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MMA falls short in shootout with Eagles

By Dennis Atwood - sports@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- The Massanutten Military Academy Colonels fought visiting Covenant to a 32-all tie early in the fourth quarter, but the Colonels' chances went down with the setting sun as the Eagles scored three more touchdowns for a run-away 52-38 non-conference football win Friday evening.

With so much offense, the game took three hours and 15 minutes to complete at lightless Gordon S. Bowman Stadium, and, like the rabbit in the battery ads, Covenant senior running back Jamie Gaston keep going and going, to rush for a remarkable 322 yards on 18 carries (17.89 per carry), crossing the goal line four times.

Gaston's longest runs were 70, 66, and 41 yards, all for touchdowns, and he had a run into the end zone in each quarter.

"I've never had a four TD, or 300-yard game before," Gaston said. "The blocking was great. It was really a full team effort, because [quarterback] Brady [Doyle], and [running back] Austin [Llera] also ran well. And the line did a great job blocking, as well. Our style is whatever it needs to be. We just adapt to whoever we're playing."

The absence of key Massanutten players also factored in Gaston's success, as Colonels head coach Chris Gilliland explained.

"We didn't have Arpy Augustus, a starting defensive end/linebacker, and we didn't have Jamauri Richardson, a starter at free safety and wide receiver, [because] both are down with injuries this week, so that hurt us right up the middle [on defense]," Gilliland said.

"It was difficult for us to keep putting guys in and we have offensive linemen playing multiple positions and defensive linemen playing multiple positions -- it's difficult for us to get a run game going. When they started running the ball [a lot], it became difficult for us to stop it."

Unofficially, Charlottesville's Covenant (3-1) generated over 570 yards of offense, 432 on the ground and 145 through the air.

The Colonels (1-3) struck mostly through the air, with four passing TDs, as quarterback Kenya Ray-Abrams threw for 410 yards, 313 of them to wide receiver Travis Fulgham.

The game started well for the Colonels, as strong safety Houston Walls intercepted a Doyle pass at the Covenant 23 on the second play of the game and returned it to the 10.
Massanutten then struck quickly, with a Ray-Abrams touchdown pass to wide receiver Damoni Gunter.

With Augustus out, the Colonels didn't have a place-kicker, so had to try for two-point after touchdown conversions, and were able to complete only one of those six attempts.

The teams then traded touchdowns as Covenant scored on an 8-yard pass to wide receiver Boo Agee.

The Colonels scored on their third possession on a 10-yard run by Nicky Sanders, who also converted the two-point conversion try into the end zone to give Massanutten a 14-6 lead with 2:56 remaining in the quarter.

Less than two minutes later, Gaston scampered 41 yards to paydirt and the two-point conversion failed.

Massanutten gained its biggest lead of the game, on a 13-yard TD run by Walls, for a 20-12 advantage.

Covenant scored the next two touchdowns, on a 9-yard Doyle roll-out touchdown pass to leaping tight end Daniel Crawford, and another of Gaston's romps -- this time for a mere five yards, as the Eagles took a 24-20 lead into the locker room at halftime.

The Colonels grabbed the momentum at the start of the second half when Paul Karabetian and Chase McDevitt sacked Doyle on a fourth-down play at the Massanutten 18.

On the Colonels' first play after taking over on downs, Ray-Abrams connected on an 82-yard bomb to Fulgham, putting Massanutten back into the lead, 26-24, with 6:14 left in the third quarter.

"I told the guys, 'We have two quarters left to play, this our home field, and we want to look good in front of our home crowd, and we have to believe for the next two quarters,'" Gilliland said of his halftime talk. "'They're just as tired as we are, we're going to go onto the field and it's up to you guys whose going to be on top at the end,' and they really stepped up."

Covenant quickly regained the momentum on 66-yard TD scamper by Gaston with only 16 seconds gone off the fourth-quarter clock, and the two-point conversion was good, putting the Eagles ahead, 32-26.

In the remaining 11:44, the two offenses posted and additional 32 points on the scoreboard.

Unfortunately for the Colonels, 20 of those points belonged to the Eagles, on a 70-yard run by Gaston, and rushes of 37 and 23 yards by Llera, as a special way to celebrate his birthday.

The two last-gasp scores by the Colonels came through the air as Ray-Abrams connected with Fulgham for a 58-yard strike and found McDevitt in the end zone for a 15-yard TD on a fourth-down play with 3:20 remaining on the game clock.

"I'm proud of the kids," Gilliland said. "They played a great game. We ended up losing at the end, but it wasn't because of our effort."

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