Published Saturday, December 01, 2012
By DOUG GORMAN
ALBANY – Just one second and 15 yards is all that separated The Heritage School and Deerfield-Windsor School in Friday's GISA Class AAA football championship.
In the end, the Hawks had their two senior leaders right where they wanted.
Needing a score and down by eight points, the Hawks stood a play away from sending the title game to overtime. From the Knights' 15-yard line, they had a chance when quarterback Joe Bonner threw a pass toward Candler Rich in the corner of the end zone. But Deerfield senior Kh'ron McClain timed it perfectly to knock it to the ground, giving Deerfield and head coach Allen Lowe the program's fourth GISA state title in 10 years with a 27-19 victory.
This meeting between Class AAA's two region champions, though, was as good as advertised. While never trailing, the Knights had to stave off Heritage School all night despite the Hawks making their initial appearance past the first round of the state playoffs.
The team's two star players – McClain and Rich – put on a show of their own. McClain finished with 241 yards of offense and Rich had nearly 300 of his own. Each scored two touchdowns in their final varsity appearances.
Heritage School, which made the jump to Class AAA just this season, ended the year with an 11-2 record. Deerfield finished at 13-1.
"I knew if we did what we were supposed to do, we could play with these guys," said Heritage School head coach Kevin Prisant. "I do think we lost to a better football team. They have been here before, but we played our hearts out."
The Hawks took over at their own 30-yard line on its final possession and marched the ball downfield in the final 2:41 of the contest. Bonner kept the drive alive when he called his own number, converting a fourth-down run. A few plays later he hit Rich on a third-down pass over the middle.
"We just wanted to go as far as we could," Bonner said. "We just wanted to reach our full potential. We weren't really sure what that was ... [finishing] .500 or a state title. It's just been an incredible season. I just thought it would come down to defense and who ever made the most plays."
McClain's 60-yard run late in the third quarter pushed the Knights out to a 27-12 lead, but Rich helped the Hawks pick themselves back up with an 85-yard kickoff return for a score just seconds later.
"They just seemed to feed off of each other all year," Prisant said. "That was sort of the way this team has played all season. I am almost at a loss for words."
Deerfield quarterback Dallas Margeson put some distance between the Knights and the Hawks midway through the third quarter – the Knights led 14-12 at halftime – as he scored on a one-yard keeper with 6:35 left to make the score 21-12. Only moments later, however, Rich was off to the races on the ensuing kickoff to put Heritage School back within a single score.
For Prisant, the trip to Albany was like turning back the clock. Ten years ago when the 28 year old coach was a senior in high school, he helped Deerfield Windsor win their first GISA title.
"Our kids just fought and fought," Prisant said. "I have never been so proud of a team as I am with these guys."
Deerfield took control of the game after blocking a Heritage School punt on the Hawks' first series of the game. The Knights took advantage of good field position, converting a short drive into a touchdown when Rich Fallaw caught a nine-yard TD pass from Dallas Margeson.
The Hawks answered right back, marching 66 yards in seven plays. Rich kept the drive alive with a 26-yard catch from Bonner to move the ball deep into Knights' territory. Rich added a 7-yard run during the drive and Bonner capped the series with a 20-yard touchdown run. The 2-point conversion failed and Deerfield led 7-6.
Deerfield increased the lead to 14-6 on its next series. McClain broke free on a 32-yard sprint to the end zone.
Midway through the second quarter, Rich turned in the most electrifying scoring play of the first half when he caught Bonner's pass and raced to the end zone on a 73-yard score. Again the extra point failed and the Knights led 14-12.
Both teams turned the ball over late in the first half, but couldn't convert on either miscue.
Despite the loss, Prisant knows his team has laid the foundation for a bright future following back-to-back, 8-3 and 11-2 seasons.
"If you had told me back when we were in camp, that we would play for the state title in our first year of Class AAA competition, I would have said no way," he said. "We weren't going to let them just them take it to us. We showed so much fight tonight and that's all you can ask for."
SCORING SUMMARY: Deerfield-Windsor 27, Heritage School 19
Heritage School 6 6 7 0 – 19
Deerfield-Windsor 14 0 13 0 – 27
DW – Rich Fallaw 9 pass from Dallas Margerson (Harry Vidibill kick), 6:07
HS – Joe Bonner 20 run (2-point failed)
DW – Kh'Ron McClain 32 run (Vidibill kick), 0:35
HS – Candler Rich 73 pass from Bonner (2-point failed), 6:50
DW – Margerson 1 run (Vidibill kick), 6:31
DW – McClain 60 run (2-point failed), 1:10
HS – Rich 85 kickoff return (Ben Dudley kick), 0:58