by Henry Smith
Quarterback Ayhan Yenican threw the winning touchdown to Matt Griffin with 21 seconds remaining to give Stuart a 21-14 win over the Falls Church Jaguars in the final game of the season — the Bell Game.
This marked the first time Stuart had won the rivalry “Bell Game” since 2010.
In his pregame talk to the team, Stuart Head Coach Clarence Martin pointed across the field and said, “You see that, men? That is the bell. That is OUR bell. I want you to see it so after we win tonight, you can run across this field and take it back.”
Stuart’s dramatic victory came Nov. 3 at Falls Church High School.
Stuart built a 14-0 lead in the first half with a 65-yard touchdown pass from Yenican to receiver Elijah Jeffries in the first quarter, and a 1-yard scamper by Jeffries for another score late in the first half. His second touchdown was set up by a 22-yard pass from Yenican to receiver Darius Easley.
Stuart had the momentum at the half, but the Jaguars clawed their way back into the game with two touchdowns in the third quarter. With the score tied 14-14 midway through the fourth quarter, Falls Church seemed to be driving toward a game-winning score. But on fourth down deep in Raider territory, Devin Matthews broke up a pass, giving Stuart possession of the ball with few minutes left in the game.
As the Raiders drove toward their game-winning score, the spirit in the Falls Church stands began to waver. When Stuart scored with 21 seconds left in the game, the home crowd’s enthusiasm diminished to a defeated murmur.
A key play on the winning drive was a 35-yard pass to sophomore Matthews. Several plays later, facing fourth and one, Stuart achieved a key first down when Yenican used a hard count to draw Jaguar linebackers offsides. Griffin’s game-winning reception occurred on the next play.
As the clock hit zero, Stuart players ran to the Falls Church sideline and grabbed their reward — the bell. Fans from the Stuart side stormed the field as well, heightening the spirits of the Raiders. The passionate crowd cheered as the senior football players took turns ringing the bell.