After Shaun Asbury sat out North Stafford’s first six football games this fall while recovering from ACL surgery, the Wolverines’ coaching staff was wary about reintegrating the speedy senior into the lineup, for fear of a setback.
Those concerns now seem unnecessary. Asbury was at his disruptive best Friday night as the Wolverines shut out visiting Riverbend 21–0 in their regular-season finale to clinch the No. 2 seed in Region 5D and a home playoff game against Brooke Point or Albemarle next weekend.
“He is probably as incredible a difference-maker as I’ve seen on offense and defense,” North Stafford coach Neil Sullivan said. “He can change the whole dynamic of our running offense and our defense.”
He’s not bad on special teams, either.
After teammate Jamir Boyd’s 4-yard first-quarter touchdown run gave the Wolverines (6–4, 2–4) an early 7–0 lead, Asbury doubled it with a spectacular 86-yard punt return. He actually covered nearly twice that many yards, reversing his field twice and slaloming through Riverbend’s coverage.
“I’ve been going to therapy a lot,” Asbury said. “On the field, the knee feels great. The coaches put me in great position to succeed.”
Said Sullivan: “He was cleared [to play] a couple of weeks before the [Oct. 18] Colonial Forge game, and we were watching him like a hawk for any sign of tentativeness. But he never showed any. He was cutting with confidence, and now he’s 100 percent.”
Asbury also had a 60-yard touchdown reception, but that was negated by one of the Wolverines’ 14 accepted penalties on the night.
If Asbury’s return was good news for North Stafford’s postseason hopes, those flags were a sobering sign. Two Wolverines (including two-way contributor Nick Woodard) were ejected from the game for multiple personal fouls and are expected to have to sit out next week’s playoff opener.
“The frustrating thing was that we talked about it,” Sullivan said. “It’s a real problem that we have to address.”
The penalties did not prevent the Wolverines from handling the rebuilding Bears, who finished 3–7 (2–4) in Nathan Yates’ first season as coach after winning just one game in 2018.
Riverbend actually outgained North Stafford from scrimmage, 233 yards to 228, and had more than twice as many first downs (19–9), but twice failed to score after lengthy drives that stalled inside the Wolverines’ 10-yard line.
A 13-play drive ended withe a turnover on downs in the final seconds of the first half. The Bears then ate up much of the third-quarter clock and reached the Wolverines’ 4, but sophomore quarterback Aiden Fisher was sacked to end the threat early in the fourth period.
North Stafford then put the game out of reach with a touchdown pass from Boyd to Holt Egan.
“Tonight was like our entire season,” Yates said. “They fought in every single game to the very end. I couldn’t be more proud of them. They have the program going in the right direction.”
Riverbend’s season is over. North Stafford’s quest is just beginning, but the talented Wolverines have some work to do.
“We’ve got to play our game,” Asbury said. “We have to have less penalties and make more plays.”
NS—Jamir Boyd 4 run (Matthew Warren kick).
NS—Shawn Asbury 86 punt return (Warren kick).
NS—Holt Egan 12 pass from Boyd (Warren kick).
RUSHING: Riverbend—Jamarius Thomas 14–56; Aiden Fisher 23–47; Tony Skinner 7–44; Jalen Gilmore 1–2. North Stafford—Jamir Boyd 5–38; Shawn Asbury 5–37; Nick Woodard 3–19; Team 1–(minus 1).
PASSING: Riverbend—Fisher 7–15–0, 84 yards. North Stafford—Boyd 8–15–1, 115 yards, 1 TD.
RECEIVING: Riverbend—Marquees Foster 3–35; Tony Skinner 2–26; Thomas 1–23. North Stafford—Holt Egan 5–74, 1 TD; Javon Swinton 3–41.