It started as a track meet. It ended in a rout.
Jefferson Forest and E.C. Glass started the VHSL playoffs off with a bang Thursday night, combining for five touchdowns inside the first eight minutes.
Then E.C. Glass took over.
The Hilltoppers flexed their muscles, took advantage of Forest miscues and broke away for a 55-21 victory in the Region 4D quarterfinals at Lynchburg City Stadium.
Then in the postgame huddle, the air chilly and their work done, the second-seeded Hilltoppers (10-1) looked more like a team raring to go again instead of winding down the night.
“I’ve still got energy in me,” Hilltoppers running back Quoterris Craighead said after scoring three touchdowns and rumbling for 90 yards on eight carries.
It was Glass’ sixth straight victory over the No. 7 seed Cavaliers, who end the season with a 6-5 record. The last two seasons have produced a playoff reprisal of the annual Black & Blue Bowl, and each one has been similar in scope, with the Hilltoppers romping away. When the two teams met Sept. 20, Glass won 59-21.
“We know when we do everything right we can definitely beat these boys,” Jefferson Forest tight end and defensive end Dyson Yuille said. “It would be a special thing to do, knock them out and end that winning streak they have on us. We just fell short tonight.”
Glass quarterback DreSean Kendrick racked up 312 all-purpose yards, completing 12 of 17 passes for 186 yards and rushing for 126 yards on eight carries.
Kendrick also fired off three touchdown passes, hooking up with D-Moe Mosley for two 23-yard scores and throwing a 44-yard bomb to a leaping Eli Wood under double coverage in the end zone.
“I could tell they weren’t really trying to guard the receivers. They were worried about me scrambling,” Kendrick said of JF. “And they had their backs turned to our receivers a lot, so everybody was open.”
Playing in his final high school game, Forest running back and UCF commit Keenan Cupit rushed for 121 yards on 14 carries. He scored twice. Cupit gave JF a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter with a 56-yard TD run. With his team down 49-14 and a running clock in effect, Cupit dove into the end zone on a 9-yard plunge midway through the fourth quarter.
“That boy’s a workhorse,” Yuille said. “I’ve been playing football with him since we were 5. That’s basically my brother that’s not blood, but he gives you his heart. He leaves his heart on the field and leaves no doubts, never second-guessing anything.”
It took Glass just two minutes to respond to Cupid’s touchdown. Using its hurry-up offense, the ‘Toppers went on a 7-play, 80-yard drive to tie the score.
But JF came right back when quarterback Davis Lane (77 passing yards) hit Danteas Braxton with a short pass Braxton turned into a 57-yard touchdown. Kendrick tied it again 55 seconds later when he hit Mosley with a TD pass.
Glass found its separation at the 4:37 mark of the first quarter, when Holden Fretz caused Lane to fumble and teammate Bryson McKenna picked it up, taking it to the 1-yard line, where Glass took a 21-14 lead on Ty Foster’s short punch.
Securing that fumble helped Glass reel off 35 unanswered points.
“I’m happy that we got the W and that they pulled it out,” said McKenna, who left the game with a concussion.
Craighead scored on runs of 15, 52 and 3 yards.
From a physical standpoint, the running back was ready to go long before kickoff.
“Mentally, I had to get right,” Craighead said. “So in the locker room, I smacked myself on the head. I said, ‘Q, get it together, man.’ And I started smiling to myself in the mirror.”
Jacob Hackworth added 79 rushing yards for JF, which has not advanced past the second round of the playoffs since 2015.
“It’s been up and down,” Yuille said of the season. “I think at the beginning we were really just trying to find ourselves. … It was a process, but we turned it around at the end. We still had our hiccups at times, even tonight, as well. But the team’s headed in the right direction.”
Glass coach Jeff Woody was pleased with the confidence he said his team showed, especially after a rough regular-season finale against Brookville, in which the Hilltoppers eked out a 19-18 win.
“They were motivated,” Woody said. ‘They had their eyes on the prize.”
And Kendrick liked how when his team got down early, it looked unfazed.
“The fight came back,” the quarterback said. “We just kept the same energy the whole four quarters.”
Craighead was the last player to leave the City Stadium turf Thursday night, his eyes bright and his smile wide.
His team earned the right to host here next week, against the winner of tonight’s matchup between No. 3 Pulaski (8-2) and No. 6 Blacksburg (6-4).
He still may have been energized, but Craighead was also content.
“This,” he said, “is the dream.”