By Dennis Atwood - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Leading 8-0 with 2:55 remaining in the first quarter, Massanutten Military Academy had third-and-5 on the St. John's 15-yard line.
Colonels senior quarterback Richard Lewis executed an option, faking a handoff to Jason McDonald, who was tackled behind the line of scrimmage, then ran off right end to score.
But a whistle had blown and the play was called back. Lewis's fake was so well executed that the umpire blew the inadvertent tweet.
The error was compounded on the do-over as the Colonels fumbled in the backfield and St. John's took over on the 28.
But there was no lasting damage as the well-executed triple-option set keyed the Colonels to a 30-0 home opener win Saturday afternoon.
The Saints opened their second season with a 40-0 trouncing of Rappahannock County, causing MMA to use extra diligence in game preparation.
Massanutten (1-2) scored twice on the ground and twice through the air and converted three two-point after touchdown tries in a convincing victory.
Lewis was effective through the air, with four completions on seven attempts for 155 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.
"I was a little angry [on the inadvertent whistle]," Lewis said. "I actually didn't know anything about St. John before today, but we were able to use our options and misdirection to have things really go our way."
The Colonels lit up the scoreboard early, with two trips to the end zone in the first quarter.
Starting at the Saints' 28 as a result of a punt plus a 15-yard penalty, Massanutten earned a first down on the 17, then lost two yards.
On second-and-12, Lewis pitched out to senior running back Brandon Mann, who scampered 19 yards for a touchdown with 8:22 remaining in the first quarter, followed by a pass to Jay Deschene for a two-point conversion.
Lewis' first pass of the game came on a first down at the Saints' 46, as he found wide receiver Cameron Williams on a left-side fly pattern. Williams scampered to pay dirt with the 54-yard completion with 2:03 remaining in the first quarter.
"[Massnutten] did a great job of misdirecting their plays," Saints head coach Dan Bryant said. "They did a really good job of hiding the football and they were able to spread it out to the point that we weren't able to keep up with their counters or their spread formations. It was like [our] guys had their head on a swivel."
The Saints' defense stiffened in the second quarter, holding the Colonels to five net yards on three possessions, two of them being three-and-outs, with two sacks and two incomplete passes.
But St. John's (1-1) couldn't solve the Colonels' defense. The Saints deepest penetration in Massanutten territory was to the 33-yard line on a 13-yard run by senior Joe McMahon with 3:50 remaining in the second quarter.
It was a rapid retreat from that point with two successive sacks losing 12 and 14 yards, the second made by Willliam Bard, resulting in a fumble recovered by the Colonels' Arpy Augustus.
Mann picked up his second touchdown on a third-and-16 pass to Mann on an 87-yard play.
Mann, in his first year at Massanutten, led the Colonels' running attack with 33 yards on six rushes.
"I just kept running and saying, 'don't catch me, don't catch me,' and I just had enough gas to make it to the end zone," Mann said. "It was rough at first because I didn't know what to expect from their defense. I saw they won their last game by a good amount, so we came out and practiced much harder this week. We stepped everything up, so we got the victory."
The final score of the afternoon came when senior Wesley Harper joined the Massanutten backfield for his first series and ran a second-and-15 pitch through a hole, broke three tackles and made a spin move to reach the end zone.
"I was really determined," Harper said. "I lost count [of the tacklers]. I was just trying to get into the end zone."
McMahon led the Saints' rushing attack with 28 yards on seven carries.
"We dressed 17 players today, and a lot of them had to go both ways in considerable heat, and that's tough on the kids when they get behind two and three scores," Bryant said.
St John's is a church-sponsored team from Front Royal with 23 players on the roster, the majority being homeschooled, using the Seton Home Study School in Front Royal for their curriculum. Others are from Chelsea Academy and the Thomas Aquinas Cooperative School. The remainder are students at Warren County, Skyline, and Strasburg high schools.
"It's our first victory and it's important that we played well in our home opener in front of our home crowd," Colonels head coach Chris Gilliland said. "I was proud of the effort. We came out ready to play.
"In the second half of our first two games we've had a bit of a hangover. And this time we didn't have that. [On Harper's TD] we can throw one guy in there and we shouldn't miss a beat. We're trying to get to [the point] where everybody's on the same page and we're not missing anything when we make a substitute."