In the 55 meetings that consist the storied history of the Tomato Bowl, few individual performances have matched what was witnessed Friday night in Ashland.
Lee-Davis tailback Blake Stattelman, buoyed by the return of offensive lineman Andy Ordaz, ran wild through, around, and over the Patrick Henry offense, earning 204 of his 321 yards in the first half alone, as the Confederates again earned the Tomato Bowl trophy with a 34-14 victory.
For Lee-Davis (1-2), the first win of 2013 was also its third consecutive win over their oldest rivals and marked the first time the Confederates have defeated the Patriots three straight times in decades. They’ve also won in their last three trips to Ashland.
This wasn’t Stattelman’s first Tomato Bowl statement. His 90-yard punt return for a touchdown was vital in Lee-Davis’ 27-20 victory last year. With Chris Simpson, Deshaun Rogers and Jordon Prentiss all graduated, Stattelman stepped into the spotlight. And, with the Confederates still looking for an offensive rhythm after being shut out by Mills Godwin in their home opener a week earlier, his breakout performance couldn’t have come at a better time.
After the teams traded possessions to start the game, Lee-Davis took advantage a short field, marching 49 yards on 10 plays, scoring on a six-yard pass from quarterback Brandon Sulser to Austin Rice. The next time the Confederates got the ball, back down the field they went, as Stattelman scored his first touchdown from a yard out to give Lee-Davis a 14-0 lead after a quarter.
The offensive woes of the Patriots continued in the first half, extending their scoreless streak to 10 quarters. Senior quarterback Tyler Phelps, starting after missing the first two weeks due to an ankle injury, was rusty in his return, missing open receivers, and wound up completing just two passes in 13 attempts for 11 yards.
Patrick Henry used Chesdin Harrington under center as well, changing up the playbook, looking for the right formula. It wouldn’t be found in the first half.
Stattelman found the end zone twice in the second quarter, both times from 10 yards out, and when the half ended, Lee-Davis marched off the field to the screams of their “Asylum” student section leading 28-0. Stattelman already had 204 yards rushing. His only mistake of the half was a fumble deep in Patrick Henry territory recovered by the Patriots. They couldn’t capitalize.
A different Patriot offense came out to start the second half. Purposefully running behind left tackle Eli Hanback, Patrick Henry marched down the field, scoring on a 3-yard touchdown run by Bender Vaught. In 2:44, Patrick Henry finally got on the scoreboard.
Making sure there would be no miracle comeback a la 2010 when the Patriots scored 25 unanswered to beat Lee-Davis 25-24, the Confederates went right back down the field in under two minutes, Stattelman scoring his fourth and final touchdown from a yard out. A missed PAT made it 34-7.
The rest of the second half was more of a scrum than anything else, the Patriots scoring on one more possession late in the third on another 3-yard run
by Vaught, the Confederates happy to run the clock, and let Stattelman run up more yardage. At seven minutes left in the game, Dai’qoun Mundy entered the game at tailback, and Stattelman’s night to remember was done. Forty-two carries, 321 yards, four touchdowns.
Also key to Confederate success was when head coach Zac Hayden would take tight end Austin Rice and line him up as quarterback, sometimes rushing right up the middle, using his 6’ 4” frame to fall forward for extra yards, sometimes handing off. Rice had 81 yards in 13 carries.
Lee-Davis had little time to savor the victory, as their attention turned immediately to undefeated Varina, their next opponent Friday on the road. Former Capital District foes, Varina is now in Class 6A, the largest classification in the state. Coming off a 28-12 win at Hermitage, the Blue Devils will, by far, be Lee-Davis’ toughest opponent yet.
The Patriots, now 0-3, welcome Mills Godwin (2-1) to Ashland Friday, still looking for answers, and head coach Jonathan’s Clark’s first varsity win.
The other county teams, Hanover and Atlee, both entered Friday night 2-0 and on the road. Neither came out of it victorious.
The Raiders, in a much-ballyhooed matchup of top-10 teams, fell at Douglas Freeman 24-14. On a night where the focus was on offense coming in, it was the Rebels’ defense that stole the show. While giving up almost 350 yards of offense to the Raiders (2-1), Douglas Freeman (3-0), for the most part, prevented the “big play.” Atlee took a 7-0 lead on a 19-yard run by Loumond Dandridge, then surrendered 21 straight points before Reid McCoy hit Tramell Carey on an 80-yard touchdown pass to cut the margin to seven in the third quarter.
Atlee hurt their own cause, committing 13 penalties, and couldn’t find the end zone in the fourth quarter. The Raiders welcome unbeaten Henrico Friday for homecoming.
Meanwhile, the Hawks went back to Merner Field in Hopewell, the site of their regional championship last November. But Hanover couldn’t hold an early 13-0 lead, allowing the Blue Devils to come back in the second half, then hold on to a 21-19 victory.
All of the late action revolved around Hanover quarterback Korbin Bordonie. He saw a pass go into the hands of Hopewell defensive back Darrell Taylor, who raced 78 yards to score to extend a one-point lead to eight.
Bordonie would answer, driving down the field for the Hawks’ final touchdown, scoring on a 2-yard run. But his two-point conversion attempt to tie it failed, and Hanover fell to 2-1.
The Hawks return home Friday to battle 2-1 Highland Springs, another former Capital District showdown. Each of their last two meetings were decided by three points.
Highland Springs at Hanover can be heard on the “High School Game of the Week” on WHAN, 102.9 FM and 1430 AM, Friday at 6:30 p.m., and online at HanoverCountySports.net.