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15 BLUE RIDGE

FOOTBALL COMES OUT ON TOP

scrımmageplay THE CENTRAL VIRGINIA SPORTS AUTHORITY

Out in front Looking back at Albemarle’s remarkable breakthrough season. PAGE 07

VOL 8. ISSUE 5 :: NOVEMBER 23, 2016


# F or k U n i on S trong

Student Profiles: Jacob Grabeel Jacob Grabeel is a rock solid baseball player, earning all-state honors as a junior while also earning an opportunity to play for Bridgewater College after he graduates from Fork Union. But Grabeel has thrown himself into life at Fork Union in a much bigger way beyond his baseball career. Since arriving at Fork Union, the Orange County native has pursued opportunities at FUMA within the school’s leadership development program. Grabeel, now a senior, is the company commander of Bravo Company, in charge of Fork Union’s junior class. “It’s an honor to do it because you’re preparing your peers for what you’ve been preparing for the last four years,” Grabeel said. “The commandant’s department gives you their trust in what your decision-making and leadership are.” That trust is built over time, with Grabeel excelling over the last three years in order to earn that rank and responsibility through the academy’s meritocracy. It’s not an easy path, but Grabeel knows how to work hard as he’s proven both on the diamond and in leadership development. That’s opportunity meeting preparation, and it’s going to serve Grabeel well well beyond his years at FUMA or Bridgewater. It’s clear he’s preparing for life.

Fork Union Military Academy is the leading Christian military boarding school for boys in grades 7 - 12 and PG. www.forkunion.com — 1-800-GO-2-FUMA


15 BLue Ridge

FOOtBALL cOmes Out On tOp

scrımmageplay the central virginia sports authority

x’s and o’s

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FOCUSED Putting AHS football’s season in perspective

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HILLTOPPERS Blue Ridge football wraps up championship

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GAME TIME Covenant field hockey wins state title

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THE LAST CALL Dealing with a season’s end

Out in front VOL 8 . ISSUE 5 :: NOVEMBER 23, 2016

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IN TANDEM Woodberry football ends an era

vol 8. issue 5 :: november 23, 2016

Looking back at Albemarle’s remarkable breakthrough season. page 07

S TA F F Bart Isley, Creative Director Bob Isley, Infrastructure Director Ryan Yemen, Creative Editor O N T H E COV E R Albemarle’s Jamal Thompson M I S S I O N S TAT E M E N T Local sports are the lifeblood of every community in America, and we’re here to reach beyond the basics and give compelling accounts about Central Virginia athletes to our readers. CO N TAC T U S [ e ] info@scrimmageplay.com [ p ] 434-249-2032

Community Partnership

Working hand in hand with Red Shoes Cville to support the Ronald McDonald House of Charlottesville. Choose the Red Shoes Cville special at www.papajohns.com


PREGAME

Through traffic Covenant’s Lizzy Shim works her way through Cape Henry Collegiate’s defense during the VISAA Division 2 championship. The Eagles took down the Dolphins 2-0 behind a pair of goals from the VISAA D2 player of the year in Shim. It’s the first state championship for Covenant in field hockey. To read more about the win flip over to page 19. ✖ (Photo by Bart Isley)

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ALTER EGOS Gary Vaclavicek FireFighter Gary Vaclavicek has earned a nickname in CATEC’s Firefighting Program from Captain Bobby Elliott, the program’s lead instructor. “He calls me chief,” Vaclavicek said. “I was trying to help keep people in line and it just kind of stuck. He’s been trying to help me develop responsibility and leadership.” Vaclavicek has proven up to the task according to Elliott. “He presents the leadership skills needed to be successful in the fire service and in life,” Elliott said. Vaclavicek has drawn parallels between what he does in the firefighting program and the challenges he faces as a wrestler at his base school, Monticello. “You have to know what you’re doing when you’re firefighting and also on the wrestling mat you can’t just do things halfway,” Elliott said. “That applies to firefighting as well because you have to know what’re you’re doing so you stay safe, everyone around you stays safe.”

College Track students taking an early step in their career

To learn more about the firefighting program at CATEC and check out a photo gallery of the students in action, click this page.

www.catec.org

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First Quarter In tandem

Stone and Alexander eras come to an end at Woodberry By Ryan Yemen

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Woodberry Forest’s Lindell Stone wrapped up his football career for the Tigers. (Ashley Thornton)

{ AIR WOODBERRY } Stone’s career passing yards by year

3,380 3,494

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498 M AN KFRESH AR A EL DER K AR A EL DER

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oodberry Forest knew coming into the 2016 season that quarterback Lindell Stone would be putting a wrap on his high school career. What the Tigers did not know was that their coach, Clint Alexander, would be ending his run with the program too.

So before the season began, Alexander turned to his senior quarterback and tried to give him an indication of what was going on around the program. “I kind of hinted at him,” Alexander said. “I threw my arm around him when we were playing early ball and said ‘How about you and I go ride off in the sunset together this year.’ He looked and then when we made the announcement, he really knew what I meant.” Two weeks into the season the Tigers announced that the 2016 would officially be Alexander’s last year with the team after 12 seasons. And while that news dominated, and justifiably so, any conversation when it came to Woodberry football, the season and career that Stone put together almost got lost in the mix. When you factor in that Stone split time with Hunter Etheridge and Christian Zaytoun during his freshman year and then missed a big chunk of his sophomore year after breaking his collar bone, the career numbers that the University of Virginia commit put together carry even more weight. Those first two years at Woodberry, Stone combined to go 74-for-107 passing with 890 yards and 10 touchdowns through the air. The next to years? Try 454-for-693 with 6,874 yards and 77 passing touchdowns and against a revamped schedule that included more than a handful of out-of-state powers. With 7,764 yards and 87 passing touchdowns, Stone owns the Scrimmage Play area record for passing yards in the area by 1,292 yards and the touchdown record by 12, with

both previously held by former Blue Ridge standout Chad Byers (Class of 2008). But the numbers from just his junior and senior year would have been good enough to pass Byers’ record by 402 yards and just one TD off of the record. So it’s not just a career we’re not likely to see again like Stone’s from a Central Virginia quarterback anytime soon, it’s a two-year run of pure off the chart numbers that might never be replicated in this area. “These last few years, it’s something I think will live forever in Woodberry Forest football history,” Stone said. “All these guys, we’re Woodberry men now. It’s sad to be going out but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I think this program is leaving a legacy behind where it might not be able to be duplicated. Coach Alexander has left his mark, we’ve left our mark as players and we’re glad to be going out with him.” Of course if you’re Stone, none of that stuff mattered without winning his final game at Woodberry and sending off Alexander with the best win possible, a victory of an unbeaten Episcopal squad. The Tigers got just that, defeating the Maroon, 34-21. With Alexander finishing up with a record of 80-31-1 at Woodberry and the Tigers putting together a 32-5-1 mark during Stone’s 4-year tenure at the school, the two have set the bar impossibly high for those stepping into their shoes. ✖

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For more football coverage head over to our website at: www.scrimmageplaycva.com


College Update

We’ve gone digital

Fluvanna’s Miller finishes strong at Christopher Newport

But you can have it in print too!

By Ryan Yemen She was a 4-year force at Fluvanna County and managed to be just that at Christopher Newport. Hannah Miller, the All-Scrimmage Play volleyball player of the year in 2012, wrapped up her collegiate volleyball career this fall by making the Capital Athletic Conference team for the fourth straight year, with three of those honors coming as a first team nomination. Miller started in every game she played this fall. The senior middle blocker finished with 279 klls, good for second on the team behind outside hitter Maddie McCann. Spread over 30 matches, that worked out to a steady 2.79 kills per set for the Palmyra native, also good for second on the team. She was fourth in CAC with her hitting percentage of .291. Defensively, Miller had 10 5-block games that help pace her to an 111 blocks on years, giving her three 100-block seasons with the Captains. Miller was also outstanding at the service line where she finished with a .940 serving percentage.

On the year, CNU finished with a 25-10 record and went 7-2 in CAC play. The Captains finished as runners up in the CAC tournament to Mary Washington. The strong regular season finished earned CNU a spot in the NCAA Region Championships and it was there that the Captains’ 2016 campaign came to an end with a 3-1 loss to Johns Hopkins. After the season came to an end, Miller earned her third straight American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American honor. She is just the second player in program history to ever have accomplished that feat. Miller’s 446 career blocks are good for second in school history, her 1,193 kills are seventh best and her .295 hitting percentage sixth highest. The Captains played in fourth straight NCAA tournaments during Miller’s time with the school including a Regional Title in 2014. Between her high school career Fluvanna County and what followed at Christopher Newport, Miller set quite the standard. ✖

HOW TO GET A PHYSICAL COPY OF SCRIMMAGE PLAY Step 1 :: Click here and head to the MagCloud version of the magazine. It’s going to look like this below:

BELOW » Former Fluvanna standout Hannah Miller led the Captains for four consecutive NCAA volleyball tournament appearances. (Christopher Newport Sports Information)

Step 2 :: Click the Buy Print button next to the magazine and follow instructions to order Step 3 :: Wait patiently by your mailbox Step 4 :: When it arrives, take it out and read or stash away to your heart’s delight!

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FOCUSED story by ryan yemen Photos by Tom Pajewski and Ryan Yemen 07 :: @scrimmageplay


in

THE IMMEDIATE AFTERMATH OF Albemarle’s Region 5A North playoff loss to Potomac Falls, third year coach Brandon Isaiah stood looking over his team. He was quiet, his players were obviously shaken by the loss and emotional. Teshawn Massie was one of the last players to join the huddle and while Isaiah was collecting his thoughts, Massie stepped up to break the ice. “Pick your heads up,” the senior linebacker said. It drew a quick smile from Isaiah and he asked Massie to say it again and to say it louder. That moment allowed Isaiah and the Patriots to get out of the what-ifs that follow any playoff loss and to put some proper perspective on the kind of season that Albemarle put together in 2016. “You think about any player that’s a part of a loss like this, we’re all human and it’s easy to walk around and think you’ve been cheated of something,” Isaiah said. “But I’m proud to see one of them come out and say that, to let everyone know that they need to keep their head up and be proud of what they’ve done. Teshaun, it didn’t surprise me that it came from him. He’s a kid that’s put in so much work for this program. He’s been through a lot as a man. That moment, it meant a lot to me because I know how much he’s been through. I feel like he got it, he gets what we’ve been trying to teach them all.” www.scrimmageplay.com ::

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With a 9-3 record overall and the program’s first playoff victory since 1997, what the Patriots accomplished this year is something that won’t and should not be forgotten anytime soon. “There was nothing to be ashamed about,” Massie said. “Coach BI taught us better than that. We have nothing to worry about if we leave it all out on the field.” Because after all, when it comes to any magical runs, there’s always a valley before the peak. Four games into the season, Albemarle stood at 2-2, at a crossroads. Seemingly every week the Patriots found themselves at another pivotal intersection. And for nearly two months this program ascended for seven straight weeks behind a strong group of seniors, led by Jamal Thompson on offense and Zykal Foster and Massie on defense, and a barrage of promising underclassmen.

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Every Friday we came out as a family knowing that we had to ball. - thompson

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With two straight wins following a loss to a very good Brookville team, Albemarle hit the road to face then unbeaten Louisa County on September 23. The Patriots got a heavy serving of humble pie in the first half of that game, something they could not overcome that night. However, comebacks became the theme for Albemarle going forward and after a 35-13 win over Orange County to get back over .500, the Patriots were on the road at Charlottesville down 18-0. The week of practice was different for Albemarle before the Charlottesville game. Isaiah took time off to care for his daughter Madison Taylor Isaiah, who had just been born that Tuesday. With trust in his assistants to get the job done, he turned things over to his staff, everything. “The way I was raised, when you believe in something you go all in,” Isaiah said. “I hired all those guys and I believe in all their talents, abilities and love them like brothers. So they made me really proud. And what they did didn’t surprise me, I was just happy to see them do what they did. And for us to get a win, that was a big moment, not just for our staff but for this football program.” Yes the Patriots trailed 18-0, but with 26 unanswered points, this team proved that no opposition’s lead was safe and that Albemarle, equipped with a balanced offense and a balanced defense, was up to the task of grinding out wins. “That game is always at the midpoint of the season and the last three years it’s always come down to the last possession,” Isaiah said. “Obviously when you have guys like J’quan, Jamal and Zykal, guys that always make plays, pretty soon you start believing in yourself. That’s the thing we love as coaches. When you’re in those situations and see the guys figure things out and grow.” After cruising past Fluvanna County to improve to 5-2, Albemarle hit the road for another primetime matchup, a meeting with a physical Powhatan team that was sitting at 6-1. The two teams went blow-for-blow with each other. Quarterback J’Quan Anderson and running back Jamal Thompson carried the Patriots on offense as they tried the counter the Indians’ vaunted ground game led by Justin DeLeon. And when Anderson ran into the endzone on an 8-yard bootleg with 4:59 left to play, the Patriots had a 35-28 lead that their defense would not surrender. “Every Friday we came out as a family knowing that we had to ball,” Thompson said. “That’s what we wanted to do each week and we were able to for a while there.” It was a win that propelled Albemarle to the top of the JD


ACADEMIC EDGE

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M I L I TA R Y

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F L U VA N N A C O U N T Y ’ S S O P H I E K E R S H N E R

Mention Sophie Kershner’s name around coaches or teachers at Fluvanna and they start gushing. “She makes people feel at ease and is always willing to help,” said volleyball coach Christi Harlowe-Garrett. It’s understandable. In addition to being a captain of the volleyball squad for the Flucos, Kershner carries a 4.278 GPA and is one of the top ranked students in her class. She’s also the Student Government Association president, a founding member of the Political Awareness Club and captain of the scholastic Bowl squad. She was also a delegate at Girls State and if that wasn’t enough, Kershner’s city at girls state won the Model City award, the program’s highest honor. That’s Kershner though. Whatever she seems to pursue she performs at such a high level and is able to bring teammates and those around her along with her, a true leader. “She truly makes people want to be better people just by being herself,” Harlowe-Garrett said.

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standings with Louisa County. And from that moment on, the Patriots had a target on their backs as they looked to finish the year strong and get payback against rivals Monticello and Western Albemarle. In 2015, Albemarle was sitting with exact same 6-2 mark with just the Mustangs and Warriors standing between them and a possible home playoff game. The Patriots finished last year 6-5. But something was a bit different. “We came into the season with more confidence than last year,” Massie said. “After the Louisa game, I mean we got busted in the mouth and could not let that happen again. We came out and everyone was told that every assignment mattered, that you had to be where the coaches wanted you. It was little things too, like coming to practice on time, coming together as a team.” That said, when Monticello, a team that was up 15-14 with 7:28 left on the clock following a 7-yard touchdown run from Jerrick Ayers and ensuing 2-pt convert from Ayers after an Albemarle penalty, it was looking like deja-vu all over again. Behind Thompson’s legs and a big passing play from Anderson to Lorenz Brown, a breakout talent at wide receiver this year, the Patriots were able to set up shop at the goalline. And while the Monticello defense held serve for three downs, Albemarle’s Nick Martsolf was able to deliver an 18-yard field goal with time expiring to deliver a 17-15 victory and keep the Patriots winning streak alive. The win was Albemarle’s first against Monticello since 2013. And as thrilling as the previous two finishes were, the Patriots saved one more for Western Albemarle. While the Patriots rolled to a

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I mean we got busted in the mouth and could not let that happen again. massie

20-7 lead, the Warriors rallied to a 28-27 advantage with 6:25 to go. With 3:06 to play, Albemarle got the opportunity for one last drive and with 13 seconds on the clock, Anderson connected on a 37-yard pass to Brown to give the Patriots a 33-28 lead that stuck. The last second heroics also gave Albemarle an 8-2 record and the fifth seed in the Region 5A North playoffs. There’s a substantial transition that takes place for Albemarle come any postseason for any of its programs. The JD is mostly Group 3A and Group 4A schools save for Orange County, and so jumping


into a 5A tournament can present substantial problems in the early rounds particularly. That was the case last year against North Stafford in the first round of the playoffs. It was not the case against Falls Church in 2016. Behind another monster game from Thompson on the ground, and more of the Anderson-to-Brown connection, Albemarle enjoyed its first two-possession victory in more than a month by beating Falls Church 31-21 for the school’s first playoff victory since 1997. Albemarle was up by as much as 28-14 before the Jaguars tried mounting a comeback. The Patriots’ defense came up with a red zone turnover on downs while the lead was at seven and Martsolf put things out of reach with a 22-yard field goal. The game was never in doubt during the fourth quarter,the Patriots’ first comfortable win since facing Fluvanna on October 14. Albemarle’s second round meeting with Potomac Falls will be talked about for quite some time by the Patriots fans who were there and the others still trying to figure out what happened late in the second quarter. While Albemarle was struggling on offense, its defense was keeping it in the game. An interception by Kris Anderson — a sophomore defensive back who was another breakout player for the Patriots this year — in the redzone negated one scoring drive for Potomac, and with the game at 15-0 in favor of the home team, Albemarle got an opportunity to make things interesting late in the second quarter. With the Panthers driving and looking to take a three possession lead, Na’il Arnold came up with a 1-handed interception

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I want my younger brothers to come out of this and go and win the region next year. - massie

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at the goalline and returned it the Albemarle 35. With timeouts to play with and just over a minute to play until the break, J’Quan Anderson and Thompson worked their way down field before Tyquan Rose was able to set up first and goal with 12 seconds to go. And in that moment with officials trying to spot the ball, Anderson allegedly bumped into the head official which drew a flag and immediate disqualification. The suddenness and seemingly innocent bump left Isaiah, his staff and especially Anderson confounded. After the dust settled, the Patriots were unable to cash in and make it a one possession game again. And while the Albemarle defense continued to answer the call as it held the Panthers to just one second score, a long drive midway through the fourth quarter that wrapped things up at 22-0 for Potomac Falls. So there Albemarle was in its huddle following the loss. Massie’s message helped quell the disappointment. Isaiah’s message that followed was straight forward — that Anderson’s loss was only a drop in the bucket of that game, that the Patriots had the talent on both sides of the ball to still win that game. And of course the greater message was that the Class of 2017, from Massie to Thompson to Rose to Brown to Foster and more, that they had set the bar to new heights from when they first started playing for Isaiah three years ago. “He is a father figure to us, just wants us to be successful,” Thompson said. “He talks to you everyday, tells you what you have to do. He’s just a man that you have to look up to. He’s more than a coach.” Now with the amazing season this fall officially over, it is up to the underclassmen returning, from J’Quan Anderson to Kris Anderson to Stephen Yoder to Brock Shorten to Arnold to an entire offensive line and so many more, to find a way to take things a step further in 2017. “This season means a lot, but I want my younger brothers to come out of this and go and win the region next year,” Massie said. “We set the bar high but they can take it higher.” This 2016 season will long be remembered for all the streaks, the droughts broken, the thrilling finishes. Isaiah message is clearly resonating as the Patriots have gone from a 3-7 team in 2014, to a 6-5 playoff squad in 2015 to JD champions and playoff game winners this year. So while it’s a long offseason between now and the start of training camp in July, the Patriots can stop worrying about what could have been and start focusing what could be going forward. Call it coach speak, but that’s literally all the Patriots can control, what happens next. “We obviously have a lot to look forward to,” Isaiah said. “But honestly, we just didn’t want this year to end. But we’ll move forward and get excited about all that we’ve accomplished.” Massie was absolutely right in that postgame huddle. The Patriots should hold their heads high, they’ve raised the bar. ✖


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HILLTOPPERS STORY AND PHOTOS BY BART ISLEY

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CAMELBACK HILL

Camelback Hill rises up on Blue Ridge’s campus as a direct challenge. Are you going to be willing to put in the work? To survive its rigors and pay the necessary price? It’s a proving ground for Blue Ridge’s football team, the site of a lot of workouts and drills and a place where senior Jahlil Puryear has spent a lot of time over the last four years. “It’s right on the side of the football field, right by the American flag,” Puryear said. “It’s a lot of crabbing, backpedaling, everything they can think of.”

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“HE CAME OVER AND SAID ‘FOUR YEARS’ AND THAT’S WHEN I BURT OUT IN TEARS. I REALLY WANTED THIS CHAMPIONSHIP. THIS IS A REAL BIG MOMENT FOR US.” — PURYEAR

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Getting to the top of that hill over and over again is part of what helped the Barons get to the top of the mountain in 2016 as Blue Ridge won the VISAA Division II state title, going 9-2 and romping in the state final to the tune of a 41-14 victory over North Cross to cap an eight-game win streak to close out the year after a 1-2 start. The work that went into climbing that hill is why Puryear broke down as the two teams went to shake hands after the final, overcome with the effort and commitment he’d put in to help push the Barons back to a state championship for the first time in four years. When the only other teammate who’d been at Blue Ridge with him during that entire time, Jarad Chouai, found Puryear, his message was simple. “He came over and said ‘four years’ and that’s when I burst out in tears,” Puryear said. “I really wanted this championship. This is a real big moment for us.” Puryear entered Blue Ridge in 2013, joining a program that was coming off a state championship and had high expectations. But it’s not easy to repeat, and Blue Ridge has a unique set of challenges as a boarding school that most of the other schools in VISAA’s Division II don’t face. Each year, Blue Ridge’s staff has to work on a short timetable to bring together a diverse group of students with a variety of different backgrounds in both football and life, and that isn’t always easy. It wasn’t easy in 2013, when the Barons went 3-6. It wasn’t easy in 2014 when they went 2-7 in Tim Thomas’ first season at the helm. It’s not easy to stick around when you’ve got choices like Puryear did, but he stayed in part because he knew Thomas and company had his back. He trusted that his hard work was going to pay off on the field. As he grew into a formidable, run-stuffing linebacker and for a couple of years filled a crucial spot on the offensive line, he kept plugging away with the program. “Coach Thomas kept telling me it’s going to be better each year and kept pushing me to stay and keep the team pushing and going,” Puryear said. All the while, the Barons were adding pieces to the puzzle. There’s Josh Colon, the basketball point guard turned speedy wide receiver and steady defensive back. There’s Oscar Palin, the rock up front who gave the Barons a foundational piece in the trenches. There was last year’s arrival of Justin Armwood, the quarterback and linebacker from North Carolina who is dangerous on the ground and with his arm. There’s Nazir Hopson, another leader in the secondary who emerged earlier this year as a calming force for a defense that occasionally let their emotions get the best of them. This year they added Matoaca transfer Jamison Harrison, an absolute force at running back. They also picked up two-way players Xavier Kane and Cameron Carr who combined to make the Barons’ secondary borderline impossible to throw on consistently. Carr picked off nine passes this year and Kane stepped in at quarterback any number of times in relief of Armwood, adding an added dimension with a big arm and elusive speed. Tariq Gough came over from Buckingham County and was a difference-maker in the state title game with two defensive touchdowns. Bringing that entire group together on a short timetable with little familiarity with each other is a challenge. Blue Ridge has added the eight-man junior varsity program to try and combat that lack of consistency, but some of that is baked in as a boarding school. Each team is going to be an entirely unique challenge.


“The continuity thing is hard at Blue Ridge because you’ve got guys coming and going,” Thomas said. “We’re trying to build a program, keep them interested, keep them involved and take care of them.” But the Barons needed more than a few pieces. Football requires strength in numbers, at least some amount of depth, to be successful. They’ve had to develop players, give them roles to play and bring younger players along quickly, like Jack McLiney, a sophomore who gave Puryear a running-mate at linebacker and wreaked havoc as a run-stopper, particularly late in the season. As a team they had to find a cohesive identity, and right around the start of their winning streak, they did that, taking a page from the 2012 state championship team. That year with Thomas as an assistant, the Barons rode a strong ground game and a stingy defense to the championship. Shortly after Blue Ridge’s early season loss to their eventual title game foe North Cross, they adapted that formula with a twoheaded monster in the backfield. Whether it’s Armwood from the quarterback slot or Jamison Harrison at running back, the Barons fed whoever had the hot hand out of their zone read scheme, pounding away at the middle or the edges of a defensive front seven. Armwood averaged 7.5 yards per touch and was particularly dangerous picking his way through the heart of a defense like when he took a quarterback sneak 53 yards to the house against Trinity Episcopal. He’s slick, crafty and efficient, often getting up field quickly with a single decisive cut. Harrison is absurdly dynamic as Atlantic Shores found out in the state semifinals when he rushed for 342 yards. He crossed the 1,000-yard barrier against North Cross in the title game and when the Barons were able to set the edge against the Raiders he made North Cross pay, scoring twice, including a diving first quarter sprint. The Barons’ offensive line isn’t big and overpowering, but they’re a tough, hard-nosed bunch, and they know with Harrison coming through they only need a crease or a crack to get the Richmondnative through to the second level. The defense followed, leaning on the Barons’ athleticism and ability to read offenses instead of blitzing constantly. Pressure came largely from beating the man in front of them one-on-one and that helped limit big plays by the opposition all the way to the title game, where with a little help from some howling winds, they clamped down on explosive North Cross. But none of that would’ve been possible without the work that foundational players like Puryear put in over the last few years, setting a tone that helped new additions blend in and find a home quickly and painlessly, melding into a team. Or, perhaps, something beyond a team. “It’s a family atmosphere, we keep preaching brotherhood to them,” Thomas said. That family, that brotherhood won a title Saturday, making good on the potential that was clear from the start. “We lived up to the hype,” Hopson said. “That’s all it was.” Maybe it’s that simple, but it didn’t come easy. It came from taking on challenges head on, coming together as a team under unique circumstances and executing when the time came. It came from sprinting and backpedaling and crabbing up a hill called Camelback again and again and again. ✖

“THE CONTINUITY THING IS HARD AT BLUE RIDGE BECAUSE YOU’VE GOT GUYS COMING AND GOING. WE’RE TRYING TO BUILD A PROGRAM, KEEP THEM INTERESTED, KEEP THEM INVOLVED AND TAKE CARE OF THEM.” — THOMAS

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Game Time

Covenant 2, Cape Henry 0 By Bart Isley

The Eagles celebrate after one of two Lizzy Shim goals to win a state title. (Bart Isley)

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After the state quarterfinals, Covenant star Lizzy Shim made it clear that senior Bunny Gaffney was one player who truly, truly wanted to win a state title. It helped that there were some family bragging rights on the line. Her older brothers Drew and Jay Gaffney won a pair of titles with the Eagles’ boys lacrosse team back in 2014 and 2015. “My brothers had back-to-back state championships,” Gaffney said. “I definitely had to get one.” Saturday, she and the Eagles got their one, the first field hockey state title in school history, with a 2-0 victory over Cape Henry in the VISAA D2 title match at Longwood University, powered by a pair of goals from UVa commitment Lizzy Shim early in the first half. “We put everything into this, we put our lunches into this trying to meet together to figure stuff out,” Shim said. “We put our bodies into this, training, conditioning and trying to eat right. Honestly that pays off and it shows that it does.” The Eagles were aggressive from the start, leaving little doubt in the early proceedings that they were in control just a day after they had to win in an overtime shootout to earn a spot in the final. Shim blasted home goals on two short corners, the first a a direct attack after the Ivy Allen insertion pass, the second a play where Madison Fagan pushed Allen’s insertion to her right to set up another Shim rocket, this time on a reverse chip. “One goal is good, but two goals it fortifies (the idea) that this game is ours, that we’ve got this,” Shim said. “And ultimately it was ours, and I’m just really proud of everyone and all the coaches and everyone that made this possible.” From there, with a 2-0 lead in hand,

Covenant held on tight. “Coach (Annie Gumbs) said after they called timeout after Lizzy’s second goal to just really take your time on all the plays, because we really had the state championship in hand,” Gaffney said. “Even though there were 40 minutes left, we still had it and we were confident.” That confidence showed as the Eagles continued to create chances and repelled the few opportunities that Cape Henry was able to create while Covenant’s midfield dominated the possession game. Eventually the clock melted and the Eagles were champions, completing the mission they’ve been on since falling last year in the state semifinals. That year, a dominant Covenant squad that swept every local opponent it faced, stumbled in the semifinals. Losing just a couple of seniors, albeit important ones, the Eagles regrouped and got locked in this season. A fast start then gave way to a stumble as they lost to Albemarle and tied Western Albemarle, with injuries playing a part in those struggles. But by midseason, with a win over Collegiate at home, Covenant was primed for a title run, culminating in Saturday’s near-flawless performance. “It was really amazing to see our whole team, all the work this season, to have it pay off today,” said senior Maysn Whitten. For Gumbs, it’s a culmination of several years of work by everyone in the program. “A lot of these girls have been on the team for four years and it has been this building process that’s been going on for four years,” Gumbs said. “It’s really, really exciting to finally play in the championship game and come away with a win. They have worked so hard all season long, it’s awesome.” ✖


TEAM SPOTLIGHT MONTICELLO BASEBALL & ALBEMARLE BAND In an exceptional show of two schools coming together, Monticello baseball and the Albemarle Marching Patriots joined forces and volunteered for the American Heart Associations Heart Walk on November 6th. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of all Americans and the Patriots and Mustangs chipped in to try help the AHA raise money to combat the disease. Fantastic work by both schools!

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Overtime

The Last call Breaking the huddle at the end of the season

I

got pulled up to the varsity football team when our junior varsity year was over as a freshman, almost entirely as cannon fodder for practice. A walking, talking smartass tackling dummy for a varsity team that was enjoying a modicum of success in a fledgling program at a brand new school. Despite a sub .500 record, the varsity fought their way into the North Carolina playoffs, and the way that state was seeded then, it meant a nearly two and a half hour drive to a rural county where a buzzsaw awaited the team in the school’s first ever football postseason game. Sure enough, Hertford County’s squad started scoring touchdowns before we could even get off the bus, running some relic offense that the varsity guys weren’t totally ready for in the days before Hudl, when game tapes were exchanged at gas stations midway between schools. Then again, that squad was so good it probably (definitely) wouldn’t have mattered. My dad, even knowing the chances I played were essentially nil barring a catastrophic implosion of the entire roster and the coach not shutting down the game for some reason, got in the car and made the drive. That’s what a lot of parents do. They get in the car, make a drive, sit in the cold on metal bleachers and watch even when they know logically this probably isn’t going to work out so great. On the sideline, some of us who were freshman who’d been listed on the roster four inches taller and 60 pounds heavier than we actually were in an effort to bolster our intimidation appeal I guess, started to discuss whether we were going to get thrown into the fire with the game out of hand. But the looks on a lot of those older players faces as they shuttled in and out of the game while facing a now inevitable fate made it clear -they were going to have to be dragged out of the lineup. I was struck by how hard that loss hit the seniors. It just wasn’t easy for them in that moment, even with all they’d accomplished and for some of them, even though they’d won a state title in basketball the year before, that football loss got to them. They all reacted in their own way, they all handled it differently but it was clear that it hurt. That most of them wouldn’t play football again hit swiftly. I’ve watched a lot of seasons ends since then as a player, a youth sports coach, but mostly as a writer. That last loss always hurts. No matter how much you can see it coming, no matter how much you know that all but a handful of state champions’ seasons don’t end that way, it hurts. There’s so much work and until it’s out of hand or the final whistle blows, there’s always hope that the next few minutes or the next game are going to be a different story. But that last loss, there’s a finality to it. It’s the end of hard work, the end of how you’ve spent months or years spending your time, it’s the end of a career. The latest season I saw end was Madison County’s at the hands of Stuarts Draft, and the Mountaineers’ small roster spent those moments immediately after a final loss like a lot of teams I’ve seen do. They just sort of stood there on the field, with those parents who’d made that journey and sat on the cold bleachers like my dad did, coming out to

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“I was struck by how hard that loss hit the seniors. It just wasn’t easy for them in that moment, even with all they’d accomplished.” lend a shoulder as players processed the end. They hugged each other. There were a few tears, but mostly there was just solemnity, a resigned frustration that they wouldn’t play together like this again. That’s hard to take in the moment, it requires some maturity and sometimes it forces you to grow up a little bit right then. If you can do that, you’ll be able to recognize the sacrifices your teammates made, the brotherhood you’ve often built and the way your community, your coaches or your parents have supported you. Maybe the way you handle it is going to impact a skinny kid on the sideline and make him care a little more the next year he takes the field. There’s light in that moment. Even when it feels pretty dark. ✖

Bart Isley,

CRE ATIVE DIRECTOR

back talk »

What has stuck out to you in the end of a season huddle? bart@scrimmageplay.com


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Volume 8, Issue 5