FRONT ROYAL – With 7:38 remaining in the third quarter, Randolph-Macon Academy’s football team had mounted a comeback.
The Yellow Jackets had taken several blows from visiting Blue Ridge School, but trailed by only 7 after having fallen behind by 21.
But the fourth quarter was a whole different story.
The Barons from St. George reeled off 31 unanswered points in a game with playoff considerations to whip R-MA Saturday 59-21 at sun-drenched Riddick Field.
“We pressed a little bit there in the second half and made some mistakes you cannot,” said R-MA coach Frunk Sullivan, who has overseen the transformation of the academy’s football program.
Last year the Yellow Jackets won five games, according to the coach, and this season their record is 5-3. They were playing before an enthusiastic crowd for a spot in the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division II playoffs. Those games occur in two weeks.
Both R-MA and Blue Ridge are members of Division II in the VIAA and therefore were vying for a playoff spots. The Barons continue that hunt after Saturday’s outcome; the record is 6-2.
According to Sullivan, the Yellow Jackets’ postseason possibilities are slim heading into their final game at home Thursday against Covenant.
The other Division II schools in contention were top-seeded (as of Saturday) North Cross School (8-0, 10.88 power rating); Atlantic Shores Christian School (second, 7-1, 9.5); Blue Ridge (8.14, third) and, now, either Norfolk Christian (6-2) or Isle of Wight Academy (5-2).
R-MA, with a power ranking of 7.43, was rated No. 5.
Not only did the visiting Barons outlast the Yellow Jackets in this game they were able to hold off a couple of the major R-MA weapons.
“We knew they were balanced pretty well between the run and the pass. Our idea was to put pressure on the quarterback. At first we weren’t very good at it, but as the game wore on, so did we,” said Blue Ridge coach Tim Thomas.
R-MA signal-caller Corban Ruch came into the game as the area’s No. 1 passer, according to the Yellow Jacket statistical book. The visitors forced Ruch, a senior, into throwing three interceptions.
Otherwise, he was 13-35 with three touchdown tosses and 197 yards. Alex NDongo Seh was the recipient of two of the scoring passes.
The other productive Jacket was running back Jeffrey Collins. The senior was averaging more than 7 yards per carry. Against Blue Ridge, he carried nine times for 24 yards.
Blue Ridge quarterback Justin Armwood pretty much had his way against the R-MC defense in the first quarter.
The senior (85 yards rushing, 103 passing, accounting for four scores) was involved in the first three six-pointers.
The quarterback drove for a one-yard run which, with the point after, gave the Barons a 7-0 lead with 10:23 to go in the first quarter.
Then he dropped a long pass over a would-be R-MA defender into the hands of Josh Colin for a 45-yard touchdown pass and catch. Another extra point made it a 14-0 game with 5:01 remaining in the first quarter.
Randolph-Macon got on the board to start the second quarter.
An excellent defensive stop on the part of the Yellow Jacket defense gave Ruch & Co. the ball back and the offense went to work.
Sullivan decided to go for a short-passing game and Ruch moved the team from its own 36.
The 64-yard possession culminated when Ruch threw a bullet to tight end Alex Blell, who hauled it in for the 7-yard touchdown. Blell hauled in five balls on the day for 100 yards.
“Alex and Alex Ndongoh-Seh always show up to play,” said Sullivan.
From that point Blue Ridge dominated the remainder of the first half.
The Barons scored on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter and with the extra points led 28-7 on a 1-yard touchdown carry by Tariq Gough with 3:11 left to go before the half. Armwood carried for two yards on the other 6.
Randolph-Macon missed a 35-yard field goal before the first half came to a close.
But the Yellow Jackets came out of the intermission locker room with a purpose.
Collins made what at first seemed like a dubious effort when he retreated to pick up a Blue Ridge kickoff inside the 10, but he made the Barons pay. His 92-yard return set up a Ruch touchdown pass to Ndongo-Seh for the score.
The 4-yard throw made it 28-14 with 10:35 showing in the third quarter.
Another long punt return by Ndongo-Seh was aided on the next play when Blue Ridge was flagged for pass interference on the subsequent snap. That moved the ball all the way down to the 11 where Ruch hooked up with Ndongo-Seh again. The score and kick brought R-MA closer, 28-21, with 7:38 left in the third.
Blue Ridge struck for the first of five touchdowns in the fourth quarter when Armwood found Aaron Aldridge alone for a strike that went 23 yards for the score. The kick gave the Barons a 35-21 advantage with 11:50 left in the game.
Cam Carr picked off a Ruch pass and returned it to midfield to set up the next Baron points.
Jamison Harrison’s 23-yard run put Blue Ridge ahead 41-21 with 9:54 to go in the third quarter, even though the kick failed. Harrison rushed 15 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns.
Another rushing score – Armwood’s second of the day – came on an 11- yard run. The point after was stopped but the Barons were on the way, 47-21 with 7:07 remaining in the game.
The next score came after a Ruch interception. Colon stepped in front of an R-MA receiver, intercepted the ball and sprinted 31 yards with 5:32 left in the game. Again, the point after was stopped, though the scoreboard 53-21.
The final touchdown of the day was transmitted from backup Baron quarterback, Xavier Kane, to Aldridge for a 30-yard touchdown.
Contact Jim Laise at email@example.com.
Barons 59, Yellow Jackets 21
Blue Ridge 14 14 0 31–59
Randolph-Macon 0 7 14 0–21
BR: Armwood 1 run (kick good), 10:23
BR: Colin 45 pass from Armwood (kick good), 5:01
R-MA: Blell 7 pass from Ruch (kick good), 10:25
BR: Armwood 2 run (kick good), 5:13
BR: Grough 1 run (kick good), 3:11
R-MA: Ndongo-Seh 4 pass from Ruch (kick good) 10:35
R-MA Ndongo-Seh 11 pass from Ruch (kick good) 7:38
BR: Harrison 12 run (kick good) 11:50
BR: Harrison 32 run (kick failed), 9:54
BR: Armwood 11 run (kick failed), 7:07
BR: Colin 45 interception return (kick failed), 5:32
BR: Carr 30 pass from Kane (kick failed), 2:20
First downs 17-15
Rushing yards 122-297
Passing yards 126-197