Maury’s offense can’t solve Highland Springs’ dominating defense in state semifinal

Ray Nimmo, The Virginian-Pilot
·2 min read

Two touchdown passes, a third-down conversion and a long kick return were all Highland Springs needed to knife through Maury’s stout defensive performance.

The Springers (8-0) shut out Maury 13-0 in a Class 5 state semifinal Saturday at Powhatan Field.

“They came to play and we didn’t execute,” Maury coach Dyrri McCain said. “It’s that simple.”

Maury was hoping to defend its Class 5 state title after losing a solid chunk of its players to graduation. And through the game’s first 18 minutes, it appeared Highland Springs had little chance to dethrone the Commodores.

Maury forced three consecutive three-and-outs, stifling the Springers’ run game, which finished with 87 yards on 34 carries for a paltry 2.5 yards per rush.

However, the Springers performed at an equally high level on defense, clogging the middle with their sizable front as it held Maury to 134 yards of offense.

Maury running back Demonte Dunlap, who had a few 200-yard rushing games this season, had just eight carries for 11 yards. He did pitch in the passing game with eight catches for 61 yards after rushing proved impossible even for elusive quarterback Ahmarian Granger.

Scoreless with two minutes to play in the first half, Highland Springs converted its first big play with a 31-yard completion on third-and-11, then followed with a 55-yard touchdown pass from Juwan Dent to Latrell Sutton.

A stunned Maury couldn’t respond as the Springers opened the second half with a large kickoff return that set them up at the Maury 28. Three plays later, Dent and Sutton hooked up again for a 31-yard score.

Maury would never again enter Highland Springs territory.

“We had a good year, but I think there’s a standard set here now where we’re supposed to be at a (certain) level,” McCain said. “It was a good season for them, a COVID season. At a time we weren’t gonna have a season. At a time we weren’t gonna be in the playoffs. So we’ll take the good and we’ll also take the bad and learn from it as we did with the 2019 year.”

Part of that good was the defensive performance.

“They played lights out,” McCain said. “We had minor mistakes here and there, but that’s a playoff game. We gave up two (touchdowns), but we didn’t execute as a team, period. That’s on me. ... We got a good team coming back in the fall, so we’ll bounce back and be ready next time we’re here. We’ll be back.”

Ray Nimmo, 757-446-2364, ray.nimmo@pilotonline.com