Proving that football heaven evidently does hold a place for those who play, Clintwood tailback Chris Robinson rushed for 179 yards and scored two touchdowns as the Green Wave upended Bath County 27-0 in Saturday’s VHSL Group A, Division 1 state semifinal game at Alleghany High School.
Clintwood (9-4) will face Buffalo Gap in next week’s Division 1 state championship game that kicks off at noon at Salem Stadium in Salem. Buffalo Gap beat Colonial Beach 48-39 to advance.
Saturday’s half-state victory was Clintwood’s first win at that level since Ralph Cummins led the program to the state title in 1978. Robinson’s dad — Chris Robinson Sr. — played on that squad as an offensive and defensive tackle.
“It feels awesome to go to the state like this, because my dad played on the last (Clintwood) team to do it,” said Robinson, who carried for 26 times and stunned the Chargers when he bounced outside for a 75-yard scoring run down the Green Wave sideline on the second play of the ballgame.
“We had a different play called and (quarterback Heath Counts) made a good check. I just kicked in the burners.”
It was the third consecutive week of marquee performances for the 6-foot, 180-pound junior, who added a 4-yard scoring run at 10:50 in the second quarter. He also had a 13-yard scoring run late in the game called back due to a penalty.
“The bigger the game, the bigger he usually turns up,” said Clintwood coach Rick Mullins, whose only previous trip to a state championship football game was earned when he was an assistant coach at Pound in 1999. “I think today our linemen kind of gave us some holes. It all starts up front.”
A stickler for fundamentals, the Green Wave offense nevertheless saved a page in its playbook for a little bit of razzle-dazzle. Backup tailback Alec Osborne took a double-reverse 18 yards for a score with 1:39 left in the first half. The Green Wave took the 21-0 halftime lead on Derek Robbins’ third consecutive PAT kick of the day.
“I just try my hardest and do whatever I have to do,” said Osborne, who was sprung into the secondary off a block by tackle Russell Hull.
Osborne, a 5-11, 165-pound junior, was also a major playmaker on defense, recording two sacks for minus-12 yards and a coverage tackle for loss in addition to a few key QB hurries and shared stops.
“I think people are just starting to realize he’s a heck of a football player,” Mullins said. “He has been all year for us. He made huge defensive plays. He has a nose for the football and he goes hard every play. He always seems to be at the right place at the right time.”
Thanks to Clintwood’s collective effort on the defensive side of the ball, Robinson’s first-series stunner was all the scoring the Green Wave would need. Among the highlights were stellar stops by Robinson, Tyler Mullins, Brad Smith (who had two), Mikell Rose and Robbins, who came out late in the game after dinging his knee on a rock. Hull also deflected a pass attempt, while Mullins ended Bath County’s last possession with an interception.
It could’ve gone worse for the Chargers in the first half. Osborne had a 29-yard scoring run called back due to a holding penalty in Clintwood’s second possession of the ballgame. That 13-play series seemed fated for frustration, also including a procedure flag and a fumble recovered in the backfield before Bath County BMOC Jim King picked off a Counts pass attempt to end the scoring threat.
On Clintwood’s final possession of the first half, Bath County’s defense belatedly punished Counts for his devastating audible, sacking him twice consecutively for a loss of 10 yards. The Chargers returned from intermission with renewed defensive vigor, benefiting from a Robinson fumble as they played for a third-quarter stalemate.
The Green Wave turned it over again in the final period on a fumble off the exchange, but not before they’d burned six minutes off the clock with a 12-play series that started in the third stanza. Counts, who passed for 89 yards on the day, finally hit Tyler Mullins for a 12-yard scoring strike with 3:44 remaining in the game.
“Heath doesn’t get rattled. I didn’t help us out a couple of times. I called some things I probably shouldn’t have called that put us in a bad situation. But he hung in there and led us. He kept his composure and did what he had to do,” Coach Mullins said.
“We didn’t have the same intensity in the second half as we did in the first. But then we didn’t want to do anything crazy with the lead like that, either. You kind of want to milk the clock. In the fourth quarter, we ended up doing that pretty well.”
Given that the Chargers (8-5) played well enough in the second half to save face, coach Will Fields took the beating in stride.
“We have kids with great pride and a lot of heart. They just wanted to play harder, play better, and they did. We just dug ourselves too much of a whole in the first half,” Fields said. “They were just a better football team than we were. They were bigger, and physical as advertised.”