next series, forcing a Warhill punt that traveled only 21 yards.
Poquoson took over at the Lions' 41, a distance Henesey (13 carries, 97 yards) covered with runs of 3 and 38 yards, the latter for a touchdown.
On the two-point conversion, Hicks, for once, avoided the grasp of Warhill freshman linebacker Noah Holmes and passed again to Freeman for two points to tie the game at 16 with 8:30 remaining. The contest remained scoreless the remainder of the quarter and the overtimes ensued.
The Lions (0-5, 0-4) made it clear they intended to play from the first series, forcing a three-and-out and taking possession at their own 44 after a Poquoson punt. Collin Bright covered most of that distance on runs of 14, 6, 9 and 6 yards, before Bryce Koob broke 25 yards up the middle to give the Lions a 6-0 lead.
“I think we came out and did exactly what we needed to do and what we worked on,” Wheeler said.
With just two defensive lineman playing down because of injuries, the Lions flooded the box with linebackers and held the Islanders to 34 yards in the first half. Any hopes Poquoson had in the first half of making up those yards through the air were dashed by the Warhill pass-rush, especially from Holmes, who had three first-half sacks.
Holmes only recently made the switch from tight end to linebacker on a defense that features only two seniors.
“The whole defense, I was very impressed with,” Wheeler said.
It helped the Lions persevere through setbacks like the punt blocked by Poquoson's Gunnar Ogburn. Warhill's answer came in the form of Trey Drummond's block of a Poquoson field-goal attempt.
A Warhill fumble gave Poquoson good field position at the Warhill 42, made better by runs of 26 yards by Henesey and 9 by Cole Jackson. Another Warhill disappointment ensued as 100-yard fumble return for an apparent touchdown by Logan Anderson was nullified by a referee's inadvertent whistle.
By rule, the ball comes back and the down is replayed.
But Warhill hung tough again defensively, stopping Poquoson on downs at the Lions' 6 with help from a sack by Holmes. Then the Lions drove downfield using the run to set up Whalen's 33-yard field goal with no time left to stretch the lead to 9-0 at halftime. Bryce Koob, who ran for 87 yards in the first half, had runs of 21 and 11 yards on the drive.
“The kids responded real well to that,” Wheeler said of the nullified score. “It’s just unfortunate something like that played a part in the game that shouldn’t. That’s a tough thing to swallow. Instead of three points, it should have been four more points and that would have made a huge difference in a tight game like that.”
POQUOSON 19, WARHILL 16 (2 Overtimes)
Poquoson: 0, 0, 0, 16, 0 ,3 - 16
Warhill: 6, 3, 7, 0, 0, 0- 19
War: Koob 25 run (run failed), 8:05
War: Whalen 33 field goal, 0:00
War: Bright 79 kickoff return (Whalen kick), 11:47
Poq: Henesey 15 run (Freeman pass from Hicks), 11:29
Poq: Henesey 38 run (Freeman pass from Hicks), 8:30
Poq: Coccimiglio 20 field goal
First downs: 11; 15
Rushes-yds: 40-122; 52-187
Passing yds: 107; 14
Comp-att-int: 6-12-0; 1-2-0
Penalties-yds: 4-50; 6-32f
Punts-avg: 5-31; 5-21
Fumbles-lost: 1-1; 3-2