The results were expected by many, hoped for by thousands in attendance. But exactly how Atlee defeated Hanover for the second time in three seasons in regular season play will be talked about for a long time.
Rather than their much-discussed offense, it was the Raider defense that took center stage Friday night at home, shutting down the Hawks’ offense after allowing just limited success in the first quarter. The final read: Atlee 14, Hanover 0, and the defense that couldn’t seem to stop anyone a year ago completely and thoroughly closed the door on their archrivals.
“Coach [defensive coordinator Richard] McFee took our defense back to fundamentals, he’s preached fundamentals all season,” Atlee head coach Roscoe Johnson said. “We did not worry about the schemes, we worried about the simple things: how to tackle, looking at the hips – things like that win football games.”
That it did. The same Raider defensive unit that allowed 40 points a game in 2012 kept Hanover out of the end zone all night, and, in the final three quarters, prevented the Hawks from mounting any serious drives whatsoever. Hanover mustered just 143 yards of total offense.
Hanover had not been shut out since Varina defeated them 16-0 on Oct. 12, 2007, a span of almost six years.
But a tip of the hat must also go to the Hanover defense, who only allowed the Raiders to find the end zone once. In a drive eerily similar to the one made against Patrick Henry on the same field three weeks earlier to break a scoreless deadlock just seconds from intermission, Atlee found the end zone with 20 seconds left.
Lamont Stubbs, playing against his former team, took a handoff, cut up the middle off left tackle, and danced to paydirt from 5 yards out. But without the play before that, Stubbs can’t score. Quarterback Reid McCoy decided to go long, finding wideout Daniel Glymph down the left sideline in one-on-one coverage for a 34-yard gain to set up the first and goal, and the subsequent Stubbs score. Glymph was masterful in outjumping Hanover’s Josh Harris to win the battle for the football.
Hanover (2-3) began the second half mixing up their offensive schemes, adding pitches to tailback Rayvon Burden, but nothing they seemed to try took hold. The Hawks only earned nine first downs the entire game, rushing for 76 yards while limited to 67 yards passing in Korbin Bordonie’s worst performance so far this season.
The Hawks’ special team unit kept Hanover in the game, twice blocking field goal attempts of Ryan Molin, from 22 yards in the first half and 32 yards in the second half. The second block kept the game at 7-0, but with yards and first downs hard to come by, Hanover finally made a special teams mistake that placed the final nail in the coffin.
With 2:33 left, Christian Unger’s seventh and final punt of the game landed in the arms of Tye Burriss at his own 30. Burriss briefly flirted with a sideline, then found a seam right up the middle, and Tye went 70 yards for the second, and final, touchdown of the night. It was Burriss’ second week with a punt return TD, running one back from 90 yards in their week-four homecoming win over Henrico.
“I knew 7-0 was not going to be enough. Last year we were up 32-20 with six minutes left and it wasn’t enough,” Johnson said. “I told them at halftime, we need all three phrases. We’ve got to come through with something big on special teams. When it happened, I knew it was over.”
Atlee (4-1) had its share of issues to be concerned about in spite of the win. A third quarter drive that advanced inside the Hawks’ 5-yard line went backwards on mistakes and penalties, and the Raiders ended up turning the ball over on downs after failing to convert a fourth and 28 at the Hanover 30. Those opportunities cannot be wasted Friday when Atlee travels to unbeaten Varina, currently the top-ranked team in the south region of Virginia’s highest classification, Class 6A.
But the Raiders will have a shot to knock off the Blue Devils if they get another inspired performance from Stubbs, who carried the ball 19 times for 131 yards on Friday.
“Lamont Stubbs was ready to play tonight,” Johnson said. “And what’s scary? That’s what I saw out of him last year when he lined up for Hanover! Stubbs was the one who hit my quarterback last year to make him fumble (in the 35-32 loss to Hanover). But Lamont did a great job; he had fun. That’s what it’s all about.”
While the Raiders celebrated and the Rage Cage rushed the field after the game to celebrate only their second win over Hanover since 2005, the Hawks dejectedly departed in the midst of the three-game losing streak, their first since a four-game skid to begin the 2006 season. The last time Hanover was 2-3 after five games was 2009, the season, a freshman quarterback named Sam Rogers rallied Hanover to a Central Region title and an almost-titanic upset of Phoebus in the state semifinals.
The Hawks need wins in the final five weeks to return to postseason play, and they’ll start the journey at home Friday against 3-2 Henrico, losers of two straight to Hanover teams.
Lee-Davis shut down, and shut out, the Warriors for a huge 21-0 road win Friday. Tailback Blake Stattelman outgained the entire Henrico offense, rushing for 109 yards and two touchdowns. Austin Rice, lining up again at times in a wildcat-type formation, scored the other touchdown in the second quarter on a 12-yard run.
Henrico gained only 92 yards in 48 minutes. The win not only helped get the Confederates (2-3) back into the Class 5A South playoff discussion, it also brought a potential contender for that same tournament, Henrico, back to them in the standings.
Next, Lee-Davis welcomes Glen Allen from Class 4A. The 3-2 Jaguars are looking to solidify their playoff position, while Lee-Davis can ill afford another loss with games against Highland Springs, a increasingly desperate Hanover, and Atlee still to come.
In Ashland, Patrick Henry’s three-game homestand ended in the same futility in which it started, as Hermitage earned their now-seemingly annual win over the Patriots, 42-3. In many ways, the Patriots stepped backwards in performance after nearly earning their first win for head coach Jonathan Clark a week earlier before falling 28-20 to now 4-1 Mills Godwin.
Patrick Henry (0-5) now hit the road to face a J.R. Tucker team who are suddenly winners of two straight after beginning the season 0-3. Their unorthodox “Wing-T” offense will prove to be a challenge for the Patriots. The good news? Patrick Henry has only lost once to the Tigers since 2000, a 35-28 loss in 2009.
(Note: Atlee at Varina is the WHAN Radio Game of the Week, and can be heard live Friday at 6:30 p.m. online at HanoverCountySports.net. Due to Randolph-Macon football coverage, the game will be heard on a delayed basis on 102.9 FM and 1430 AM, Saturday at 1 p.m.)