FISHERSVILLE – Stonewall Jackson had some positive moments on Friday night. However, many of the positives were followed up with a costly mistake.
The Generals turned the ball over three times and had a punt blocked, which helped lead to a 66-7 Shenandoah District football loss to Wilson Memorial.
“We need to play harder and smarter,” Stonewall Jackson head coach Pete Lampman said. “You can’t put the ball on the ground. That’s a good football team, but we put the ball on the ground and gave them 35 points. It’s as simple as that. You can’t turn the ball over against a good team.”
On Stonewall Jackson’s first offensive series, quarterback Rion Dennison had a pass intercepted by Wilson Memorial’s Cobey Rothgeb at the Stonewall Jackson 42-yard line. Rothgeb returned the ball to the Generals’ 30.
However, on the next play, a 15-yard penalty against the Green Hornets backed them up to the Stonewall Jackson 45. It didn’t matter as Wilson Memorial sophomore quarterback Kaden Welcher threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Ty Hevener for a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.
Stonewall Jackson (0-3, 0-1 Shenandoah) was forced to punt on the next series, but senior punter Blake McCourt had his punt blocked, and Wilson Memorial’s Bryce Norman recovered the ball at the Generals’ 4-yard line.
On the next play, Norman finished what he started with a 4-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 14-0 with 7:59 left in the opening quarter.
Dennison made his first career start at quarterback due to senior Logan Ritchie not being available to play. Ritchie was dressed in street clothes on the sidelines, and Lampman said Ritchie would be out for another week.
Dennison, normally a running back, made the most of his opportunity late in the first quarter. Stonewall Jackson sophomore Dario Mendez returned a punt 28 yards to the Wilson Memorial 14. Two plays later Dennison completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Vanderpuye to cut the lead to 14-7 with 2:46 left in the first quarter.
“It’s my first game, so I was kind of iffy about it,” Dennison said. “But I saw that it was open there, and I connected with Tyler (Vanderpuye). The offense blocked well. It was a good play all around.”
Dennison finished the game 3-for-8 passing for 37 yards and also ran for 35 yards on 10 carries.
Lampman said he was pleased with Dennison’s play.
“I thought Rion (Dennison) did great for only having a week to get ready,” Lampman said. “He hasn’t played quarterback before, and for just one week of practice, I thought he did a fantastic job. He played hard. He played smart. He put in 100 percent effort, but sometimes you just got to make plays. He worked his ass off, and he’s going to get better. He’ll be ready to play next week.”
The Generals had a chance to stop the Green Hornets on the ensuing drive, but a 15-yard face mask penalty against the Generals kept it alive. Rothgeb capped the drive off with a 16-yard touchdown run and a 21-7 lead after the first quarter.
The Generals ended the first quarter with a 9-yard completion from Dennison to Griffin Proctor for a first down at the Stonewall Jackson 31. However, there wouldn’t be a lot of positive plays for the Generals the rest of the way.
The Generals fumbled the ball on the first play of the second quarter. One play later, Wilson Memorial’s Maurice Johnson scored on a 36-yard touchdown run for a 27-7 advantage.
The Generals began moving on their ensuing drive, but once again a fumble gave the ball back to the Green Hornets. A 1-yard touchdown run by Rothgeb on a fourth-and-goal gave the Green Hornets a 34-7 lead with 7:27 left in the first half.
Lampman said you couldn’t have turnovers.
“I don’t know how many we’ve had this year, but it’s a lot. You can’t put the ball on the ground – it’s as simple as that,” he added.
The conditions weren’t the best due to the weather. A heavy rain before the game made the field slippery.
Wilson Memorial head coach Jeremiah Major said he was happy with how his team handled the conditions.
“It was a nasty night, but our kids fought through adversity again,” Major said. “I tell ’em, you always have adversity and tonight it was the weather. And they fought through and played hard.”
The Green Hornets (2-0, 1-0 Shenandoah) ran for 447 yards on 43 carries. The Generals rushing attack was led by Udreka Claude, who was playing in his first game of the season, with 49 yards on 20 carries.
Outside of the blocked punt, McCourt had a stellar night punting the ball. He averaged 45 yards per punt on his three other punts.
Dennison said the Generals, who have lost 30 straight games, need to improve their tackling and gave up too many big runs on defense. He said it’s frustrating to give up so many big plays.
“As the quarterback now I just have to keep my head up,” Dennison said. “They look up to me. I have to keep my head up. That’s what coaches they tell me every week. Every week I’m one they look up to. So I have to keep that in mind. But we’ll work on it and come back next week and show what we can do.”