State championship within reach
Published 11:10 am Saturday, November 14, 2015
ISLE OF WIGHT
The Isle of Wight Chargers had not been in the state playoffs since 2012 nor have won a state championship since 2007. They’ll have an opportunity to climb to the mountain once again after defeating the Broadwater Vikings on Friday night to advance to the Virginia Independent School Athletic Association Division IV title game. Broadwater kept the game close through two quarters and trailed by only nine at the half, but Isle of Wight pulled away in the third quarter for the 47-18 win.
“Coming off of a bye week, you typically lose a little bit of your sharpness, you lose a little bit of your edge, and I think that showed in this game,” Isle of Wight head coach Dale Chapman said. “All in all, the guys played tough. They hunkered down when they had to. They made plays when they had to. I contribute a lot to our defense. They’re playing very well.”
The Chargers had to overcome an early deficit, as a major shift in field position on special teams aided the Vikings’ first scoring drive of the game. Isle of Wight punted the ball to the 2-yard-line, but an illegal procedure penalty forced the Chargers to re-kick. The subsequent snap was fumbled, and instead of starting in the shadow of its own goal line, Broadwater took over at the Isle of Wight 39-yard-line — a 59-yard difference. Four plays later, running back Tyler Majors ran over right tackle and into the end zone to give the Vikings a 6-0 lead.
“For whatever reason, every time we play Broadwater, it seems like that’s the kind of thing that happens,” Chapman said. “You do something positive, and then the next thing you know it’s back to negative. It’s just detrimental. It was a big swing, a big momentum change, and then they took the ball and went right down and scored.”
Isle of Wight wasted little time pulling even, though, when — one play later — running back Alec Edwards took the handoff around the left side for a 44-yard touchdown. The senior rushed 15 times for a season-high 190 yards and one score, and was a catalyst for the Chargers’ offense.
After an abbreviated Broadwater drive, Chapman continued to rely on his feature back. Running the exact same play as the one on which he scored, Edwards followed his blockers for another long run — this time for 35 yards and into the red zone. On the next play, receiver Curtis Waters finished off the drive with a jet sweep to the right side, hurdling defenders as he jumped into the end zone to push Isle of Wight ahead 14-6.
“Our guys rallied after going down, and we never looked back after that score,” Chapman said. “Our guys are focused. Our guys know what they’re up against week-in and week-out. We didn’t take advantage [of field position on the first drive] like we needed to. I think a lot of that came from our lack of sharpness. We had weather issues, and we tried to practice in the gym, so I chalk some of the rust up to that. We’re usually sharper than that.”
Isle of Wight’s first four drives of the game started in Broadwater territory, and although Chapman didn’t think his team was efficient enough, the Chargers capitalized on the latter three. Quarterback Bryce Casey, who was under heavy pressure for most of the night when he attempted to throw the ball, stepped up in the pocket on fourth down and found receiver Chad McCann for a 25-yard score.
“I give a lot of credit to my guys,” Chapman said. “They sucked it up when they had to and made plays when they had to to move the ball down the field. That’s what you need to do.”
After the Chargers melted more than eight minutes off of the clock in the second quarter, Edwards fumbled the ball at the 2-yard-line to resuscitate the Vikings. A 72-yard run by Majors moved the ball to the red zone and then quarterback Austin Murphy found Major Morgan in the end zone to cut the lead to 21-12.
“We knew that they were capable of scoring,” Chapman said. “They have good receivers and a good quarterback, and it’s another deal where we lose some momentum. We get down there and we’re about to score and then the next thing you know, they’re scoring.”
The teams exchanged scores to open the third quarter, as Isle of Wight running back Donald King found an opening in the defense for an 11-yard touchdown and Broadwater’s Major answered with a 66 yard scamper of his own. But it was Isle of Wight’s depth and leadership at the quarterback position that proved to be the difference on this night.
Casey added two touchdowns on the ground, with runs of five and three yards, respectively, and another in the air, hooking up with backup quarterback Jordon Baines to seal the deal.
“The difference was that [Broadwater] has about five guys on the sideline and I’ve got about 20,” Chapman. “I think eventually that it kind of wears on you. Especially if you’re pounding the ball and pounding the ball and then pull back and throw it. My hat’s off to them. They’re a great team considering the number of kids they have. They deserve to be here.”
With the win, second-seeded Roanoke Catholic is all that stands in the way between Isle of Wight and state championship No. 6. The Celtics defeated Richmond Christian on Friday, 40-6.
“With Broadwater, we’ve seen each other year-in and year-out. With Roanoke, they haven’t really seen us and we haven’t really seen them,” Chapman said. It’s going to be a feeling out process to start out with and we’re just going to have to see what they’ve got. They’re a well-coached team that runs the Wing T, which is a lot of deception and moving the ball around a lot.
“We’re going to have to execute. We can’t afford to drive down and fumble the ball at the 2-yard-line. We can’t afford to pin a team deep and get a penalty and do what we did tonight. We have got to play mistake-free football against this team. If we can play mistake-free football and play like we play and use our speed, I think we’ll be in good shape.”