Raiders, Hanover make the gridiron postseason

They left Mechanicsville tired and worn, but victorious. For the first time in regular season play since 2005, the Atlee Raiders prevailed over arch-rival Lee-Davis, 34-17. For Raiders head coach Roscoe Johnson, the first order of business was “cleaning.”

“I want to get back to school and do this laundry. I hate wearing white jerseys,” Johnson noted in a raspy voice in the press box following the game, a nod to the home-field advantage his Raiders had just clinched.

Atlee Quarterback Reid McCoy keeps an eye on approaching defenders as he breaks off for a big run.

Atlee Quarterback Reid McCoy keeps an eye on approaching defenders as he breaks off for a big run.

Atlee ends the 2013 regular season 9-1, 7-0 in the former Capital District. They clinched the number two seed in Class 5A South Central Zone, and with that, home games in the first two playoff rounds. The Raiders’ top priority, though, is learning from their win over the Confederates to prepare for seventh-seeded Meadowbrook (6-4), their first round opponents Friday night.

And for Lee-Davis, the final push for the playoffs fell a game short, though they were still alive for the postseason into Saturday before Mills Godwin defeated Thomas Jefferson to clinch the eighth and final 5A South Central berth. The Confederates (5-5) were three-tenths of a point behind the Eagles in the VHSL rider point average.

Due to the 5A South Region deciding to split their 16 playoff berths into two eight-team regional tournaments rather than a 16-team “all in” format, done in 10 of Virginia’s 12 regions, two Eastern Region teams will play this Friday with significantly lower rider point averages than Lee-Davis’ 25.2, while the Confederates will be watching from the sidelines.

Lee-Davis had their opportunities to pull the upset on Senior Night. They rushed for 415 yards against the vaunted Raider defense. But most of those yards came between the 20-yard lines. The red zone sealed their doom.

After Atlee scored in just three plays on their first possession – a 5-yard Lamont Stubbs touchdown run – for a 7-0 lead, the Confederates drove right down the field, but couldn’t get past the Atlee 8-yard line. Stephen Hall connected on a 30-yard field goal to make it 7-3.

Twelve minutes later, at 5:21 left before the half, Blake Stattelman broke free for a 6-yard touchdown run, and the home team took a 10-7 lead. The Raiders woke up, converting a fourth and one at the Lee-Davis 25, then sent Reid McCoy racing up the field a play later for a 19-yard touchdown, retaking the lead at 14-10.

But Lee-Davis counterpunched, advancing to the Atlee 19, they, too, facing a fourth down decision. Coach Zac Hayden took a timeout, implored the offense, and went for it. Amazingly, Donald Kidd found a hole to the right large enough not just for a first down, but for the touchdown, and a 17-14 Confederate lead with just 65 seconds left in the first half.

That was too much time to leave for Atlee. The lightning-fast Raider offense marched 70 yards in 55 seconds, McCoy using the legs again from 16 yards out to give Atlee the 21-17 halftime lead. This score would prove huge.

Lee-Davis stopped Atlee on the first possession of the second half, but stalled offensively. The Raiders cashed in with the only points of the third quarter when McCoy found Daniel Glymph in the back of the end zone from 21 yards. The ball was behind Glymph, moving right, who contorted his body in mid-air back to the left to seize the pigskin for six points. It was 28-17.

With their season on the brink, the Confederates found their way to the Atlee 5-yard line, facing another fourth down. Opting not to send out Hall for a field goal to cut the lead to one possession at 28-20, Hayden went for it again. This time, it didn’t work. Kidd was caught behind the line of scrimmage by Tye Burriss to keep Lee-Davis off the scoreboard and the lead at 11 one play into the fourth quarter.

History repeated itself just three minutes later when Lee-Davis drove again, getting as close as the Atlee 7. They lost 5 yards on third down, mishandling the misdirection handoff play that sent Stattelman into the end zone for the winning touchdown two weeks earlier at Hanover, settling for a fourth down and seven at the 12. Again, Hall was left on the sidelines, and again the offense failed as Chase Mummau’s pass for Dawayne Winston sailed far over his head.

Atlee finally clinched the win by scoring the game’s final touchdown on a 1-yard McCoy run with 1:52 left. Tempers flared after the play causing multiple Lee-Davis penalties, one resulting in an ejection. Frustration, and reality, had engulfed the Confederates.

Johnson immediately grabbed his players and called a meeting at midfield on his sideline, each player taking a knee to hear his message.

“We talked to them like men. We explained the consequences of being thrown out of a game. I said, ‘Let me tell you something. Look at the scoreboard. If you get kicked out in the last minutes of this game, there’s two more games you’ll be out because of just not being disciplined,’” Johnson explained.

The message resonated.

The Raiders will be at full strength Friday, having dealt with discipline issues of their own to start the night. Travis Barton played quarterback the first quarter and McCoy was on the sidelines as the result of a disciplinary issue. When he entered in the second, he was part of every scoring play for the Atlee the rest of the way.

Atlee committed nine penalties in the game, and Johnson fully believes his team hasn’t reached its potential.

“We’re not clicking on all cylinders yet. I just feel like we still have more to come,” Johnson said. “9-1 is a good feeling; but we’re not done.”

In Glen Allen, the Hanover Hawks wrapped up their first 4A South playoff berth, and their eighth consecutive playoff appearance, with a 21-6 victory over the Jaguars, who clinched the first playoff appearance in school history at 4-6 despite the defeat.

Clayton Cheatham’s 32-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter broke open a 7-6 game from halftime, with the Hawks shutting out the Jaguars the rest of the way.

The Hawks are the 11th seed in 4A South and will have to travel to Portsmouth Friday for a first-round matchup against Churchland. The Truckers won eight regular season games for the first time in over 13 years and are led by senior quarterback Malik Sexton, a three-year varsity starter. Churchland won its first five games of the season for their best start since 1954.

Game time on Cedar Lane in Portsmouth is 7:30 p.m. It will be a nearly 100-mile one-way road trip for Hanover.

Meanwhile, Patrick Henry concluded their season with a furious comeback performance in the second half that fell short as Douglas Freeman improved to 9-1 on Senior Night in Ashland, winning 41-26.

The Rebels led 28-7, but the Patriots, led by the rushing prowess of Daquan Morris (225 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown run), scored 19 unanswered in the third quarter to cut the lead to two points.

But Freeman countered with the final two scores to clinch the third seed in Class 5A South Central. Patrick Henry finished their first season under head coach Jonathan Clark at 2-8, but with a core of juniors returning and a new group of successful players at the JV level ready to make their mark and help the Patriots turn things around.

“I could not be prouder of the effort our players showed this season with all of the changes that occurred,” Clark said.

Posted on Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 7:45 am