Halifax County High School head football coach Grayson Throckmorton said last week his team would have to play a “clean” near mistake-free game in order to be successful in Friday night’s Piedmont District game against Patrick County High School.

It didn’t happen.

Comets miscues that included three turnovers and a pair of drive-damaging penalties in the third quarter allowed Patrick County High School to open a 20-8 lead, and from there pull away to a 27-8 win.

“We didn’t have a great week of practice because we are banged up to the umpteenth degree,” said Throckmorton.

“We also didn’t have a great of week of practice because our Great Father, with the weather, didn’t cooperate, so we had some issues there. We had to go inside, which is always problematic. Then we came up here, came out flat and didn’t play well.

“We showed signs seeming like we could get it together,” Throckmorton added, “but in the end we did not play well. We were flat, and the injuries have just decimated us to the point that we are debilitated right now.”

Friday night’s loss, the first loss the Comets have sustained against Patrick County High School in the seven-year history of the two teams facing each other in football, dropped the Comets’ record to 6-3 overall. The Comets will finish regular-season play on Friday when they face Tunstall High School at Tuck Dillard Memorial Stadium in the annual Senior Night game.

While the Comets’ bid for landing a top-four finish in the Region 4D standings took a hit with the loss to Patrick County High School, the possibility of the Comets retaining fourth place remains in place as GW-Danville, which was in fifth place and on the Comets’ heels in the standings, lost to Magna Vista High School Friday night.

Although Halifax County High School showed some life against Patrick County High School at times, it never gained any sustainable traction. Four turnovers and some drive-damaging penalties thwarted the Comets’ efforts.

Patrick County High School’s deliberate, ball-control game allowed the Cougars’ offensive unit to chew up large portions of clock time. The Comets got off only 11 offensive plays totaling 20 yards in the first half. While the second half was better, the Comets had only 34 offensive plays and a season-low 118 yards of total offense for the game.

Two of Patrick County High School’s four scoring drives in the game took over seven-and-a-half minutes each off of the game clock.

Patrick County High School took the lead on a 5-yard run by quarterback William Sprowl with 9:22 left in the first half. Sprowl’s score on the Cougars’ second offensive possession of the game capped a 14-play march that consumed 7:43 off of the game clock. It was the first of the two major time-consuming drives the Cougars had in the contest.

Halifax County High School appeared to have life in the second half, driving down to the Cougars’ 4-yard line on their opening possession of the half. A 10-yard holding penalty against the Comets on the play that moved the ball inside the 5-hard line put the Comets back to the 14-yard line. On the next play, the Cougars intercepted a pass by Comets quarterback Thomas Lee to end the Comets’ march. A 10-yard penalty against the Comets earlier in the drive also hurt.

The Comets scored a defensive safety after holding the Cougars at bay on their first possession of the half, cutting the Cougars’ lead to 6-2 with 6:05 left in the third quarter.

A long return by Amonse Burwell of the Cougars’ ensuing kick set the Comets up at the Cougars’ 26-yard line. The Comets converted a huge fourth-down play, with Lee hitting William Davis with a 25-yard pass for a touchdown with 4:07 left in the third quarter. That touchdown gave the Comets the lead at 8-6.

Patrick County High School answered on its next possession, with Sprowl connecting with Christopher Drewery on a 75-yard pass play for a touchdown, and Martin Morse adding the extra point to give the Cougars the lead back at 13-8.

The Cougars then recovered an onsides kick. Halifax County High School’s defensive unit forced Patrick County High School to punt the ball away, but a Comets fumble on the return gave the Cougars the ball back at the Comets’ 30-yard line.

Patrick County High School scored five plays later, with Sprowl taking the ball into the end zone from the 5-yard line with 11:56 left in the game. Morse added the extra point to give the Cougars a 20-8 edge.

Two penalties and three incomplete passes stymied the Comets’ next possession. The Cougars then mounted a 12-play, 77-yard scoring drive that ate up 7:31 off of the game clock, with Sprowl scoring on a 6-yard run with 3:53 left in the game and Morse adding the extra point to give the Cougars the 27-8 lead.

Halifax County High School recovered an onsides kick and quickly moved downfield to the Cougars’ 21-yard line. The drive ended there with a series of three incomplete passes and the Cougars stopping Lee for a 1-yard gain on fourth down.

With the ball back in their hands with 1:32 remaining in the game, the Cougars were able to run out the clock and seal the win.

Joe Chandler is the sports editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at jchandler@gazettevirginian.com.

Joe Chandler is the sports editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at jchandler@gazettevirginian.com