Hurricane quarterback Austin Hensley looks for an open receiver as Khalil Adkins (23) provides coverage for the Cougars.
HURRICANE - Capital had apparently learned its lesson. But then again, so did Hurricane.
Austin Hensley drove the Redskins 80 yards in the final minutes Friday night, then capped the effort on a 1-yard touchdown run with nine seconds left, giving Hurricane a dramatic 23-20 victory and keeping its Class AAA playoff hopes alive.
Trailing 20-17, Hurricane (3-2) took over at its own 20 with 5:13 remaining and inexorably marched downfield in 15 plays to gain the lead. That included converting a fourth-and-6 at its own 24 and a third-and-9 from its own 42.
"That showed heart and character on that last drive,'' Hensley said, "and it paid off.''
For Hurricane, it sort of settled the score from earlier in the season when it failed on a last-minute scoring chance and lost 35-34 at Woodrow Wilson.
"If we had done this against Woodrow Wilson, we'd have already won three games,'' said Jeremy Taylor, the Redskins' first-year coach. "But I made some dumb calls then. So I'm learning, too. I'm young, too.''
For Capital, the hard lesson had come just a week ago, as it grabbed a 17-0 halftime lead against South Charleston, only to fritter it away in a disheartening 20-17 loss.
On Friday, the script was nearly flip-flopped.
The Cougars (3-2) trailed 10-0 at halftime in a game in which they were completely dominated. They had zero first downs and 3 net yards.
However, before the third quarter was over, they'd vaulted into a 13-10 lead on a 6-yard run by Kashaun Haley and a 59-yard interception return for a score by Tyrell Davis.
Hurricane answered with its own TD drive, taking a 17-13 lead on a 24-yard pass from Hensley to Koi Turner in which Turner lunged to make a great catch in the end zone.
Capital, however, needed just two plays to go back in front.
Haley returned the ensuing kickoff 29 yards to his 36 and James Richmond bolted 50 yards to the Hurricane 14. Haley took it in on the next play, and the Cougars were up 20-17 with 9:56 left.
"I'm proud of what we did,'' said Capital coach Jon Carpenter. "Shoot, we had every reason to quit when we came out [for the second half] and lay down, but we came back. We grew up a little bit.
"Those are situations you get yourself in [trailing at halftime]. They fought in the second half, and we're proud of that. We had plenty of chances to stop them and didn't make it, but it wasn't because of lack of effort.''
Hurricane's last gasp was hanging by a thread several different times on its final drive.
Hensley found Turner for 15 yards on a sideline pattern on fourth-and-6 and Hensley later scrambled for 17 yards on third-and-9, getting a superb clearing block from running back Zach Pate.
"I've been working with Koi Turner since May,'' Hensley said, "on routes and stuff. I know where's he going to be, and it's finally paying off.''
Hensley, who completed 4 of 6 passes on the final drive for 43 yards, also ran or scrambled six times for 27 yards with the game on the line.
"Austin took some hits,'' Taylor said. "He ran the ball a lot, which we don't do sometimes, but I knew coming into this game we couldn't hold anything back. I don't think we wanted to show it all, you want to save some for down the road, but this was a must-win for us. I didn't tell the guys that, but deep down, they knew that.''
Late in the final drive, a 6-yard burst by Pate put the ball inside the 1 with 24 seconds left, and Hensley needed two lunges to get it across the goal line.
Michael Molina kicked off into the end zone after Hurricane's score and Capital never advanced past its 20.
Hensley finished 26 of 38 passing for 211 yards and also ran for eight first downs. Turner caught eight balls for 102 yards. Steven Handley had Hurricane's other score on a 5-yard first-quarter run and Molina booted a 41-yard field goal.
Capital's offense took a long time to get going, with three three-and-outs and a four-and-out being all it had to show in the first half.
Tyhree Pratt, a freshman quarterback who had thrown 10 TDs without being picked off this season, tossed his first interception and ended up 4 of 10 for 54 yards.
Haley had 12 carries for 61 yards and the Cougars finished with a net of only 188 yards against a swarming Redskins defense.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.