Viking Injuries Derail Upset

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Gunnar Gustafson leads the way on his kickoff return touchdown. Photo by Brennan Waldorf.

By Brennan Waldorf

The number one team in the VISAA Division III came to Exmore last weekend to face off with the Broadwater Vikings. The Vikings, unfazed by their opponents standing, stood toe-to-toe with the number one team and led the game going into the half. The Vikings put together an even, balanced attack on the day and were on the verge of an upset on senior day before injuries turned the game around.

The game started with a nice ceremony that honored Viking seniors Walt Etheridge, James Gilbert, Wade Smith, and Charles Hickman.

The Vikings started with great field position thanks in part to Gunnar Gustafson who put the Vikings on the Fuqua 46. The Vikings’ offensive line had quite the first half with great blocking that allowed for plenty of passing time for Brant Bloxom. The Vikings put together a series of runs and passes that ended with a 33-yard catch and run touchdown by Gustafson. A failed 2-point pass would put the Vikings up 6-0 with 10:02 in the first quarter.

Fuqua answered with a score of its own with their first possession when Elijah Warner was forced out of the pocket but able to connect with Jaylen Hempfield for 22-yard passing touchdown. The Falcons nailed their field goal and took their only lead of the half 7-6.

The Vikings put together a solid 14-play drive with their next possession and got into scoring position but a run up the middle on fourth-and-4 fell short turning the ball over to Fuqua. The Vikings’ defense then recorded back-to-back three and outs that allowed the offense to score two more times with a 53-yard rushing touchdown from Gustafson followed by a 36-yard passing touchdown from Gustafson to senior Wade Smith. The combination of good defense partnered by a well-running offense put the Vikings up 22-7 with 7:46 remaining in the half.

The Falcons next possession ended with a passing touchdown after a series of run plays that featured several quarterback keeps that burned three minutes of the clock.

Gunnar Gustafson was set back to return the kick and for the second
time in two weeks showed why he was an all-state returner last year when he burned the Falcons special team for an 80-yard touchdown. The Vikings then went for two and were successful when Brant Bloxom’s run crossed the plane, but the quarterback was hit low on the play causing an injury that wouldn’t allow him to return to the game.

Bloxom’s absence on defense and offense would be unfortunate for the Vikings young team but not detrimental as they plugged in freshman Carson Savage at quarterback.  They allowed one more touchdown in the half but would be leading 30-23 at the break.

The second half saw a new look offense that featured several plays with Gustafson often at the reins. The Vikings’ offense was still humming with the loss of Bloxom but would take another tough loss when Gustafson was hurt on rushing play up the middle. The loss of Gustafson was vital for the Vikings as the game was turned around in the Falcons’ favor after the injuries. They would move on to win 53-30 after being down, with many pondering what would have happened had Bloxom and Gustafson not been hurt in the game.