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Trailblazers hold off late rally by Pioneers

By Ben Brooks -- sports@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- After last year, none of the Spotswood High School players or coaches were about to celebrate Friday night's 19-17 non-district football victory over Millbrook -- their first over the Pioneers in five tries -- until it was over.

And it's a good thing they didn't. Millbrook, which was held in check for three quarters, stormed back in the fourth and made the closing minutes more than a little interesting.

"You can't ever doubt a team like that," said Spotswood senior quarterback Chad Williams, whose 10-yard scramble for a touchdown late in the second quarter gave the Trailblazers a 14-3 halftime lead. "Last year we were up 21-0 and thought we had sealed the deal. We couldn't let up at all."

Millbrook's 35-21 come-from-behind victory was still fresh in the minds of many of the Trailblazers. Even so, Spotswood seemed to have things under control after the snap on a Millbrook punt sailed out of the end zone for a safety and a 19-10 Trailblazers lead with 4:37 left to play.

However, Josh Casagranda recovered Millbrook's ensuing onside kick, and junior tailback Jordan Hartman raced 70 yards for a touchdown on the very next play to pull the Pioneers within 19-17.

"We weren't dead. We just needed a spark," said Hartman, who finished with 141 yards and 16 carries. "And when we got it, everybody just came together."

It looked like Millbrook (1-2) would get the ball back with just over two minutes to play after stopping Williams short of a first down. An unsportsmanlike penalty on Spotswood coach Eric Phillips moved the Trailblazers back even more. But on fourth and long, the Pioneers were called for roughing Spotswood punter Zack Miller, who during the game routinely rolled to either his left or right before punting and even successfully executed a fake earlier in the second half.

The personal foul gave Spotswood an automatic first down, and the Trailblazers (2-0) ran out the clock from there.

"[The official] said it was a judgment call," said Millbrook coach Reed Prosser, who didn't want to elaborate further for fear of tarnishing Spotswood's victory.

Spotswood appeared to grab momentum by the throat in the second half. A 19-play, 10-minute drive culminated with Erin Benson's 23-yard field goal that gave the Trailblazers a 17-3 advantage.

However, the Pioneers finally got their ground attack going. Casagranda's 41-yard run gave Millbrook the ball deep in Spotswood territory. Three plays later, Casagranda scored on a 5-yard run with five seconds left in the third quarter to pull the Pioneers within a touchdown.

"I was pleased with the way our kids answered their score right away," Prosser said. "And then we structured the game in such a way that we had a chance at the end."

The Trailblazers were led by senior running back Nick Wimer's 103 yards on 29 carries. His 9-yard scoring run early in the second quarter gave Spotswood a 7-3 lead it wouldn't relinquish.

Millbrook struck first with Michael Venegas' school-record 42-yard field goal midway through the opening quarter.


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