Turnovers prove costly in Generals’ loss to Leemen

Brendan Hoover

QUICKSBURG — Late in the first quarter, winless Stonewall Jackson found itself tied with undefeated Robert E. Lee on Friday night. However, five turnovers and poor tackling on defense kept the Generals from being able to pull off the upset.

The Fighting Leemen scored 56 straight points and won, 70-22, in Shenandoah District football action.

Despite the loss, the Generals had plenty to be pleased about against a very solid Robert E. Lee squad.

“I thought the kids played hard,” Stonewall Jackson coach Pete Lampman said. “We hung in there with the best team in our district. When we did what we were coached to do what happened? We scored, we were successful.”

Lampman said all week leading up to the game he told the team the main objective was for the players to do what the coaches told them to do, and when they did that it led to successful plays.

Udreka Claude

After forcing a three-and-out to start the game, the Leemen wasted little time in taking the lead. A penalty negated a touchdown on the Leemen’s first play, but it didn’t matter as they scored on the next play.

Robert E. Lee’s Garrett Lawler scored on a 29-yard run for a 7-0 lead with 9:16 left in the first quarter.

The Generals (0-5, 0-3 Shenandoah) came right back with a score of their own. The team has struggled at times running the triple option, but at times looked really sharp running the new offense against the Fighting Leemen.

Stonewall Jackson fullback Udreka Claude ran for a 58-yard touchdown to tie the game with 5:54 left in the opening quarter.

“They came out and scored, and I like how we didn’t give up,” Stonewall Jackson senior quarterback Brendan Hoover said. “We went down the next drive. Udreka had a great run, and we tied it up at 7.”

Robert E. Lee’s Matthew Larson returned the ensuing kickoff 65 yards for a touchdown to give the Fighting Leemen a 14-7 lead with 5:41 left in the opening quarter.

The Generals again came right back and tied the game. Hoover led the Generals on a nine-play, 80-yard drive. Hoover threw a 41-yard completion to Logan Ritchie for the big play.

One play later, Hoover scored on a 1-yard run to tie the game at 14 with 2:38 left in the first quarter.

Hoover said the success the offense had shows the Generals what they’re capable of.

“It shows us that the offense we run — it works,” Hoover said. “They’re a good team, and we moved the ball down on them. So if we can do it against them, it will work against anybody.”

As good as the Stonewall Jackson offense looked early on, the defense struggled mightily against the Leemen’s passing game.

Robert E. Lee (5-0, 3-0 Shenandoah) needed just two plays to score on the next drive. Williams connected with Kavon Robertson for a 54-yard touchdown pass with 1:57 left in the first quarter.

The Generals fumbled on their next play, one of four fumbles in the game, and the Fighting Leemen took advantage.

Williams threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Ta’Corrious Strother for a 28-14 lead with 1:31 left in the first quarter.

“I thought we made strides on offense,” Lampman said. “I thought we were overmatched on defense. But we got to tackle better. Some of that was ridiculous.”

The score stayed the same until late in the second quarter.

After an interception by Robert E. Lee’s Larson, the Fighting Leemen needed only one play to score.

Williams threw a 63-yard touchdown pass to Robertson for a 35-14 lead with 3:18 left in the first half.

Robert E. Lee recovered a Stonewall Jackson fumble on the ensuing kickoff and scored two plays later.

“I thought for the most part we didn’t give up,” Hoover said. “We kept fighting. We moved the ball most of the night. We just got to eliminate turnovers. That’s one thing we do need to work on.”

After forcing a three-and-out, Robert E. Lee scored again right before the half for a 49-14 lead.

Robert E. Lee finished with 375 yards of offense, while the Generals had 350 yards of offense.

Stonewall Jackson controlled time of possession. The Generals had the ball for 35 minutes and 22 seconds, while the Fighting Leemen had it for only 12 minutes and eight seconds. Robert E. Lee ran only 22 plays on offense.

Hoover finished with 109 rushing yards on 20 carries and one touchdown and 95 passing yards with one touchdown.

Claude had 105 yards on 14 carries and one score. Logan Ritchie had two receptions for 73 yards and one score.

“It was all on the offensive line,” Hoover said. “They blocked well tonight. They gave us holes and we just hit ’em hard and got good runs.”

Hoover said that being able to stay close with the Fighting Leemen for a while may have opened some eyes around the area and the Shenandoah District.

“They were probably surprised we were putting up points on the board early with them and staying competitive,” Hoover said. “So that’s nice to know teams will respect us. I feel like we gained more respect tonight.”

Due to having only six Virginia High School League eligible teams in their region, the Generals are already assured of a playoff berth, and Hoover said the goal is to keep making progress as they get closer to the playoffs.

“After seeing what we can do (Friday) I feel like it gave us more confidence,” Hoover said. “We’re just getting ready for the playoffs, getting better and better each week. Already being in the playoffs — it’s nice. So we’re just trying to get better and better each week.”