Herald Dynamite Dozen selection Kenneth Hurley of Lee County, left, breaks the tackle of Dougherty’s P.J. Taylor during Friday night’s Trojan Bowl at Hugh Mills Stadium. Hurley had 175 yards at halftime and finished with 200, pacing the Trojans from Leesburg against the Trojans of Albany to a 49-32 victory. (email@example.com)
ALBANY— Welcome back, Dougherty.
OK, maybe not all the way back, but the kids from the eastside of Albany made a statement Friday night during a 49-32 loss to Lee County that signals the once proud program is taking the first steps back to glory.
“It still hurts to lose,’’ said Dougherty coach Corey Joyner, a former player and long-time assistant coach who took over as the head coach this season. “I wanted our kids to get the taste of victory. They played hard. I just wish we could have won.’’
Lee County, ranked No. 3 in The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll, is loaded on offense and it showed all night the kids from Leesburg scored early and often to hold back Dougherty and quarterback Mike Whatley.
Lee tailback and Herald Dynamite Dozen player Kenneth Hurley said before the season began that he planned on breaking the Lee County record for rushing.
He’s off and running.
Hurley gained 200 yards on 14 carries (14.28 per carry) and scored three TDs, dashing in on a 15-yarder, a 70-yarder and a 10-yarder to open the season with a bang.
“It’s exciting,’’ said Hurley, who had 175 yards and all three of his touchdowns at halftime. “I just have to thank my offensive line. They gave me all my yards.’’
Well, he did juke and dive and dodge some, making Dougherty miss on two long runs — the 70-yard TD that lifted Lee to a 14-6 lead with 11:00 left in the first half, and a 56-yarder that helped set up a touchdown minutes later.
“Kenneth had a good game,’’ said Lee County coach Dean Fabrizio, who was happy to start the season with a win, but not much else. “I’m very disappointed in our performance. We’re going to have to get a lot better. My hat’s off to Dougherty. Their kids came out ready to play, and our kids weren’t ready to play.’’
Dougherty — which has gone 3-17 the past two seasons — surprised a lot of people and shocked Lee by taking a 6-0 lead with 6:40 left in the first quarter when Whatley hit Demario Barney with a 7-yard TD pass on a third-and-goal.
And Whatley was just getting started.
He finished with 331 yards in the air, completing 18-of-32 passes and tossing four touchdowns.
He also rushed for 65 yards on eight carries, including a 2-yard TD run.
Can you say “Player of the Week?’’
Whatley burned Lee County deep three times, throwing a 63-yard TD pass to Kenneth Johnson, a 65-yard touchdown pass to Barney and a 47-yard TD to Tavarious Nelson.
“Their quarterback made some real good throws,’’ Fabrizio said. “Dougherty has really improved a lot.’’
And here’s the good news for Dougherty: Whatley is a sophomore. Friday night was his debut, and he came out smoking hot. He completed eight of his first nine passes and threw three TD passes in the first half and went to halftime with 250 yards in the air.
“It was great to see him have that kind of game,’’ Joyner said. “But we really wanted to win this game.’’
Whatley felt the same way.
He left the field wanting one more chance.
“We played hard, and we played hard on every play. That’s what we say at Dougherty this year,’’ Whatley said. “I respect my team. It’s a lot different this year. Our team has really stepped it up. Our game has stepped way up. But we wanted to win. We really wanted to win.’’
Lee County just kept coming.
Hurley score two quick TDs on his 15-yarder and 70-yarder to lift Lee to a 14-6 lead and then Stephen Collier hit Casey Hightower with a 20-yard TD pass to give Lee a 21-6 lead with 10:04 left in the half. Whatley answered with his 63-yarder to Barney, but Hurley scored on his 10-yard TD run with 6:45 left to make it a 28-12 game. Whatley fired right back with his 65-yarder to Johnson to close to 28-18, but Lee scored twice in the final 1:30 of the half, thanks to a 20-yard TD pass from Collier to freshman Devontay Seay, the younger brother of Sanford Seay, who was The Herald’s People’s Choice Player of the Year two years ago. Seay made his catch with 25 seconds left to give Lee a 42-18 halftime lead.
Dougherty was hit with 17 penalties in the first half alone, but somehow stayed in the game with one big play after another. But the 14 points in the final seconds of the half gave Lee a lead that was just too big to overcome.
It was enough to give Lee County the Trojan Bowl Trophy as the two schools (both nicknamed the Trojans) renewed a rivalry that began in 1988.
“It was great to win the game,’’ Hurley said. “We came in with a high confidence, and this will give us even more confidence.’’