Juniors win Powder Puff Classic
Ken McLemore, Hope Public Schools

HOPE – Shakira Ellis’ kickoff return for a touchdown with 1:27 left in the game sealed the deal this year for the Hope High School Junior Class Girls.

The Juniors won the annual Powder Puff Football Classic, 14-13, pitting their running attack against a late-game passing offense for the Seniors.

“It’s a mess,” HHS Student Council Advisor Lena VanCamp said with a knowing smile.

And, indeed, it took both squads a couple of possessions to figure things out, before the Juniors struck. After the Seniors won the toss, they sputtered against the Junior defense and gave up the ball on downs; while the Juniors seemed to get their act together as the initial half ticked away.

Relying on an outside running game, the Juniors hit paydirt first on a long sprint down the left side to make it 8-0 after a quarterback keeper for the points after.

Cranking up their passing game, the Seniors moved the ball on their next two possessions but couldn’t convert; until, late in the first stanza, when Ajah Criner turned on the speed on a blinding cut against the grain to carry the ball to the 10-yard line for the Seniors. It was, perhaps, that point of ball control that put the Seniors on the scoreboard on the next play; but, their point after was no good, putting them behind 8-6 at the half.

It was also the Juniors’ day at halftime, as the younger squad’s coaches and “cheerleaders” bested the Senior squad’s play callers in a tug-of-war that could have gone either way until the Juniors put the upper-classmen’s lead off-balance and pulled away.

The Seniors’ defense stepped up early in the second half, breaking up a shift to a passing attack by the Juniors, after they took the kick-off for a loss.

Defense was the name of the game in the second half, until the Seniors’ passing gelled for a go-ahead score up the middle, and quarterback Payton Belasco seemed to ice the game with a point after conversion at the 1:28 mark.

But, the Juniors would not be denied.

With the clock draining at the kick-off, Ellis took the ball deep in Junior territory tearing down the left sideline, then cutting back inside, before taking the ball back outside to the corner of the end zone for the upset TD.

The Juniors went nuts.

And, with no time outs remaining, the Seniors could not recover quickly enough before the final buzzer.

The announced squad for the winning Junior Class included coaches Lawrence Scott, Devron Collins, and Kadarius Munn; Junior “cheerleaders” LaCarols Johnson and Blake Rook; cheer coach Alissa Lewis, and players Summer Pauley, Sydney Watson, Taharia Woodbury, Lisbeth Bello, Ameiah Trotter, Tia Corbett, Darnesha Vickers, Leenetta Conways, Gianni Trotter, Tatyanna Smith, Emily Leyva, Shakira Ellis, Jennifer Juarez, and Stormy Easttum.

The announced team for the Senior Class included coaches Josh Witherspoon, Isaiah Glover and Desmond Johnson; Senior “cheerleaders” Jesse Hernandez, Mason Henley, Mario Valdez, and Andrew Washington; and, cheer coaches Gabby Cheatham, Lakin Hulett, and Grayson Miles. Senior players included Caitlin Mullins, Lilly Alba, K’nyza Horton, Bridgette Nash-Harris, Payton Belasco, Kaiyla Welch, Nakya Griffin, Danyelle Jordan, Ashley Rodden, Lakendra Moss, Michaela Minefee, Shelby Smith, A’lecia Conway, Tycorianna Briggs, A’Raevia Conway, Caitlyn Wright, Judith Artis, LaMia Maxfield, Ka’Meisha Conway, Ajah Criner, and Skylar Howard.