By Dennis Atwood - email@example.com
WOODSTOCK -- A potent running game, and superb special teams play, were keys in No. 1 ranked (VISFA) Fredericksburg Christian Eagles' 61-20 crushing of host Massanutten Military Academy Colonels in a Patriot Conference football matchup Friday afternoon at Gordon D. Bowman Stadium.
In a reversal of mascot attributes, the Eagles stuck to ground with 318 rushing yards on 46 carries. They were led by senior running back Hunter Griffis, who ripped off 163 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns.
Of the nine Fredericksburg Christian TDs, six came via rushes, two by kick returns, and one via a pass interception.
After the Colonels closed to within 21-14 early in the second quarter, the Eagles took over. They led 35-14 at halftime, and 48-20 at the end of the third frame.
Eagles quarterback Bret Barham attempted only three passes, all incomplete.
"That's what our wing-T offense is designed to do -- ground attack and play-action option passes," Eagles head coach Tim Coleman said. "It's designed to take time off the clock. [Massanutten] has some athletes that can make plays on you.
"When you try to control it on the ground, and you put your bodies on their bodies, you hope you can wear them down."
The Colonels featured a passing attack, as senior quarterback Kenya Ray-Abrams filled the skies with an Air Force wing's worth of passes, completing 18 of 41 attempts for 184 yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions.
The Eagles (5-0, 3-0 Patriot) stout defense, including five sacks, forced Ray-Abrams to also resort to using his own running skills. He scored on a 5-yard keeper at 8:29 in the second quarter for Massanutten's second touchdown, pulling within 21-14.
Ray-Abrams most spectacular play came on the ground, a 72 yard scamper, on a fourth-and-5 play from the Colonels 28, to tally the Colonels' (1-4, 1-1 Patriot) final score, and pull within 42-20, midway through the third quarter.
On the 72-yarder, Ray-Abrams broke out of the backfield over the left end position, then veered toward the middle of the field around the 50-yard line, and continued on that path until turning left to scoot down the right sideline to pay dirt. He finished with 118 yards on seven attempts, leading the Colonels' rushing offense.
"We came out and played hard from the first snap and we tried to get up on them," Ray-Abrams said. "But, it didn't go as we planned. Our defense could have made a few stops, but we didn't get the stops we wanted, and we had to play catch-up.
"When the passing wasn't working, I had to make the play and scramble for a couple of yards. I like to throw the ball, but, if I have to, I will run the ball."
Senior DB/RB Aaron Alexander was a standout on special teams play for the Eagles, with a 79-yard kick-off return to give Fredericksburg Christian a 21-8 lead with 1:56 remaining in the first quarter. Alexander also had a 33-yard punt return for a touchdown with 1:47 remaining in the first half.
Alexander also gained 54 yards on five rushing plays, to account for 116 yards of total offense.
"It's a real special thing when you can create plays for your team on special plays," Alexander said. "That's the way you win a lot of games. Today, I let my team down on [the Colonels' first score], but all I had to do was use that to try to do something to help us out. I picked up some really good blocks. All I had to was run."
Among the Eagles three pass interceptions, was a 50-yard return for a touchdown by senior DB/RB Chris Barlow, ballooning Fredericksburg Christian's lead to 48-20, with 2:22 remaining on the third quarter clock.
The Eagles completed the scoring with two fourth-quarter rushing TDs, by Barham and Ben Sizemore.
The Colonels got limited benefit by the return of a couple of key players. Jamauri Richardson saw action in the second half, with three receptions for 26 yards.
Arpy Augustus also returned to action for Massanutten, but wasn't at full strength.
"I told the guys before the game that special teams are going to win this game," Colonels head coach Chris Gilliland said. "We gave up [two TDs] on special teams play, and we had an interception return for a touchdown. It hurts to have three scores on plays like that, giving them 21 points.
"I told they guys, 'I know we've gotten beat in our last two games, but the heart and the desire is there.' These guys are really coming together and I'm proud of them. We have a tough stretch coming up and I'm sure we can be competitive in the rest of our games."