RICHLANDS, Va. – The Gate City Blue Devils arrived late, but were determined and ready to play in sending shockwaves throughout Southwest Virginia with a 34-29 triumph over Richlands on Friday night.
The game started 25 minutes later than expected due to a transportation issue experienced by Gate City. The Blue Devils didn’t let it bother them as Jeremy Houseright got career head-coaching win No. 1 and denied Richlands boss Greg Mance his 200th victory.
“It is these kids and these coaches – they have done it all,” Houseright said. “These guys are hungry and they want to win.”
Gate City played old-school Blue Devil football in the fourth quarter, holding the ball for 8:42 and using 265-pound fullback Michael Calhoun like a battering ram. Calhoun ran 13 times for 92 yards and a touchdown in the game.
The Blue Devils finished the night with 295 yards on the ground and 93 through the air. The bulk of the passing yardage came on a 77-yard strike from Luke Reed to Carson Jenkins.
Jenkins, a sophomore, made the play of the night for Gate City, intercepting a pass in the end zone with 2:17 remaining in the game to seal the deal.
That play came after Levi Forrest of Richlands executed a perfect onsides kick with Jeremiah Horn recovering the ball to put Richlands in business.
Forrest gave Richlands the early lead with three field goals, including one that was good from 59 yards to cap the Blue Tornado’s opening drive.
He connected from 53 and 25 later in the first half. Gate City took advantage of Richlands turnovers to go up 14-9 at the half. D’Andre Mack went 80 yards on the first play of the second half to put the Devils up 21-9.
Cade Simmons had a touchdown to get Richlands within 28-16 and a 67-yard Sage Webb punt return cut the lead to five. Gate City countered with a drive aided by a late hit penalty on Richlands and capped it with a Calhoun touchdown.
“We settled for field goals and we turned the ball over and they didn’t,” Mance said. “They deserve to win.”
The Tornado threw two interceptions and lost a fumble on the night. The Blues were also stopped twice deep in Gate City territory.
Gate City claimed its first win in the rivalry since 2014.