Duo Connects On Three Touchdowns As Fort Beats Streaks
Posted: September 28, 2013
By MARK SELIG
Fort’s Caleb Simmons catches a TD pass over Ryan Nixon. (Photo by Michael Reilly)
HARRISONBURG — Fort Defiance quarterback Aaron Eppard completed just three passes Friday night. And that’s all he needed to carve up Harrisonburg High School, which lost on its home field for the third time in as many weeks.
The left-handed Eppard hit wide receiver Caleb Simmons for touchdown passes of 23, 39 and 25 yards — the final two on massively blown coverages that had no defenders in Simmons’ vicinity — as Fort topped HHS 30-22.
“I guess the deep ball they hit to that kid in the corner there, that probably broke our back,” Harrisonburg coach Chris Thurman said of the first touchdown pass, which gave Fort a 9-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. What happened on the other two?
“I think my secondary’s playing on roller skates. I don’t know, man. They fell down. Kids got on cleats — that’s all I can tell you,” Thurman said.
Making matters worse for the Blue Streaks (1-3, 0-1), quarterback Matt Shifflett injured his left foot and did not play in the second half, reduced to a spectator on crutches. Ryan Nixon, who started at QB last year before suffering an injury that opened the door for Shifflett’s emergence, filled in and made plays for the Streaks, but was undone by a pair of interceptions.
Entering this week, Shifflett led the Valley District in passing with 564 yards. He scrambled for a 16-yard gain early in the second quarter Friday, but injured his foot at the end of the play. Nixon threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jalen Crawford on the next down, helping cut HHS’s deficit to 9-7. After Fort drove down field and capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run by Evan Stickley, Shifflett re-entered the game 26 seconds before halftime. He hooked up with Nixon for a 19-yard completion and then threw an interception on the next play. He did not return after that.
No players for Harrisonburg were available for comment.
Neither was anybody for victorious Fort (2-3, 1-0). In a brief post-game pow-wow on the field, Indians coach Dan Rolfe yelled at his players, getting in the face of one in particular. He sent the team into the visitors’ locker room and told a pair of reporters that it was no time for interviews.
The game featured nearly 250 yards in combined penalties, including a triple personal foul (two violations by Fort, one for HHS) on a play late in the fourth quarter that incited aggressive pushing by both sides, and had coaches spilling onto the field to obstruct their players.
The messiness overshadowed a prolific night for Stickley, the Indians fullback who bulldozed his way to 175 rushing yards on 20 tackle-shedding carries.
“He’s a good player — I give him all the credit,” Thurman said of Stickley, who is averaging more than 7.4 yards per carry this season. “He did exactly what we’ve seen him do on film.”
Thurman’s team, meanwhile, could not generate much on the ground. It picked up 141 rushing yards compared to Fort’s 276, and many of those yards came on quarterback scrambles from designed pass plays.
“If you don’t block, you’re not gonna run the football,” Thurman said.
Harrisonburg has a chance to get back on track at winless Waynesboro next week.
Fort, which lost twice this season on late-game two-point conversions, hosts Valley-leading Spotswood.
Fort 9 6 7 6 – 30 HHS 0 7 7 8 – 22
F- Oliver 25 field goal, 8:08
F- Simmons 23 pass from Eppard (Conversion failed), 0:09 Second Quarter
H- Crawford 5 pass from Nixon (Kyle kick), 8:58
F- Stickley 2 run (Eppard run), 0:26 Third Quarter
H- Dove 5 run (Kyle kick), 7:42
F- Simmons 39 pass from Eppard (Oliver kick), 4:28 Fourth Quarter
F- Simmons 25 pass from Eppard (kick failed), 10:57
H- Dove 24 pass from Nixon (Nixon run), 0:53
— Fort HHS
Rushes-Yards 44-276 28-141
Passing Yards 87 150
Total Yards 363 291
Comp-Att-Int 3-8-0 13-23-3
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 1-1
Punts 2-36.0 1-27.0
Pens-Yards 11-118 1 3-126
—- INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING- Fort, Stickley 20-175, Ruiz-Haynes 13-62, Eppard 5-18, Simmons 1-14, #32 4-6, Jones 1-1. Harrisonburg, Nixon 12-71, Dove 7-40, Shifflett 5-21, Medley 4-9.
PASSING- Fort, Eppard 3-8-0-87. Harrisonburg, Nixon 8-13-2-84, Shifflett 5-10-1-66
RECEIVING- Fort, Simmons 3-87. Harrisonburg, Dove 3-29, Johnson 2-29, Barber 1-29, Hartzler 3-20, Nixon 1-19, Medley 1-9, Weiss 1-5.