Back on track. That’s the consensus of Atlee Raiders fans who left Homecoming 2013 satisfied as their home team put up 38 points in the first half en route to handing Henrico its first loss of 2013, 38-14.
Atlee’s much-discussed offense, who hung 70 on Deep Run on opening night but struggled against both Patrick Henry and Douglas Freeman, worked from the get-go Friday. But casual observers will be reminded that the offense was still missing three key ingredients, as injuries to offensive lineman Austin Cannon and wide receivers Booth Watson and Ross Gardner meant reserves must play key roles.
The epitome of that was Austin Phipps catching a touchdown pass from Reid McCoy to finish out the 38 point first half performance, giving the Raiders a 31-point lead at intermission.
“When it comes to injuries, as a coaching staff, we have a mindset that we don’t let it get to us,” said Atlee head coach Roscoe Johnson. “We continue to do what we do. We say ‘next man up.’ Everybody is prepared down to the last man on the bench.”
Johnson credits his offensive coordinator, Claude Hataway Jr., for reminding players and coaches alike that “the little things” are the difference between a “W” and an “L” on Friday night. On homecoming night, the little things worked.
Atlee opened up a 17-0 lead at first quarter’s end on the first of two touchdown passes from McCoy to Daniel Glymph, an 11-yard run to paydirt by Lamont Stubbs, and a 34-yard field goal from Ryan Molin. McCoy ended the night with 169 yards passing to go with his three TD passes. His counterpart, Henrico’s Malik White, was 9-of-18 for 162 and one touchdown, plus a rushing score.
The Raider special teams also got into the act, as Tye Burriss returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown. Burriss had a similar punt return for a score called back due to a penalty against Patrick Henry.
This week Atlee and Hanover prepare to renew perhaps the hottest rivalry in Central Virginia. When the two teams last met at Atlee in the regular season in October, 2011, the Raiders’ 24-14 win over Hanover prompted such a celebration that fans simply wouldn’t leave. It took most people an hour to just escape the school parking lot. The Raiders will be ready for the 2013 Hawks, because their head coach doesn’t concern himself much with the individuals in the Hawks’ uniforms, but moreso the collective that invades his home turf Friday night.
“What makes Hanover so good is that they play as one unit,” Johnson noted. “It’s not just one kid you’re going against. They have all bought into the tradition that the Hanover Hawks have, and that’s a scary thing.”
But Johnson is confident his Raiders will be even-keeled and ready come kickoff.
“We understand that, come Friday night, they’re going to come after us, we’re going to have to go after them,” he said. “The most important thing is, we cannot make mistakes.”
For two other county teams, eliminating mistakes continues to be an issue as they see their seasons fall into jeopardy, even with the new expanded playoff format.
Lee-Davis, after the thrill of winning their third straight Tomato Bowl, ran into a buzzsaw in Varina, who moved to 4-0 at home with a 33-7 win over the Confederates, now 1-3, still with Atlee, Hanover, Highland Springs and Glen Allen on their schedule.
Blue Devils tailback Herb Anderson only needed 10 carries to tally 100 yards and three rushing touchdowns. Varina led 20-0 after a quarter. Lee-Davis’ lone score came in the second on a 2-yard run by Miles Johnson. After intermission, Varina found the end zone twice and cruised the rest of the way.
The silver lining for Lee-Davis is they play four of their final five games at home, but first, a trip this Friday to Henrico, fresh off their first loss of the year. What once was considered a safe “W” is no more. The Warriors will be ready.
Meanwhile, in Ashland, Tyler Phelps shook off the rust that short-circuited his return to quarterback for Patrick Henry in the Tomato Bowl to go 15-of-26 for 186 yards and a touchdown as a fourth quarter Patriot comeback fell just short, giving Mills Godwin a 28-20 victory, the Eagles’ third straight road win.
Godwin lead 14-0 at halftime, as the Patriots (0-4) again scored all their points in the second half. Bender Vaught scored twice on runs of 20 and 12 yards, both times cutting the Godwin advantage to one possession. Phelps found Chesdin Harrington for a score from 11 yards out to cut the margin to eight, but a final drive ran out of time.
The Patriots must next face Hermitage (2-2) to finish this three-game homestand, then get ready to play three road games in four weeks before finishing the regular season at home Nov. 8 against currently unbeaten Douglas Freeman.