Leemen knock off Falcons in regional semifinals

Varsey Bright

WOODSTOCK — Central’s stellar, history-making football season came to an end Friday night.

The Falcons started off slow and couldn’t recover in a 49-21 loss to Robert E. Lee in the Region 2B semifinals.

“We weren’t as disciplined as we should have been,” Central coach Mike Yew said. “I’m not taking anything away from their speed or their game plan or anything they did. But we weren’t near as disciplined as we should have been.”

The Leemen (11-1) jumped out to an early lead. On Robert E. Lee’s second possession of the game, Leemen quarterback Jayden Williams connected with Garrett Lawler on a 17-yard touchdown pass with 4:13 left in the opening quarter. The touchdown was set-up by a 51-yard run by Robert E. Lee running back Kavon Robertson.

Central (11-1) put together a drive on the ensuing possession, but a fumble gave the ball back to Robert Lee late in the first quarter.

Zeb Dyer

The Falcons eventually forced a punt and put together another solid drive. On fourth-and-5 from the Robert E. Lee 24-yard line, Central quarterback Zeb Dyer completed a pass to Varsey Bright, but they only gained 4 yards on the play.

The Leemen took advantage of the opportunity. Two plays later, Williams ran 78 yards for a touchdown to give Robert E. Lee a 14-0 edge.

Williams finished the game with 243 yards on 13 carries.

“Could you ask for anything more from a player than to be that dynamic?” Robert E. Lee coach Scott Girolmo said. “And unfortunately he played almost every single play of the game. He played both sides of the ball. So he’s probably waxed, but he’s such a special player. It just makes you look good as a coach. I don’t think my play calling is anything special — he’s just really good.”

The Falcons started the second half strong. Central went 75 yards on six plays. Central senior fullback Bryan Davis scored on a 36-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 14-7 with 9:26 left in the third quarter.

However, the Leemen came right back. Robert E. Lee went 84 yards on 10 plays. Williams threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Lawler to extend the lead to 21-7 with 4:48 left in the third quarter. Williams ran the ball 40 yards on the first play of the drive, and changed the momentum.

“When we scored and made it 14-7 and pinned them on the 15-yard line, I truly believed we were going to turn it around right then,” Yew said. “But they made a big play, and we were on our heels again. And we never recovered from that point.”

Williams added a 6-yard touchdown on Robert E. Lee’s next drive for a 28-7 lead at the end of three quarters.

Yew said that his team didn’t handle adversity as well as he would have liked.

“We just had kids that as things went wrong a little bit, then we start second guessing,” Yew said. “And we started doing things we shouldn’t have been doing. It was the first time all year we faced adversity. First time all year we’ve been down. It was just unfortunate that it happened at the worst time for us.”

The two teams traded touchdowns early in the fourth quarter, but the deficit was too much to overcome for Central.

The Leemen had 597 yards of offense. Robertson had 125 yards rushing on 11 carries. Williams also threw for 101 yards on 8-for-13 passing.

Robert E. Lee will now host Luray in the Region 2B finals next week. Luray handed Robert E. Lee its only loss of the season earlier this year.

“Central was so phenomenal, I spent all of my time the last two weeks (preparing for) Central,” Girolmo said. “So I haven’t thought a bit about Luray this two weeks. Prior to that, I thought about them every night when I woke up at midnight in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. Because I was so angry at the loss of an opportunity. But didn’t it turn out to be the greatest thing that could happen to us? The adversity, the humility that’s caused by that (loss). I can’t wait to get another shot at redemption.”

Dyer threw for 143 yards on 10-for-19 passing and two touchdowns. Bright caught six passes for 110 yards. Central running back Shane Watson had 160 yards on 21 carries. Central played without defensive lineman Dean Woodwell and linebacker Zach Abrams due to injuries. Central junior Kyle Clanton was injured late in the third quarter and did not return.

Yew said despite the loss he was proud of what the team did this season, including becoming the first in school history to go 10-0 in the regular season.

“Central High School went 11-1 this year — it’s never been done before,” Yew said. “It’s the most wins we’ve ever had in a season. Unless you win a state title the season ends in a loss, and that’s where we’re at. It hurts right now for the kids. It hurts for all the fans and everybody in the bleachers. It is what it is. But we were 11-1. Our kids got a whole lot to be proud of.”