ROCKINGHAM — Triple overtime, a rain shower and two halftime shows were just some of the highlights of this year’s Powder Puff game at Richmond Senior High School.
The latest edition of the annual showdown between the senior and junior classes went in favor of the soon-to-be graduating Class of 2023.
Returning for the second straight spring after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the upperclassmen took down the junior Class of 2024 by a final score of 35-28.
Erasing a seven-point halftime deficit, the seniors rallied to force overtime with a touchdown in the final minute of play. That led to three overtime periods, which was capped by a game-winning touchdown run by Andrea Ellerbe on a double reverse.
Hosted by Richmond’s senior senate, the fundraiser football game was held on the school’s football field. EJ Davis, the president of the senate, explained that part of the proceeds will be donated to a local charity.
The senior class, coached by Brandon Askins, Joey Cook Jr., Tyson Holloway, Jeffery Linton, Urijah McDonald, Messiah Shaw, Taye Spencer, Frazion Steele and Emerson Wall won the gridiron gathering after losing as juniors to the Class of 2022 last year.
Coaching the class of 2024 were Linden Garcia, Jaliel Green, Marquan Martin and Jada Zimmerman. Despite only having nine players, compared to the senior class’ more than 30 players, the juniors took an early lead.
Both classes brought a lot of fight to the field, playing four 10-minute quarters following a flag football format. Players wore custom uniforms with nicknames to add to the fun.
Each team started at its own 15-yard line (of a 60-yard field), and had four attempts to reach a first down of 15 yards to extend the drive.
If unsuccessful, the drive resulted in a turnover on downs or a punt. Officiating the game were Chris Dennis, Chad McCurry and Greg Williams.
The juniors ended their opening drive with a five-yard touchdown run by Christi Jacobs on fourth down to go ahead 7-0 with 2:20 left in the opening quarter.
Nyla Stroman used her elusiveness to tie the game on the ensuing drive for the seniors. Taking a handoff from quarterback Quston Leviner, Stroman made her way to the right edge for a 35-yard scoring sprint.
Tied early in the second quarter, junior quarterback Katie Way put the Class of 2024 ahead again. She launched a 20-yard strike to wide receiver Gabby Lutz, who pulled in a contested catch to make it 14-7 with 7:19 left in the half.
Ellerbe scored the first of her game-high three rushing scores to even the score on the seniors’ next possession. On the second play of the drive, Ellerbe maneuvered to the left sideline and dashed 50 yards to the house.
That was quickly answered by Kaleigh Cloninger and the Class of 2024 on the next drive. On a double reverse, Cloninger took the handoff and found a hole up the middle, racing 30 yards to the end zone.
Cloninger’s score, the final one of the half for either team, was the fifth straight possession that resulted in a touchdown. The juniors led 21-14 at the break.
During halftime, the cheerleading teams for both classes performed a routine. Coaching the senior cheerleaders were Cayden Hood, Tatum Rhyne and Abby Williams. Leading the junior squad were Sophia Chavis, Natalie Meacham and Lexi Medlin.
A quick-moving second half yielded two touchdowns for the seniors and one more for the juniors to end regulation in a 28-28 tie.
Leviner picked up her lone throwing score of the game to tie the game on the seniors’ first drive of the second half. Savannah Jordan caught a screen over the middle of the field, moved around a would-be tackler and sprinted 45 yards to the house with 59 seconds to go in the third.
Way struck again at the midway point of the fourth quarter, this time finding Keyoni Nichols for a 15-yard touchdown pass. That score made it 28-21 in favor of the juniors.
But Ellerbe wouldn’t go away quietly, punching in the tying score with 30 seconds left in the game. This time she took a handoff and tiptoed her way down the left sideline for a 35-yard touchdown.
The juniors ran two plays before time expired. One resulted in an offsides call and the other was a pass break up by Ellerbe with Evie Howell as the intended receiver.
Overtime rules allowed each team one play from the five-yard line. Through the first two overtimes, all four plays resulted in incomplete passes.
The juniors’ triple overtime possession was dropped in the end zone, setting up Ellerbe’s game-winning rush on a double reverse.
“The kids were really excited to have this event again,” Arthur Gilliam, senate advisor, said. “This is probably one of the biggest events they were most excited about because it’s at the end of the year. Powder Puff is always an exciting time for the students.”
Below are photos of Wednesday’s annual Powder Puff game, taken by sports editor Kyle Pillar.