Stafford Rallies Late To Best Albemarle

Stafford rallies late to best Albemarle

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For video highlights from this game, click here.

Everything looked like it had come together for Albemarle after three quarters of relative disappointment.

Thanks to a 35-yard touchdown pass from Peyton Alley to Matt Crist, the Patriots had the lead and five minutes to hang on. The previous three quarters, the Albemarle defense did just that, hang on as only one player, Stafford receiver Da’shawn Harris, truly hurt them. But a three-minute 30 second drive that included a long reception to Harris and then a pass interference call on third and long put the Indians in scoring position late. Quarterback Billy Bolinski then made a play out of what looked like a tackle for a loss to put Stafford ahead with 89 seconds to go. An interception just moments later sealed Albemarle’s fate as they fell to their visitors, 28-22.

“I think you have to give Albemarle credit because they never quit and came back to get the lead,” said Stafford coach Chad Lewis. “So I was extremely proud of the way the offensive line played, everyone executed and as I told the kids, that was a championship drive down there with three minutes. We went for it on fourth and one (in the fourth) and didn’t get it, not my best call, and Billy was the one with it and I knew that’s why he got that last touchdown. He was upset at himself.”

The game did not start well for Albemarle as while they took a 3-point lead on a field goal thanks to a 27-yard run from Niko Troche, Harris picked up his two touchdowns on the night on the next two Stafford drives. Harris pealed off an 80-yard run on the first play from scrimmage after the field goal, and then hauled in a 37-yard bomb from Bolinksi to make it 14-3.

“Harris played his first year of football for us last year,” Lewis said. “He’s still got a lot to learn but he brings so much to the table athletically.”

The Patriots found a way to climb back into it though and it began with an interception from Crist. Behind Drake Bryant, Albemarle rumbled into scoring position before the running back punched in a 1-yarder to make it 14-10. That was the score going into the break, but Albemarle left some points on the field, failing to score on fourth and goal from the 1-yard line and having a short field goal blocked, although holder Alley recovered it and was a tackle away from running it in for a touchdown.

Nothing got going on either side offensively in the third quarter, but early in the fourth, a keeper from Bolinski made it 21-10 for Stafford. Albemarle regrouped and went on a long drive highlighted by a Crist reception for 21 yards, and immediately dropped on a helmet-to-helmet hit which went uncalled and left him on the ground in a scary moment. Receiver A.J. Willy then put the Patriots in position to score on a 20-yard reception and soon there after, Josh Letteri punched in a 1-yard rushing touchdown to cut it 21-16.

“One thing we were really proud of was that the effort did not stop,” said Patriots coach Mike Alley. “They continued to support each other and fought back. It’s just unfortunate that it ended the way it did.”

Albemarle took its first lead since the first quarter on its next possession with Crist coming back into the game and hauling in a 35-yard strike with five minutes to go.

However, Stafford’s final drive made the difference with Harris’ big play followed by the interference call and Bolinski’s trucking rushing touchdown.

“(Not getting the stop on third and long) changed the whole momentum of the game,” Alley said. “It’s unfortunate that it comes down to a judgment call like there where no one can say who was right or wrong. That was tough to swallow.”

Stafford (3-4, 3-3 Commonwealth District) next travels to Mountain View on Friday at 7 p.m.

Albemarle (1-5, 1-4) lost its third game by nine points or fewer and heads to North Stafford also on Friday at 7 p.m.

“We’re a better team than our record says and it’s evident if you come watch us,” Alley said.

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