IWA prevails in defensive slugfest

Published 10:21 am Saturday, October 22, 2011

ISLE OF WIGHT—In a game that seemed destined to be won by the team that could manage to pull off just one big play on offense, it was Isle of Wight Academy’s defense that sealed the deal Friday night for the Chargers in a huge showdown with top-ranked Blessed Sacrament-Huguenot at Hooper Field.

The Chargers prevailed 6-3 in a defensive struggle between the longtime and highly ranked rivals, despite failing to capitalize on a number of scoring opportunities throughout the game.

IWA, ranked fourth in Virginia Independent Schools Division 3, improved to 5-1. Blessed Sacrament, ranked No. 1 in Division 4, fell to 5-2.

On their first offensive possession, the Chargers had a 35-yard touchdown run called back due to a questionable cut-blocking penalty, and on the first play of the second quarter they were stopped inside Blessed Sacrament’s 1-yard line on fourth-and-goal.

Later in the second quarter, another Isle of Wight touchdown was nullified by penalty, this time when senior quarterback Ben Epps’ 15-yard touchdown run was called back for an illegal shift infraction.

Both defenses performed brilliantly, and after trading possessions for the remainder of the first half, the Knights scored their only points of the night on a 24-yard field goal by Justin Cary as time expired in the second quarter.

The Chargers barely missed another scoring opportunity on their first possession of the second half. Facing fourth-and-three on the Knights’ 25-yard line, head coach Dale Chapman called a gutsy halfback pass. Epps pitched the ball left to senior running back Greg Chaffer, who threw a perfect pass down the middle that barely exceeded the grasp of tight end Michael McGuire.

The Chargers finally struck pay dirt near the end of the third quarter. After forcing the Knights to another three-and-out on offense, IWA regained possession of the ball in excellent field position at the Blessed Sacrament 34. After respective 20- and 10-yard runs by Epps and junior running back Zeb Warnick, the Chargers set up on the 3-yard line of the Knights.

A perfectly executed running play, highlighted by a crushing block by senior offensive lineman Ian Andrews, led to a short touchdown by Epps, giving the Chargers their first lead of the night, and one they wouldn’t relinquish.

The Charger defense, which matched the physical and aggressive play of the BSH defense all night, took control the rest of the way. The only serious threat the Knights were able to muster in the fourth quarter led to a failed 34-yard field goal attempt with six minutes remaining.

After going three-and-out on their next possession, the Chargers gave the ball back with just over 4 minutes remaining.

After gaining a couple of yards on first down, the Knights were sacked for a big loss on second down and thrown for another loss on their ensuing third-down attempt. On a desperation fourth-down play, the IWA defense stuffed another running play, essentially ending any hopes of a BSH comeback.

The teams each traded one final possession, with the Chargers taking a knee on their last possession to run out the clock.

After his team sealed the impressive and emotional victory, Chapman was thrilled.

“These guys have been playing with a chip on their shoulder all year,” the exuberant coach said. “These guys got demolished by Blessed Sacrament last year, and I’m proud of each and every one of them.”