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Paige sparks Page to 35-28 comeback victory


Page teammates Niam Bradsher (6) and Ford Moser (8) celebrate Moser’s 61 yard touchdown reception. Photo by Joe Daniels/ Carolina Peacemaker[/caption]

With his team down big midway through the opening half of the 2018 season, Page quarterback Javondre Paige knew the Pirates were in desperate need of a spark.

After stumbling out of the gate with some uncharacteristic special team blunders and overall sloppy play, the Pirates trailed visiting Davie County 21-6 in front of stunned crowd at Marion Kirby Stadium.

Even worse, the junior quarterback could sense panic beginning to emerge in some of his teammates.

“Our sideline was pretty quiet at the beginning of the game so I knew I had to pick us all up.”

That pick-me-up would come in the form of a four touchdown performance that may eventually be viewed as a defining moment of his career.

Showcasing both his poise and athleticism, Paige gradually began to dissect the War Eagles defense, helping the Pirates score 19 unanswered to take a second half lead. Then, after Davie County returned a blocked field goal attempt 77 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to knot the game at 28-all, Paige led the Pirates on a final 11-play scoring drive to clinch a dramatic 35-28 come-from-behind win.

“I couldn’t let my team down,” said Paige who finished the night with 20 carries for 156 yards and completed 10 of 23 passes for 165 yards. “I’m a leader of the offense and I’m a leader in general. So I just said everybody has to hold each other accountable and we got it done tonight.”

Afterwards, second-year Page coach Jared Rolfes said he was proud of the resiliency his team showed to battle back from the early deficit.

“We always tell our guys that it’s important to just keep playing, no matter what the score is,” said Rolfes, who led the Pirates to the third round of the 4-AA playoffs and an 11-2 record a year ago.

“Page has not beaten Davie here in four years,” Rolfes said. “This is the first time in three football games here that we’ve beat them, so I think it was a big accomplishment to overcome a very good, well-coached football team. They’re disciplined and fundamentally sound, but we just got more physical as the game went along and found a way to win tonight.”

The Pirates’ game-winning drive was capped by a dramatic 10-yard run by Paige, where he began to scramble right, then bounced off two defenders near the sideline before reversing direction and finding a clear path up the middle to the endzone.

However, most of his big plays on the night came when he escaped the pocket only to hover behind the line of scrimmage before finding an open receiver downfield. It was tactic he said he worked on all offseason and it resulted in two second quarter touchdown passes, including a beautiful 15-yard floater to tight end Lawson Albright and a 61-yard strike to senior wide-out Ford Mosser.

“He does a good job on continuing to be a passer in all situations, which is important.” Rolfes said. “He’s gotten better at understanding how to make a play and obviously the one long touchdown was huge because he stayed poised and just made a big throw down the field.”

The Pirates also got a number of big plays from senior wide receiver Cody King, including an electrifying 94-yard kickoff return on their first possession of the game.

Defensively, the Pirates began to turn up the heat on Davie County quarterback Nate Hampton midway through the second quarter and never relented.

“We finally got to him a little bit,"Rolfes said. "We were able to take away some of the things he was trying to do and put him in more uncomfortable situations. That was critical and our coaches did a good job on that side of the ball too.”

After Hampton led the War Eagles on two first quarter scoring drives, they would not cross midfield again for the remainder of the night. The final two Davie County touchdowns came via special teams, on a blocked punt return in the second quarter and the blocked field goal attempt in the fourth.

The Pirates return to action next Friday to face a Northern Guilford team who had to mount a late comeback at home to defeat Grimsley 20-15.

Rolfes knows his team can’t afford to have the same slow start and breakdowns on special teams if they want to improve to 2-0.

Page kicker/punter Matt Chmil was 1-for-4 on extra points to go with the blocked punt and field goal. However, he was able to connect on a 36-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to extend the Pirates lead to 28-21.

“We’re going to be doing a lot of kicking in practice on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday because it was terrible tonight,” Rolfes said. “I mean, just coverage wise, our personnel was bad – we’ve got a lot of clean up on special teams."