By ROB WITHAM
H-P Sports Correspondent
One of the biggest cliches in sports is asking a coach about those halftime adjustments. In reality, they make them all the time. Sometimes, they work, others, they fall on deaf ears.
But to present Exhibit A on how to successfully implement halftime adjustments, one only needs to put in the video and watch the second half of #10 Lee-Davis’ 48-21 victory at Atlee Friday in the 27th Stew Bowl. The Confederates, the superior team, but leading a pesky Raider squad playing in front of a Homecoming crowd by just six points, had to wonder why they saw the Raiders so close in the rear view mirror as the second half began.
But the veteran Confederate squad, littered with three-year starters on both sides of the ball, calmly put the changes administered by head coach Ryan Turnage into effect, beginning with a 65-yard drive that ended with Josh Rice’s five-yard touchdown run to up the Lee-Davis lead to 28-14 after a successful two-point conversion with 9:19 left in the third quarter.
Then, on a slippery night where the air was filled with mist and humidity, just enough moisture to become a nuisance, a high snap over the head of Atlee quarterback Tyler Warren was recovered by Lee-Davis at the Atlee 32. The end result of the turnover was a fourth and goal conversion for a one-yard Rice touchdown dive. Joseph Hudnall’s extra point made it 35-14 Lee-Davis. In 6:37 of game time, Lee-Davis went from fighting off their biggest rival to putting said rival in a deep hole, holding all the momentum.
“I didn’t even know the weather was going to be like this,” Turnage admitted. “I thought it would be dry. It was tough throwing the football With the ground having a heavy dew on it, the ball was slick. But, we felt like we didn’t need to throw a pass in the second half. We felt like we could line up, and run the football.”
The defense did its job, too, denying the Raiders in both the run and pass, as defensive ends Ty Mills and Jalen Hargrove led the drive against Warren, while linebacker Zach Green led the back seven, making it hard to either find an open receiver or get a runner to the second line of defense. The Raiders finally tallied on a six-yard run from Warren, his second rushing score of the night, for a 41-21 game with 6:08 left in the game. That score was the result of a fumble on a muffed punt return attempt, recovered by Atlee at the Lee-Davis 10.
But there would be no Homecoming Miracle, as Lee-Davis marched down the field a final time, Jamir Johnson scoring on a 12-yard run for the 48-21 final score. Rice led the way, rushing 24 times for 214 yards and the three second half touchdowns, continuing what has been an outstanding senior season.
Credit, too, must be given to Ned Anthony, best described as a “swiss army knife” for Lee-Davis. One moment, he’s making the tackle defensively, the next, he takes the inside handoff as the fullback, a decoy usually for Rice, and bursts up the middle into the open field. Then, when defenses are keying on his running ability, he’s available in the passing game, catching yet another touchdown pass in the victory.
“We think he can do a lot for us. He’s played here four years, is a three-year starter, his brother played for us, they’re tough kids,” Turnage added about Anthony. “His parents instilled toughness in him and I told him tonight he’s a warrior. He just comes to play. You don’t have to say anything to him.”
The Confederates, now 6-1, found themselves down one spot in the latest Class 5, Region B football standings released Monday by the Virginia High School League, as Henrico’s 21-14 win over Varina vaulted the Warriors into fourth place with a rating of 27.429. Lee-Davis is fifth at 27.143 with Varina sixth at 25.571.
Varina comes to Lee-Davis this Friday, then Turnage’s team heads to Henrico next Friday, two opportunities to not only solidify their playoff position, but rise above both Capital District rivals and clinch a home game in the first round of the playoffs on November 10.
“We told them, it’s a four-week season, and we just want to go 1-0 at the end of every Friday night,” Turnage noted when asked how he approached the homestretch of the schedule with his players. “But we knew we had to take care of this one first.”
The Raiders, at 2-5, are now last among fifteen teams in Class 5, Region B, but still just 2.482 points out of the eighth and final playoff spot. Friday’s trip to Highland Springs, second in the region and also 6-1, is a must-win, but if young Atlee can find a way and pull off the upset, they immediately vault back into the playoff picture, and would turn the top half of the region upside down.
Atlee will need more work from tailback Isaac Abel, and their best protection of the year for quarterback Tyler Warren, to give him crucial seconds in the pocket, so he can be steady, and accurate, and give Atlee a chance by sustaining drives. The best way to keep Highland Springs off the scoreboard is by keeping their offense on the sidelines.
Atlee at Highland Springs will be the High School Football Game of The Week on Friday, heard on WHAN Radio (102.9 FM/1430 AM) and online at www.hanovercountysports.net beginning at 6:30pm.