Saturday, October 16, 2010

Week Six: Patrick Henry 6, Mills Godwin 3

The last time the Patrick Henry Patriots traveled to Axselle Stadium to face the Mills Godwin Eagles, the teams combined for 85 points as Godwin came back to nip the Patriots, 43-42. All of us in the press box couldn't remember the last time Patrick Henry scored 42 points....and lost.

Apparently the 2007 teams used up most of the points alloted by the football gods for the 2010 renewal Friday night.

Patriot fans knew coming into this Colonial District battle that points would come at a premium. Mills Godwin's defense held Highland Springs to 13 points earlier in the season, and survived a road test against John Marshall, the two teams' only common opponent in 2010.

Thus, when the Pats took the opening kickoff 80 yards, all on the ground, straight to the end zone, it was a pleasant surprise, and super start for the road team. Several times during the night I mentioned that I thought six points wouldn't be enough to win on the road.

I was proven wrong.

This was a game where the pessimist would say, "Neither team wants it. They're trying to give the game to the other team." Meanwhile, the optimist would declare, "both defenses have spent the night bending but not breaking, keeping their teams alive!"

Mills Godwin spent most of the second quarter in Patriot territory, thrice knocking on the door. The first drive ended on downs after Godwin failed on 4th down to move the chain. On the second and third possessions, Godwin kicker Whit Beebe missed on field goal attempts of 38 and 33 yards, on a side of the field quickly becoming muddy thanks to the rain of the previous 48 hours.

The Eagles only score would be, ironically, on the first possession of the second half, mirroring the Patriots but not equalling the score output, as their drive stalled and Beebe, who came back from halftime early to do some quick kicking practice, nailed a 23-yarder to cut the lead to 6-3.

Then, for the next 30-40 minutes of real time, they knocked, and knocked, and knocked on the door, thought once they'd knocked it down, but, in the end, did not.

Meanwhile, for the second straight week, the Patriots showed they don't yet have the poise and experience to make the key plays in the second half to close out games with authority. The Patriots twice had it first and goal. Both times the Pats commmitted offensive penalties to back themselves up.

The first drive ended controversially, when QB Jay Waller, seemingly going down for a tackle, tried a very ill-advised shovel pass to Brian Houchens. In the end, the referees ruled it a fumble, and Tom Solak picked up the ball and ran it some 94 yards for an apparent go-ahead Eagles touchdown. Confusion swept the stadium.

When the smoke cleared, it was determined to be a fumble and Godwin recovery, BUT...

....due to a penalty, Godwin's touchdown was taken off the board and their offense took over at their own 30. They didn't make it back to the goal line again.

The PH offense's second "down and goal" series of quarter four ended with Waller running for his life, tackled at the five on a fourth and goal, as a Brian Houchens touchdown run earlier in the drive was negated by, yep, a holding penalty.

Godwin's last hope ended when, with some questionable time management with some three minutes left, they used their last timeout of the second half to discuss a fourth down play deep in their own territory. Rather than punting to try to pin the Pats deep and ask their defense for a three and out, they went for it. Quarterback Dane Forlines was stopped on a great one-on-one tackle by Terrell Archer.

Josh Thomas broke a 2nd down run for 1st down yardage, and Godwin couldn't stop the clock.

Patrick Henry escapes Pump Road with the 6-3 win.


---More rushing production. Josh Thomas had some hard yards, and put the dagger in the Eagles' heart rushing for that first down at the end. Brian Houchens was solid in the opening drive.

---Glimpses of Waller's Best. Jay completed a huge 2nd half pass to Gibson Vaught in double coverage after slipping in the pocket to keep one 4th quarter drive alive, went 4 of 7 for the night, with no interceptions.

---Indvidual defensive efforts. BIG kudos to Ryan DeRusha, Montel Minor, Andy Joyce, as well as Terrell Archer, for each making one-on-one defensive tackles at key points in Godwin second half drives to either cause a loss of yardage or a turnover on downs.


---Learning to close. Salesmen will tell you nothing is sold until the "close". Gotta have a signed deal. The Patriots' offense had the pen in hand twice in the fourth quarter and couldn't score the dagger touchdown. And, Kenny Mock had a sure pick-six late in the fourth and simply dropped it.

---Glimpses of Waller's Worst. One ill-advised lob throw in the first half fell harmlessly to the ground. The ill-advised shovel pass attempt broken down earlier would have been disaster, except for Godwin committing the penalty that negated what could have been the winning score.

The Patriots return to Ashland for Homecoming 2010 against Deep Run, a historically good team struggling mightily (they are 1-1, 1-4 going into their Saturday game at John Marshall). The Wildcats would like nothing more than to pin the Patriots with their first District loss.

For now, it's simple for Patrick Henry. They're tied for first with mighty Hermitage in the Colonial. The way Division Five teams (Clover Hill, Hanover, Atlee, Petersburg, Dinwiddie) are playing this season, the Patriots, even at 7-3, probably wouldn't have enough VHSL points to make the Division Five playoffs as a wild card.

To extend the 2010 season to week eleven, the Pats must win out. They're the only team left that can win the District other than Hermitage, essentially, unless there is a major upset in Hermitage's future (they have Freeman, TJ, and John Marshall the next three weeks).

It will be fun to watch this young team and its coaching staff respond to the challenge and I look forward to these Patriots putting together that "complete game" performance. Congrats to the Pats for a very hard-fought win, filled with lessons that can help this team make it to the next level.

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