Falcons suffer first loss on Hogan Prep Hail Mary

By Bill Althaus
Van Horn football coach William Harris (in visor) speaks with his team following a devastating last-second 28-21 loss to Hogan Prep Saturday at William Chrisman High School.

After coach William Harris and his staff met with their Van Horn football team, sanitized the equipment and visited with family members and friends, Falcons quarterback Sean Mitchell still wanted to talk.

The senior leader had thrown a 98-yard touchdown pass to Da’Marcus Penson to seemingly cap a thrilling Falcons comeback, giving Van Horn a 21-20 lead with 1:27 left in Saturday’s game against Hogan Prep at William Chrisman High School.

He then watched the visiting Rams turn in a 68-yard drive that culminated with a Hail Mary pass from Darrayan Muldrew to Dyimond Walker. The ball bounced off the hands of a Falcon defender and the Rams’ Tevez Johnson before Walker grabbed it with just seven seconds left to stun the Falcons with a 28-21 win.

Despite the devastating loss – in which he threw a pair of interceptions before hooking up with Penson for that late touchdown – Mitchell offered to talk to a reporter – and take the blame.

“Right now, I am the weak link in our offense,” Mitchell said. “I need to be a better leader and a better player and I’m putting this loss on me! I owe a better performance to our coaches, my teammates and my school and I’m going to work so hard – so hard this week and the rest of the season – so something like this doesn’t happen again.”

Mitchell was 9 for 19 for 126 yards and ran for a touchdown to help the Falcons build a 14-6 lead before falling behind 20-14. His late touchdown pass tipped off a defender’s fingertips into the hands of Penson, who then outraced Walker to the end zone for what looked to be the game-winning score.

“Sometimes on Friday nights – or Saturday afternoons – magic happens,” said Walker, Hogan’s 6-foot-3, 170-pound junior receiver who stole the spotlight Saturday. “This is the kind of win you dream about. It was our coach’s (Phil Lascuola) 200th win and we wanted to get it for him bad, real bad. Darrayan threw the ball in the end zone and it bounced off a few guys and bounced to me. What a feeling, what a great feeling, to catch that game winning touchdown! It’s all for Coach and my teammates.”

The Falcons (3-1) got off to a crowd-pleasing start thanks to electrifying Van Horn receiver Arlandes Mitchell.

He took a reverse handoff and ran for a 57-yard touchdown with six minutes left in the first quarter to give the Falcons a 7-0 lead.

Hogan Prep cut it to 7-6 when Johnson scored on a 3-yard run early in the second period and a two-point conversion run failed.

Mitchell sent the Falcons into halftime with a 14-6 lead as he scored on a 44-yard run and kicked his second extra point of the night with 4:44 left in the first quarter.

At 2:14 of the third quarter, Hogan’s Walker caught a 41-yard touchdown and Jabyron Hollis caught a two-point conversion pass to tie it at 14-all.

Walker’s 20-yard touchdown reception gave Hogan a 20-14 lead with just 22 seconds left in the third quarter. The two-point run failed and that set the stage for the exciting finish.

Following Walker’s third touchdown reception of the night, Muldrew hooked up with Anthony Winters for the two-point pass play.

Van Horn hurt itself with nine turnovers – seven fumbles and the two interceptions.

Harris said those are problems that can be fixed.

“With nine turnovers, I feel like we beat ourselves – although Hogan played a great game, especially No. 7 (Walker),” Harris said. “Turnovers – those are problems you can fix. Our defense is young and it’s going to keep getting better as the season goes on.

“And our guys work – they work hard – and we’re going to start working on getting better tomorrow.”

As Harris talked about the game, his 2-year-old son Braeden came down from the fans and caught his father’s attention. As the coach lifted him over the fence, he received a big hug.

“I don’t like losing,” the coach said, as Braden held onto his father and wouldn’t let go. “I hate losing more than I enjoy winning, but this (his son’s presence) makes it a little easier after a tough loss.

“Win or lose, this guy is going to love me!”