This morning, I will be smoking and running a 5K—at the same time. Paradoxical, no?
The former in this case refers to a bird carcass cooked low and slow over smoldering coals and wood chunks, which, coincidentally is an apt description of how I’ll look and feel during the YMCA Turkey Trot.
Just before the 7:45 a.m. race, I’ll throw my 14–16 pound amish turkey on the Weber kettle, with just a handful of lit briquettes and a chimney’s worth of unlit ones—smoking is a marathon, not a sprint.
For five Fredericksburg-area football teams—Colonial Forge, Massaponax, North Stafford, Mountain View and James Monroe—poultry prep is but a paltry consideration. They’re just thankful to be practicing in anticipation of regional championship games this weekend.
Here at The Free Lance–Star, we have a voracious appetite for high school football, and the Lancies are a tasting course of sorts. Within you’ll find gridiron superlatives, salutes and silly tidbits.
Without further ado, here’s the main course.
You’ll no doubt get a kick out of this one. Madden Lowe, Colonial Forge’s already-accomplished senior quarterback, added a few activities to his résumé at midseason in the form of place kicking and punting duties.
As it turns out, Lowe is capable of producing both touchdowns and touchbacks, and his special skill set has bolstered the Eagles in their pursuit of a regional championship. 17 PAT 3 FG
Quote of the year
“We circled this game back in the offseason. We hoped and prayed that they would come in undefeated, because we wanted the opportunity to end their winning streak. I told the guys before the game that we got what we asked for, and it was up to us to do something with that opportunity.”
—Spotsylvania coach Jeremy Jack on snapping Eastern View’s 44-game regular season win streak
“That loss to Thomas Jefferson has been gnawing at me since last year. I wanted to get back in the playoffs and I hoped to get a shot at them. Unfortunately, they’re in a different class. So we’re going to take it out on whoever shows up Friday.”
—James Monroe coach Rich Serbay on VHSL reshuffling
Way to prove us wrong award
In the preseason, we ranked King George No. 17 out of 21 Fredericksburg-area teams. Oopsie!
Led by transfer quarterback Charles Mutter, the Foxes were consistently among the Battlefield District’s toughest squads, making the Region 4B playoffs with a 6–4 record despite a pair of one-point losses.
If you thought that was bad, we picked Washington & Lee 21st. That’s right. Dead. Freaking. Last.
But circulation is waning in the Northern Neck, and if the Eagles did read our dire prediction, they didn’t let it influence their play. Joe Taylor’s squad finished 6-6 with a first-round playoff victory over rival Colonial Beach.
We get paid to do this, really.
Allow us to toot our own horn
The above notwithstanding, we ranked Colonial Forge (No.1), Massaponax (No. 3), North Stafford (No. 4), Mountain View (No. 6) and James Monroe (No. 8). All five of those teams are still in the hunt for their respective regional championships. So I guess we’re not complete dunces.
Play of the year
The Hudl clip lasts 27 seconds, and Shawn Asbury II is running for all but three of them. In North Stafford’s regular-season finale against Riverbend, Asbury fielded a punt at the 14-yard line.
He started out right, then reversed field as a sleuth of Bears closed in. In the moments that followed, Asbury broke half a dozen tackles (and as many pairs of ankles) before punctuating his 86-yard return for a touchdown with a stiff arm inside the 40-yard line. Not bad for a kid coming off a torn ACL.
Boobie Miles of Heart Award
After tearing his ACL during a 7-on-7 tournament this summer, Massaponax fullback Joshua Hale assumed his high-school career was done. Based on conventional reconstruction and recovery timetables, it likely would’ve been.
Not to be deterred, Hale and his mother sought out a semi-experimental treatment called Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP). The procedure involved removing a small amount of blood from Hale’s arm, separating it in a centrifuge before being injecting it into his knee.
Since returning to the field on Oct. 5, Hale has given the Panthers’ backfield a needed shot of stability. Further evidence of his recovery came in Massaponax’s playoff opener against Stonewall Jackson, as the senior eclipsed 100 yards rushing in what was in his final home game.
Kudos for Kreitz
One reason I enjoy covering games at Massaponax (besides the extended deadline writing time often afforded by an offense that favors grinding the clock into oblivion) is Matt Kreitz.
The Panthers’ PA announcer runs a top-notch operation. Rosters are always ready to go and there’s ample room in the press box for—wait for it—press. More importantly, Kreitz is a maestro on the mic and his talents were recently recognized by the National Association of Sports Public Address Announcers, which named him its 2019 high school announcer of the year.
Worth the Price of Admission Award
If you took the over when Massaponax traveled to top-seeded Freedom last week, you were feeling good after 24 minutes. (Just kidding; please don’t bet on high school sports).
The top-seeded Eagles and the Panthers combined for 70 points over the first two quarters of a Region 6B semifinal in which defense was purely optional.
But the shootout gave way to a slog in the second half, a change that played right into Massaponax’s hands. Ultimately, it was Stephen Hudson’s right foot that propelled the Panthers to a 45–42 victory via a 20-yard field goal as time expired.
Bringing the Hammer Down
If any local player has a better name than Thor Hanlon, I’ve yet to hear it. The Courtland senior’s play at fullback was at times worthy of his Norse namesake, as he used his 230-pound frame to thundercrash through would-be tacklers before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Hanlon’s strength was most evident in a 189-yard effort against Spotsylvania on Sept. 27.
Eiffel 65 Award
Yo listen up, here’s a story, about a little team that plays on a blue field. That team is Courtland, and I’m sorry if I just took you back to 1998.
This fall, the Cougars opened up play on a $1.2 million turf field that gives off Boise State vibes. The playing surface’s new hue was a welcome distraction from a dismal 1–9 campaign for J.C. Hall and company.
But Cougar fans still aren’t feeling as blue as Spotsylvania County Schools, which was defrauded of a $600,000 payment wired to a phony invoice—da ba dee da ba dye, da ba dee da ba dye.
Watch out for next year (team)
If you thought Massaponax was scary on offense this season, consider this: quarterback Luke Morley, running back Elijah Christopher and wing backs Jacob Romero and Derell Stokes are only juniors.
That alone is enough to give area defensive coordinators recurring nightmares.
Watch out for next year (player)
Mountain View running back Isaiah “Ike” Daniels—College recruiters like Ike, and it’s easy to see why. As a freshman, Daniels was a threat to go the distance every time he touched the ball. He figures to be hall of fame coach Lou Sorrentino’s next big recruit, in the mold of former Penn Staters Deon Butler and DaeSean Hamilton.