BRISTOL, Va. – Ten touches, six touchdowns.
Not a bad night on the football field. That was in one half.
Virginia High senior Stevie Thomas resembled a human joystick on a video game, using his shiftiness and breaking tackles to score first half six touchdowns to lead the Bearcats to a 3-0 start to the season with a 66-40 non-district win over Patrick Henry at Gene Malcolm Stadium on Friday night.
The new video scoreboard dedicated during the game got quite a workout in this one.
Thomas finished with 183 of his 240 yards in the opening half, and also caught two passes for 30 yards and two more scores before the break to lead the Bearcats to a 46-15 lead at halftime.
“That is efficiency. What he can do, he is a spectacular player, it is nice to have him on your side,” said Mike Locke, who served as interim head coach with Derrick Patterson out due to COVID-19 protocols. “I have been coaching where I didn’t have that player and I was playing against them so it is nice to have him with us. He is a great teammate.”
Patrick Henry (1-1) certainly didn’t quit, outscoring the Bearcats 25-20 after the break, led by senior Connor Beeson, who ran for 312 yards and three touchdowns of his own.
“Patrick Henry is a dangerous football team,” said Locke, who was head coach at Virginia High from 1994-99, and later served in the same role at Sullivan East from 2011-19. “They know who they are, they are well coached and they are going to be tough this season, they are going to be tough to beat.”
Thomas was electric from the start, scoring on touchdown runs of 6, 55, 44 and 30 in the opening half and also snagged two of Brody Jones’ six scoring passes from 18 and 12 yards in the opening two periods.
Jones threw for 276 yards on just 13 completions, and six of those were for scores. He connected with Conner Davidson from 29 yards out to put the Bearcats ahead by 31 points at the break. He also threw three second half touchdowns to Ajanni Delaney from 57, 15 and 36 yards. Delaney finished the game with six receptions for 138 yards.
“Hand the ball and let them catch and run,” said Locke, whose Bearcats had 647 yards on offense. “A great job offensively tonight. I thought we were very efficient and I don’t think we had a single turnover.”
Patrick Henry fell behind 7-0 on a Thomas 8-yard run to start the game, but came right back, driving to the 1-yard line. They never got any closer, with the Bearcats pulling off the goal-line stand, with Thomas having a pair of key tackles on that possession. Virginia High took a 21-0 lead on the two passes to Thomas before Ben Belcher got the Rebels on the board with a 53-yard run. J’Kwon McFail added a 4-yard touchdown run in the opening half for the Rebels.
“Our best defensive series was that goal line stand and the rest of the night they hurt themselves, not us,” Locke said.
Beeson scored on runs of 57, 8 and 62 yards in the second half. Connor Kausch added a 14-yard run to complete the scoring with 2:33 left to play. The Rebels had the only two turnovers in the game, with fumbles picked up by Virginia High’s Dashaun Taylor and Taj Streeter.
Locke saw plenty of room for improvement, as he told the team after the game.
“If you walk off this field as a coach thinking we are happy with the way it went, we have got a lot of things to clean up,” Locke said. “I think they are correctable things, but we have got some work.”
Virginia High, which had outscored its opponents 100-14 in the opening two weeks, will leave Bristol for the first time this season next Friday, traveling to face Wise County Central.
“We have got to go on the road,” Locke said. “We grew tonight, we played four quarters and had to battle so hopefully that will help us get ready for next week.”
Patrick Henry will visit Lee High on Friday night.
The last time these teams had met on Virginia High’s home field was Sept. 7, 2001, just four days before the horrific terrorist attacks. The Bearcats honored the victims of 9/11 with a moment of silence, the playing of Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American” and they left 15 seats empty in the end zone to honor the 13 lost in Afghanistan, other service members and first responders who died in military service.
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Patrick Henry 0 15 12 13 - 40
Virginia High 14 32 14 6 - 66
VHS-S.Thomas 18 pass from Jones (Cox kick)
VHS-S.Thomas 12 pass from Jones (Cox kick)
PH-Belcher 53 run (McFail run)
VHS-S.Thomas 55 run (Cox kick)
PH-McFail 4 run (Lester kick)
VHS-S.Thomas 44 run (kick failed)
VHS-S.Thomas 30 run (pass failed)
VHS-Davidson 29 pass from Jones (kick failed)
PH-Beeson 58 run (kick blocked)
VHS-Delaney 57 pass from Jones (Cox kick)
PHS-Beeson 8 run (kick failed)
VHS-Delaney 15 pass from Jones (Cox kick)
VHs-Delaney 36 pass from Jones (kick blocked)
PH-Beeson 62 run (kick failed)