It was senior night at Crest High School Friday night, but it was the Chargers’ underclassmen whole stole the show. The underdog Chargers got a phenomenal performance from junior running back/quarterback TJ Ruff in a 36-29 upset over the Hunter Huss Huskies Friday in a Big South 3A high school football contest.
Ruff accounted for five Crest scores by rushing for three touchdowns of 24, 69 and 34 yards respectively, returning a kickoff 99 yards for a score and throwing the winning 33-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Eli Hall with 33 seconds left in the game.
Ruff also had an interception on defense.
“I’m glad to be a part of this team,” said Ruff when trying to sum up his incredible performance. “Our goal at the beginning of the week was to go 1-0 and that’s our goal each and every week.”
Crest had a 29-14 lead midway through the fourth quarter and had just forced the Huskies to punt. But the Chargers turned the ball over by fumbling the punt on the return and gave Huss the ball the Crest 7. One play later Huskies’ quarterback Zo Wallace threw a 7-yd TD pass to Trent Ostrander to cut the Crest lead to 29-21.
After a Chargers punt, Huss tied the game on Wallace’s 39-yard strike to Dontavious Nash. Lamagea McDowell’s 2-point conversion run was good and the game was tied at 29-29 with 5 minutes to play.
Starting at its own 30-yard line, Crest moved the ball to the Huskies 33-yard line with 40 seconds left and faced a fourth-and-one. It was then that Chargers’ coach Nick Eddins made a gutsy call. With Ruff in the wildcat formation, rather than run for the first down he stepped back to pass and found Hall for what proved to be the winning touchdown.
“I guess everybody thought we were going to run it right there and we finally threw it,” said Eddins. “They’ve been asking me to do that for a while. I felt like it was a good call at the moment, it caught them off guard and it put us ahead in the game.”
After a scoreless first quarter Crest took a 6-0 lead early in the second on a time-consuming, 85-yard drive that ate up nearly eight minutes. The drive was capped off by Ruff’s 24-yard TD run early in the second quarter. A high snap on the extra-point kick nullified the kick.
The Chargers would increase their lead on their next possession with Ruff rumbling 69 yards on the first play of the drive for a 13-point advantage.
Late in the second quarter the Huskies had prime field position at the Crest 22-yard line following a poor Chargers punt deep in their own territory. After a first-and-goal at the Crest 9 yard line, a Chargers’ interception in the end zone by Delone Willis ended the Hunter Huss threat.
Crest drove down to the Huskies 11-yard line but ran out of time as the half ended with a 13-0 advantage.
RECORDS: Hunter Huss (5-2) Crest (7-2)
THREE WHO MATTERED
TJ Ruff, Crest: Junior running back/quarterback had an interception to go with his three rushing touchdowns, one 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown while throwing the winning touchdown pass.
Zo Wallace, Hunter Huss: Senior quarterback almost brought the Huskies by throwing for 298 yards (255 in the second half) while going 16-of-31 for two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Delone Willis, Crest: Senior cornerback picked off a Huss pass in his own end zone late in the first half to thwart a Huskies score
THEY SAID IT
“I was open and I looked back and I didn’t see anybody. I saw the ball drop in my hands and I said it’s only right to get it in for them (Chargers’ seniors on senior night). That’s what I was focusing on, scoring for them.” Crest running back Eli Hall describing his winning touchdown catch.
Senior Hunter Huss running back Lamagea McDowell is a former Charlotte Catholic Cougar.
Crest head coach Nick Eddins played college football at East Carolina, graduating in 2002.
Hunter Huss head coach James McKoy played college football at Mars Hill and North Carolina Central, graduating in 2006.
WHAT’S NEXT: Hunter Huss will play at Forestview (Gastonia) next Friday while Crest will play at North Gaston, also next Friday night.
Hunter Huss 0 9 14 15 -- 29
Crest 0 13 13 10 -- 36
2Q C – TJ Ruff 24 run; (kick failed)
C – Ruff 69 run; (Blake Roderick kick)
HH – Lamagea McDowell 2 run; (Luis Echeveria kick)
C - Ruff 34 run; (Roderick kick)
HH – Dontavious Nash 72 pass from Zo Wallace; (Echeveria kick)
C - Ruff 99 kickoff return; (kick failed)
C - Roderick 36 FG
HH – Trent Ostrander 7 pass from Zo Wallace; (Echeveria kick)
HH – Nash 39 pass from Wallace; (McDowell run for 2-pt conversion)
C - Eli Hall 33 pass from Ruff; (Roderick kick)