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Western Albemarle’s defense has been getting the job done this year in the Warriors’ toughest tests. The unit posted a pair of shutouts against Monticello and Liberty-Bealeton and held Powhatan to just 10 points.
On Friday, the Warriors’ high-octane offense had to save them. They were up to the task, holding off Charlottesville for a 50-49 shootout victory.
“On the offensive side, our kids did what we needed to do,” said Western coach Ed Redmond. “We got the ball to our playmakers.”
Facing a Charlottesville squad that unleashed a single-wing style power run attack after halftime, Western Albemarle had to match the Black Knights score for score in a showdown of the final two schools that were unbeaten in Jefferson District play. The Black Knights employed an unbalanced line and looked to power past the Warriors, which they did throughout the second half.
“We planned it this week to come out (with it) in the second half knowing they wouldn’t have time to make adjustments to it,” said Charlottesville coach Eric Sherry. “We just thought we could do something with it and it really helped.”
Western simply didn’t have a choice but to take the offense up a notch as Charlottesville erased an early 21-7 deficit and eventually snagged, for a brief moment, a 43-42 lead.
“We never really stopped the single wing (approach),” said quarterback and defensive back Kent Henry.
Henry, as usual, orchestrated that offensive effort, 205 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, including all three second half scores for the Warriors. The area’s leading passer also threw a pair of touchdowns to Daniel Kuzjak and finished with 143 passing yards. Kuzjak, who also had an interception on one of the few defensive stops by either team in the game, finished with 104 yards and the two touchdown catches. But Kuzjak’s most critical play came in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, when a 45-yard catch and run set the table for a 20-yard quarterback keeper by Henry that put Western up 50-43 with 3:53 to play.
Western tried to defend that narrow lead on defense, but Charlottesville stuck with what worked all game long — a heavy dose of Rashard Davis and Chris Thurston on the ground. The Black Knights orchestrated a 13-play, 59-yard drive that alternated between the speedy quarterback (Davis) and the fast, powerful tailback (Thurston). With 10 seconds to play, Davis scrambled after a play broke down inside the 10 and scored to pull Charlottesville within a point at 50-49.
The Black Knights opted to go for the two-point conversion and the win. After a muddle huddle set that showed — briefly — a potential PAT attempt, Davis lined up behind center during a called shift. He took off to his right, seemingly, headed for a run-pass option, but threw back across the formation to set up a potential screen. The ball fell to the ground, ending, realistically, Charlottesville’s hopes.
The Black Knights, however, recovered an initial attempt at an onsides kick, but were called offsides. Western’s Isaiah Cowan easily corralled the re-do and Western took a knee to run out the remaining time.
Davis was electric throughout, and finished with 293 yards and three touchdowns on the ground on 19 touches — bolstered significantly by a 90-yard touchdown run in the second half — while Thurston notched a 202-yard night on 33 carries, grinding it out largely between the tackles. With a dash of Rashad Brock thrown in, Charlottesville finished with 510 yards on the ground as a team.
“There’s no doubt Charlottesville is back,” said Charlottesville coach Eric Sherry. “And I think we’re going to stay there. They’re just going to have to get over how much this hurts and that’s a hard thing.”
Western got a big first half boost from an incredible 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Nic Drapanas that answered a 31-yard touchdown pass from Davis to Darius Watson.
“Charlottesville played their hearts out, they never quit they kept grinding and grinding,” Drapanas said. “We grinded at the end there, but it was a tough one.”
Western moves to 7-0 on the season and with two Jefferson District games left, has a big leg up in the District race with wins over the only two one-loss JD teams (Powhatan and Charlottesville). The Black Knights enter their bye week before gearing up for the season’s final stretch against Louisa and Powhatan. Wins against those teams could boost CHS to a playoff appearance.