Bassett and Magna Vista have both relied heavily on defense all season, so it made sense a matchup between the two rivals would be a pitcher's duel on the gridiron.
Bassett scored first and last Friday night at home to defeat the Warriors 16-12 and retain control of the Smith River Classic trophy another season.
All three of the Bengals' scores came immediately after the defense forced a Magna Vista turnover. Late in the fourth quarter, while trailing 12-10, sophomore defensive lineman Gabe Divers recovered a Warriors' fumble, giving Bassett possession at midfield. Six plays later, Bengals freshman quarterback Ja'Ricous Hairston found receiver Demetrius Gill down the left sideline for a 36-yard touchdown that proved to be the game-winner.
“I knew that that was going to be open because all night they had left that alone,” Hairston said. “I knew in my head if I can get my running back to run I don't need that. But then I showed them that I actually need that fire.”
“My freshman quarterback hadn't threw that ball all game,” said Bassett coach Brandon Johnson. “On the sideline he said, 'Coach, they're giving it to me. If I get another shot they're giving it to me.' In the headset the OC said, 'If he throws fire we score right here.'... This freshman is ready. He made the play, we made the blocks. That's what these games come down to.”
Bassett scored with 3:07 left on the clock, giving Magna Vista another chance to retake the lead. The Warriors put together a solid drive, until a sack of quarterback Dryus Hairston set up second-and-15. Louis Taylor caught a 9-yard pass, but Dryus Hairston was again hit behind the line of scrimmage on the next play.
On fourth-and-7, Dryus Hairston's pass to Isaac Ellison was tipped and bounced before getting to the receiver, turning the ball over on downs with 1:15 left to play.
“At the end, getting the stop the way we did was huge,” Johnson said.
Bassett's defense recovered four fumbles, including a fumbled punt return after the first possession of the game, and came up with two fourth-down stops. Senior defensive back Dylan Hairfield also had an interception.
“I think we played probably our best game of the whole season,” Hairfield said of the defense. “Everybody, they always talk about we've got a weak secondary, but the secondary showed up tonight. They talk about our linebacker core, 'Oh they're not good.' They showed up tonight. Everybody showed up tonight. The front seven all the way to the bench, everybody showed up.”
After the second fumble recovery set up Bassett just outside the redzone, the Bengals finished the drive with a 23-yard field goal by kicker Freddie Lopez to go up 3-0 with 3:57 left in the first quarter, a score that would hold through the first half.
Magna Vista fumbled again two plays into the second half, and Bassett responded by putting together a drive that ended with sophomore Simeon Walker-Muse rumbling down the sideline for a 36-yard touchdown.
Magna Vista got on the board not long after. After putting together the team's longest drive of the game, 12-plays that went 68 yards, they finished with Dryus Hairston finding Drew Santoemma for a 14-yard touchdown with 49 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Warriors took their first lead with 7:54 to play when Dryus Hairston again found Santoemma, this time for a 38-yard score to go up 12-10.
Bassett scored the game-winner two possessions later.
“It was kind of a lack of ability to make plays when we needed it,” said Magna Vista head coach Joe Favero. “It was kind of opposite of what we did most of the year. But that was it... I thought they played great, we played O.K. Some of that was them, some of that was us. It's a tough football game, it's a physical football game and toughness matters. We talk about it all the time. It was a cold night and toughness matters. They were just a little tougher.”
Walker-Muse had 64 yards rushing, and teammate Kevon Smith had 67 to lead Bassett. Ja'Ricous Hairston was 6-for-10 passing for 93 yards. Gill had three catches for 49 yards.
Louis Taylor led Magna Vista with 54 yards rushing. Dryus Hairston was 13-for-22 passing for 133 yards. Santoemma led the Warriors with seven catches for 74 yards.
Bassett retains possession of the Smith River Classic trophy, which goes to the winner of the Bassett/Magna Vista regular season game every year. The Bengals won last year 13-7, their first victory in the series since 2012.
“This year we knew it was going to be a lot harder because we were playing at home,” Hairfield said. “Bassett hadn't beat them at home in a long time. We just had to execute and it just came down to that and everybody playing as a team. When somebody made a mistake we just cut that out and go to the next play.”
“It's amazing. I can't explain myself right now,” Ja'Ricous Hairston said. “It just took all our hard work and dedication that we've been putting in all week to finally come out and show itself. We didn't play all four quarters but I think we played a decent amount.”
Bassett finishes the regular season 5-5, its best record since 2008. Magna Vista finishes 7-3. Both teams now look ahead to the Region 3D playoffs, and both believe there's a chance the Warriors fall to No. 4 and the Bengals take No. 5, setting up a second straight contest between the two teams next week in Ridgeway.
The VHSL will announce final playoff pairings early next week.