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Blue Devils Take Prep League Title
Blue Devils take Prep League title
It’d been four years since the last time Fork Union had beaten Woodberry Forest, and the added bonuses in this season’s meeting between these two rivals was that not only was the Prep League Championship on the line, but it was also coach Micky Sullivan’s last home game at the helm for the Blue Devils. In all three facets of the game, FUMA had its way and as such the Blue Devils finished up their regular season on the highest note possible with a 42-14 victory over the Tigers.
“This is a good win for us – Prep League Champions, that was one of our goals, a nice one,” Sullivan said. “So we get to put that up on our board and now we’re working on one more and that’s the state championship. It was a great defensive effort. Offensively, we were physical and had to be.”
With the defense giving up just 224 yards of offense and creating four turnovers, the Blue Devils offense got to spend the majority of the game on the field. FUMA was balanced with running back Nick King setting the tone early and quarterback Christian Hackenberg and his receivers taking care of the scoring load, connecting four times in the endzone.
“I think we took advantage of some man coverage, and most of the big plays were in third and long situations,” Hackenberg said. “Our front five did a great job. They saw what they had in front of them and did what they had to and just had a great day. The dink and dunk sort of opened the fade and the post so I think we had great play calling.”
And the icing on the cake was a pair of special teams touchdowns on back-to-back punt blocks between the third and fourth quarters.
Early on both teams traded punts, but a fumble midway through the first set up FUMA with a short field. Hackenberg’s first of four touchdowns came soon thereafter on a 15-yard strike to Austin Stone, the first of his two TDs.
“They were moving the safety help over to Chrystian Brown and giving me the slant, so we just took that,” Stone said.
Midway through the second, the Blue Devils took a 14-0 advantage as Hackenberg hit Brown for a 32-yard touchdown as he extended his arms into the endzone while being tackled.
Woodberry had one big scoring chance in the first half as quarterback Hunter Ethridge and running back H.T. Minor worked their way downfield to first and goal. But on third and goal from the 3-yard line Jaujan Eady forced a fumble that teammate Brett Seigal recovered to end the threat.
“I think that was the turning point in the game,” said FUMA’s leading tackler for the game, senior T.J. Dudley. “They had some momentum there and I think if they’d have scored it might have been a different game. But our defense is relentless.”
The third quarter belong to FUMA with Hackenberg hitting both Stone and Brown again to make it 28-0. Stone’s 11-yard score came first four minutes into the frame and another four minutes alter, Brown hauled in a bomb for 42 yards.
“We kind of just got in a grove there and Hack just was putting the ball on the Money,” Brown said.
The Tigers broke up the shutout on the next play from scrimmage as Ty Abdul Karim took the ensuing kickoff 96 yards to the house to trim the Fork Union lead to 21. But the Blue Devils answered with a pair of special teams touchdowns starting with a blocked punt by Gavin Marks at the end of the third and then another punt blocked and recovered by Dudley. Perhaps no play better defined the Tigers frustrating day than a successful fake punt in the second half that they converted easily for a first down despite being deep in their own end, but fumbled away.
“I was worried that this (kind of game) could happen to us over here and it did,” said Woodberry coach Clint Alexander. “When you play a team like this and can’t get any pass rush for whatever reason you want to put on it, you’re not going to beat them.”
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Tigers offense went on its lone scoring drive with quarterback Chris Zaytoun finding Trent Ragland for a 17-yard TD reception.
The Tigers (6-3) do not participate in the post season and will finish up their year with their annual finale with Episcopal on Saturday at 2 p.m.
“We’ll rally – I told the kids that (this game) does not define who they are,” Alexander said.
Etheridge, Minor and James Hewell finished with 48, 42 and 46 yards respectively on a combined 29 carries. Greer Martini led Woodberry’s defensive effort with nine tackles. Doug Randolph added four including one for a loss.
Hackenberg finished the game with 197 yards on 14 of 27 passing. Stone had four catches for 47 yards while Brown had four for 108 yards. King had 133 yards on the ground on 20 carries, including a 57-yard sprint in the first quarter. On defense, Dudley led the way with 10 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Fellow linebacker Dondre Wright had six tackles and an interception. Safety Malcolm also recovered a fumble.
With a healthy crowd of former players and colleagues in attendance, this was Sullivan’s last game as head coach on the FUMA campus and with the clock winding down he was ambushed with an ice bath.
“Those kind of wins don’t come along often,” Sullivan said. “It’s been a while since we beat Clint and he’s got a great football program and great team and you never take away anything from them. This was a big game for us and important and our kids played like it.”
After the game a banquet was held where Sullivan was greeted by all those who played with him, played for him or worked for him.
“Those things are really special to me,” Sullivan said. “(You look back) and all I did was do what I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve got the greatest job and I’m the luckiest guy around.”
The Blue Devils (9-2) advance to the VISAA Division 1 playoffs and will await their opponent, either Benedictine, Flint Hill or Collegiate depending on Saturday’s result. With the second seed, FUMA will host one of those three at Fluvanna County High on Friday at 7 p.m.