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For the first time in four years, Randolph-Macon football had the “Will” and were “Abel” to knock off Washington and Lee.
Will McGhee continued his running rampage, gaining 189 yards and scoring all four Yellow Jacket touchdowns, while Abel Simpson forced two game-changing fumbles as Randolph-Macon sent Homecoming 2013 fans home happy with a 27-21 ODAC victory.
“It was a great overall effort,” Yellow Jackets head coach Pedro Arruza said after accepting congratulations from family, friends and many fans. “Like any other game, we made some mistakes. McGhee has been a workhorse all year, and we got it done up front again.”
The first words out of McGhee’s mouth following the win were a testimony to his team.
“It was definitely a team effort. Our special teams got us great field position, and that is huge. The better the field position, the more flexible we are on offense, and we can have better, more sustained drives,” McGhee said.
It was Simpson who set the pace and helped shut the door. The senior jumped on the ball as Generals freshman tailback Marshall Hollerith (St. Christopher’s) fumbled the handoff from quarterback Nick Lombardo two and a half minutes into the game to end a developing drive and set the pace for McGhee and the offense. Three plays later, McGhee’s second run of the game was good for 40 yards and the first touchdown.
“The defense did a great job causing turnovers to set us up. That was huge,” McGhee noted.
They needed them, as the defense would surrender 376 rushing yards to Washington and Lee, 233 of them in the second half. While the Generals entered Jacket territory four times in the first half, they went to intermission down 14-0. One drive got as far as the R-MC 15 before going backwards due to penalties, the drive ending on an incomplete pass at the Jackets’ 30.
Two possessions later, Randolph-Macon went on an 11-play, 71-yard drive, capped by a 16-yard run by McGhee to paydirt. The Generals moved down the field in the final two minutes of the half, but Matt Underhill’s 48-yard field goal attempt as time expired was short.
It was Lombardo who would strike fear in every Randolph-Macon fan in attendance at Day Field, rushing for 156 of his 239 yards on the ground by masterfully utilizing the option. His decisions on running versus pitching to his trailing tailback kept the Jackets’ defense guessing, and gave the Generals the chance to overcome the deficit and raise their winning streak over the Jackets to four.
“[Lombardo] is very quick around the ends,” said freshman linebacker Marcus Mitchell, who led Randolph-Macon with nine tackles, two for losses,
and a sack of Lombardo. “We kept encouraging each other on defense, go back, and pound the rock. That’s how we weather the storm.”
Randolph-Macon quarterback Zac Naccarato helped the Generals’ cause to start the second half, hesitating for a split second before throwing a pass near midfield. Mike Palicz read the hesitation, broke for the ball and intercepted it, setting up a short field for the Washington and Lee offense. Seven plays later, Lombardo found the end zone from 12 yards to cut the deficit to 14-7.
The Jackets punched back, as Kyle Norton returned the ensuing kickoff 35 yards to the 44. Two clutch pass completions from Naccarato to Mike Doe advanced Macon to the Generals’ 6-yard line where McGhee took over for third touchdown. The Generals staggered and returned fire with a 54-yard kickoff return by Connor Chess to the Jackets’ 38. Five plays later, Austin Eisenhofer ran for a 5-yard touchdown. It was 21-14.
Washington and Lee began the fourth quarter with a third down and nine at their own 18. With the Jackets focused on Lombardo, he gave the ball to Luke Terna, who raced 23 yards for a first down. Seven plays later, the Generals faced fourth down and three at the Randolph-Macon 38. Lombardo kept the ball on the option and dashed up the left sideline 28 yards to the Macon 10. Three plays later, it was 21-21.
It was here where the Randolph-Macon offense shined, going on an 11-play, 66 yard drive, taking 5:50 off the clock. McGhee’s final score, from 3 yards out, made it 27-21 Jackets, but Seth Yurgel missed the point after, leaving the door open for Washington and Lee to sneak away with the win.
As the packed crowd urged on the defense, Washington and Lee began what they hoped would be the game-winning drive. Holding just one timeout, the Generals made it to their 37. On third down, Lombardo ran the option left, kept it, and, maybe thinking it was fourth down and he needed extra yardage, Lombardo extended the ball with his arms.
Enter Abel Simpson. He knocked the ball out of Lombardo’s hands, and the Yellow Jackets recovered at the Generals’ 44. Ironically, on a day where Lombardo ran around and up the field on the Jackets, his final play sealed their defeat.
Randolph-Macon is 3-0 in the ODAC for the first time in four years, but next must travel to Greensboro, N.C. to face the Guilford Quakers, also at 3-0. The Jackets are 5-1 overall. And, as the weeks progress, Arruza likes what he sees from his team more and more.
“We’ve got a great group of kids,” noted Arruza, who earned his 54th win at Randolph-Macon Saturday, putting him second on the all-time list at the school behind Ted Keller (105). “No matter what the results are the rest of the year, I like our guys. There’s a lot of character in that locker room.”
And before winning, priority one for Arruza is building a generation of young men with character and integrity.
Those priorities lead to results such as Saturday at Homecoming.