Monday, October 17, 2016
THE WRAP: Atlee Air Show Caps Comeback Win over Henrico
(RVA Sports Network correspondent Taylor Luck contributes this story from Friday's Atlee win over ninth-ranked Henrico....)
The game, and possibly the season, was on the line for the Atlee Raiders, facing a game-deciding fourth down and nine from their own 29 yard line, trailing ninth-ranked Henrico 25-20 with 1:27 remaining. Quarterback Connor Young took the snap, dropped back, and lofted a perfect pass to Queshon Baker, who outran two defenders 71 yards to the end zone next to the skybox, where Raider fans wildly celebrated the improbable score. Atlee’s defense did the rest as the Raiders advanced to 3-4 with a 28-25 Homecoming win over the Warriors..
Atlee hadn’t entered their seventh game of a season at 2-4 or worse since 2008, in desperate need for a win. Meanwhile Henrico came in at 5-1, ranked ninth in the NBC12/RVA Sports Network Big 12 High School Football poll, with a stingy defense, allowing only 7.2 points per game. It would be the passing game, led by Young, who saw little action in Atlee’s previous three games, that would spark the second half comeback.
Henrico quickly drove down the field on their opening possession on the legs of running back Shaheed Adeyola, and finished it with a ten-yard scramble by quarterback Jalon Jones. Henrico had an early advantage, but Atlee found themselves with excellent field position at their 44 yard line to start their next drive. Quarterback Tyler Warren immediately hit a wide open JJ Johnson for 56 yard pitch and catch to tie the game at seven with 7:13 to play in the first quarter. Neither team scored until, with only 1:14 remaining before the half, Jones found an open Jahad Carter across the middle, who turned on the afterburners, and flew down the field for a Henrico score. The extra point was blocked, but the Warriors went into halftime with a 13-7 lead.
Henrico’s first drive of the second half resulted in a punt, and the kick was deflected by Atlee, who recovered the ball at the Warrior 36 yard line. Connor Young, in at quarterback for the second half, hit Derrick Mills on a fade, and Mills beat his man down the sideline for an Atlee touchdown. The Raiders hit their extra point and took their first lead of the game, 14-13 at 8:47 in the third quarter. Henrico responded their next drive with a 43 yard touchdown pass from Jones to Robert Joseph. The Warriors went for two points to extend the lead to seven, but failed, making it 19-14 with 7:17 to play in the third. Atlee was forced to punt on their ensuing drive, but the ball was mishandled and recovered by the Raiders at the Warrior 41. A few plays later, Young found Mills again in the end zone for a six-yard touchdown, the Raiders missed the extra point, but retook the lead 20-19 at the end of the third.
The Warriors started the final period with the ball at their own 16 yard line after a Young interception, and swiftly marched down the field, before Jones found Carter in the end zone for a 26 yard score. Now up 5, Henrico went for two, but a costly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty moved the conversion attempt back to the 17 yard line. The conversion failed, leaving an opening for Atlee to regain the lead with a touchdown with 7:10 to play. Atlee got the ball back with 1:44 on the clock at their own 28 yard line. Three plays later, Young connected with Baker on the 4th down touchdown to give Atlee a 26-25 advantage. The Raiders went for 2, and made it, putting them up 28-25 with 1:16 on the clock. Henrico gave it a solid effort, getting to midfield with only one timeout, having used their first two in the 3rd quarter, but the Warriors came up short on fourth down and 13 from their 47, turning the ball back over to Atlee, who ran out the clock.
“We had a good week of practice, and we kept talking about composure, and discipline, and doing things the right way.” explained Atlee Head Coach Matt Gray, “If we did that, we would win the ballgame; and they executed and I’m proud as heck of these guys.”
Atlee’s quarterback duo had, perhaps, their finest hour so far this season. The freshman Warren finished 4 of 9 for 79 yards and a touchdown, and 35 rushing yards on 5 attempts, mostly in the first half; while Young finished 7 of 14 for 162 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. Henrico’s Jalon Jones went 15-32 for 275 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. He also tallied 15 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown in an impressive performance from the sophomore.
Usually reliant on the run game, Atlee simply couldn’t pound the rock without leading rusher Clifton Woody, who missed the game with a leg injury. Chris Green carried the load for the Raiders, finishing with only 26 yards on 12 carries. The Warriors got a productive day out of Shaheed Adeyola, who ran 20 times for 131 yards.
“This win is huge, we got some momentum on our side. The guys never stopped believing, but that was a big win for us... I think that we’re playing for something now, and we just have to keep chipping away.” Gray said.
Atlee now sits at 3-4, and is still in the mix for a playoff berth with three games to play. Up next is their Hanover County rival Patrick Henry, who are enjoying a successful season so far, at 6-1. The Patriots high powered offense averages 34 points per game. This will be a challenge for the Raiders, but as we saw Friday, never count Atlee out. The Raiders have won their last seven meetings with Patrick Henry.
Henrico is still a great football team at 5-2, but with big games against 6-1 Highland Springs and 5-2 Lee-Davis on the horizon, getting that sixth win won’t be a simple task.