This game had the potential to be a good game. The Lancers we knew had an offense to win big but James River was no slouch. The Rapids came into this one 3-2 having played hard all season under 1st-year head coach Bobby Henderson. Henderson, a defensive minded coach having come over from Monacan was outgunned and coached in this one as the Lancers win big.
This game was more less won in the first half. Two big keys to the Lancers win being short fields and defense. Not that the Lancers could not have won if they had to go the length of the field but four times in the first half the Rapids went for it on fourth down! When the Rapids were not doing so, they were turning the ball over be it interceptions or fumbles.
The Rapids play at the "Swamp" but they might as well have been playing in quicksand because they kept sinking no matter hard hard they fought.
1st Quarter Highlights
The Rapids got off to a nice start giving the fans a lot to cheer for. Jalen Butler returned the opening kickoff 16 yards. Graham Scholl hit Andrew Phillips with a 15-yard pass but things took a turn from there.
Kwame Dehaney who played for James River last year but is now a Lancer nearly intercepted Graham Scholl on a first down play after that 15-yard pass. An omen if you will of what was to come with the Lancers intercepting the Rapids. James River chipped away but not enough for a first down and that is when it began.
"It" being the fourth down conversion attempts. The Rapids faced 4th & 2 at their own 39! They went for it and failed.
Manchester took advantage of this as they would so many times in the first quarter and half. With 40 yards to work with the Lancers were in the endzone in a matter of three plays! As Lee Corso says however, "not so fast my friend". The touchdown from Brendon Clark to Jayson Glover was brought back by a holding call. Three plays later however the Lancers had their first touchdown on a pass to Jonathan Rose.
The Lancers would score less than a minute later after Val West got the ball for the Lancers on the first of two interceptions of Graham Scholl. It again took three plays for Clark to put another pass into the endzone.
14-0 halfway through the 1st quarter, the Rapids looked as though they would make it a fight for the Lancers. Jalen Butler had an 18-yard kick return this go around out to the 26. The Rapids were aided by a pass interference call that put the Rapids to the 45. Two plays later the Rapids were in the endzone on a Graham Scholl quarterback keeper that saw him racing down the home sidelines eluding the Lancer defenders. At the 6:01 mark it was 14-7.
James River's defense however could not stop the Lancer offense. Manchester kept attacking scoring two more touchdown in the first quarter with Brendon Clark throwing his third touchdown of the game and punching one in on the ground.
James River on the other hand went for it and was denied again on fourth down.
2nd Quarter Highlights
As the second quarter opened the Rapids were again going for it on fourth down, this time from their own 24! They were denied again giving the Lancers another short field in which to attack. Isaiah Todd was the next Lancer to find the endzone on an 8-yard run after Zach Bowman chewed up a chunk of yards on a reverse on the first play from scrimmage.
Making matters worse for the Rapids was Graham Scholl fumbling on the third play of their next possession. Kevin Henderson was there to recover at the 8-yard line of James River! This time it took two plays for the Lancers to get into the endzone with Clark hitting Brandon Flippen. Just like that the Lancers were up 42-7 in a game that had been close just eight minutes prior.
After James River's first punt of the night, the Lancers again had a short field to work with as the punt was not deep. Brendon Clark's 5th and final touchdown of the night when he hit Collin Harding on a 3-yard pass. This was their second touchdown of the night together as the Lancers continue to thump their chest offensively.
The Lancer defense was thumping their chest as well as they would intercept Scholl again and again it was Val West.
The only saving grace for the Rapids as the second quarter ticked away was that the Rapid defense was able to keep the Lancers to a field goal as opposed to a touchdown. It would be the first time the Lancers would not score a touchdown on offense in this game. By this time too Jaylen Wood had come in at quarterback with Clark on the sidelines up so big on the Rapids.
With Clark off the field the Rapids did not have to fight him but they did have to continue their fight against the Lancer defense. Something they could not seem to overcome. The Rapids had a 3rd & 1 at the 45 with Jonathan Rose breaking up a pass and on 4th & 1 with the Rapids going for it Will Pritchard and Val West were there to stuff the line and prevent the first down.
Manchester got the ball one more time before the end of the half. Jaylen Wood hit Brandon Mejette with a 23-yard pass for the final Lancer score after he and Kevin Henderson split time running the rock.
3rd Quarter Highlights
Down 59-7 the Rapids elected to kick the onside kick on the opening kickoff of the third quarter. It did not work, Lancers got the ball but not for long. Jaylen Wood would throw his first interception of the night. James River could not capitalize however.
On the first play from scrimmage Jalen Butler busted off a 29-yard run. The next play saw the snap get past Graham Scholl and with the Lancers coming at him Scholl froze and took the hit! That pinned the Rapids back to their own 35! A loss of 10 yards! The Rapids recovered somewhat pushing the ball back to the 50 and again going for it on fourth down and that is when Jalen Igner intercepted Scholl!
For the first time since the first quarter it appeared the Rapids would get in the endzone... The Rapids had marched 54 yards... overcome a penalty, benefited from a penalty and now they were in striking distance. Scholl's first pass to the endzone fell incomplete. Scholl then picked up two yards with a keeper before taking another shot at the endzone. This time Scholl's pass was complete but not to a Rapid, rather Brandon Mejette with two minutes to go in the third.
4th Quarter Highlights
James River would get another crack at the endzone with the Lancers going three and out for the second straight possession. The Rapids again had to overcome a penalty, this one a person foul but they were having a little more success moving the ball in the fourth quarter. Graham Scholl had two carries for a total of 62 yards on this drive but it was Jalen Butler who finished it up with a 6-yard touchdown run. For the first time since the first quarter the Rapids had scored.
For the second time in the half the Rapids attempted the onside kick and failed to capitalize. The Lancers now had their third string quarterback in, Roemell Garcia. Garcia put together some runs but the Lancers were plagued with back-to-back bad snaps and a fumbled snap on fourth down resulted in a turnover of downs.
Just when you thought James River was moving in the right direction, to at least make the score a little closer the Rapids turned the ball over yet again. Jalen Butler fumbled the ball on a second down run but more concerning was the fact that he had to be helped off the field. A bad night for the Rapids perhaps made worse.
Manchester got the ball back and just ran plays to chew up more time off the running clock but the game was in hand for the Lancers as they improve to 4-1 while James River falls to 3-3.
I was high on the Lancers coming into the season to contend for a title in Class 6. That had waned off a bit with a loss against Monacan and a tough one against Riverbend to open the season. I had all the confidence in the world in the Lancers offense but the defense did concern me. That said, if the Lancers defense can play at this level night after night, they will be a force in the Class 6 playoffs and maybe just maybe I will be right after all about the Lancers.
James River on the other hand still has Monacan to face as far as top teams in the Dominion District. They could finish anywhere between 5-5 and 7-3. If Jalen Butler is lost with an injury then things could be a bit more difficult going forward on offense. James River however cannot give teams short fields to work with as they did against Manchester and expect to win. They don't have an "elite" defense to put that kind of burden on.
Players of the Game
I don't usually do this but I've got to give kudos to the entire Lancer defense. Brendon Clark and the offense were able to take advantage of short fields but they would not have had those short fields if a) James River did not go for it on 4th down just about every time and b) if the defense didn't pressure the Rapids all night long. Defensive back Val West had two interceptions, Brandon Majette had an interception in the endzone, Kevin Henderson had 1 of 2 fumble recoveries on the Rapids and Jalen Igner had an INT as well. The Lancers defense really stepped it up on this night.
As for James River, look no further than Graham Scholl who odd as it is to say given the Rapids lost by 44 points kept his Rapids in the game. 76 yards in the air completing half of his passes, 13 of 26. Scholl's real value came in the run game where he picked up 159 yards on 22 carries along with a touchdown. Scholl could be seen scrambling during the game looking to make a play.
Scoring Summary - Manchester 59, James River 15
9-yard pass from Brendon Clark to Jonathan Rose. Jake Lero PAT.
8-yard pass from Brendon Clark to Zach Bowman. Jake Lero PAT.
Graham Scholl 52-yard run. Jackson Phillips PAT.
35-yard pass from Brendon Clark to Collin Harding. Jake Lero PAT.
1-yard run from Brendon Clark. Jake Lero PAT.
8-yard run from Isaiah Todd. Jake Lero PAT.
6-yard pass from Brendon Clark to Brandon Flippen. Jake Lero PAT.
3-yard pass from Brendon Clark to Collin Harding. Jake Lero PAT.
22-yard field goal from Jake Lero.
23-yard pass from Jaylen Wood to Brandon Majette. Jake Lero PAT.
5-yard run from Jalen Butler. Graham Scholl 2-point conversion.
I have never witnessed a team that went for it on fourth down in most cases in their own end of the field. I counted four times they did so and each time the Lancers were able to take advantage of a short field to score.
I last saw Brendon Clark last year against Matoaca in the first game of the season. He has come light years away from where he was. Smooth pass, quick passes, he looked more like a college or NFL player out there on this night than a high school player. He is without a doubt the best quarterback I've seen this season.
Ironic that it was Military Appreciation Night at the "Swamp" considering the political climate in sports these days. I will say it was great to see everyone standing, honoring and respecting the flag along with those in attendance that serve our country.
Should out to Jeff Stapleton who I ran into at the game. Many know him from Fox Sports 910 as one of the many reporters in the field on Friday nights. Doesn't hurt that he is a fellow Cubs fan, Go Cubs Go!