By Drew Goodman / Scrimmageplay.com Contributor
As if an injured knee and a bum ankle wasn’t enough of a hindrance, Albemarle quarterback J’Quan Anderson also had the small matter of a 14-point second half deficit weighing on shoulders on Friday night against Orange.
After storming out of the gate on the first two drives of the game, a series of lower extremity injuries finally slowed Anderson down in the second quarter and the Hornets took advantage.
Orange County piled on four touchdowns in roughly nine minutes of football, and with Anderson rotating in and out of the lineup, the Patriots appeared to be headed towards their fifth consecutive loss.
But as he has done so often in the past, Anderson shook off both the pain and the growing deficit by simply tucking his head and sticking to the game plan.
“At first it was my knee, and then it was my ankle. The trainer said that I had tweaked [my knee], but I told him that I was not going to sit out this game,” Anderson said.
The senior quarterback showed tremendous resolve in the final 21 minutes of play, leading his team on three consecutive scoring drives between the late-third and mid-fourth quarter. Anderson’s heroics and some timely plays from the Albemarle defense allowed the Patriots to escape Orange County with a thrilling 42-35 victory over the Hornets.
Both Anderson and Orange quarterback Kenyon Carter treated a capacity crowd at Porterfield Park to arguably the most exciting Jefferson District game of the 2017 season to date.
In a contest that featured an entire season’s worth of twists and turns crammed into just three hours, Albemarle raced out to a 21-7 lead, before the Hornets responded with 28 unanswered points. But just when it appeared as though Orange County had all of the momentum on its side, the Patriots scored the final 21 points of the contest to walk away with the hard-fought triumph.
Anderson rushed for three touchdowns and tossed a pair of scores while making a number of drive-extending plays on third-down-and-long with both his arm and his legs throughout the contest.
On the heels of a big stand from the Albemarle defense, Anderson snuck the ball across the goal line with 5:08 remaining in the contest to give the Patriots their first lead since midway through the second quarter.
Then, following another timely play from the defense, Anderson, with help from senior Brock Shorten ran out the clock to seal the win, and allowed Albemarle head coach Brandon Isaiah to exhale for the first time since the last weekend in August.
“We’ve been through a lot in these past five weeks,” Isaiah said. “We’ve always believed in what we’ve had on this team… We’re just still trying to develop chemistry. We’ve played a tough schedule and we just haven’t played well enough to win until this point.”
Albemarle (2-4) relied on a gritty performance by Anderson, along with Shorten and quarterback/wide receiver DaQuandre Taylor to counteract the five-headed monster that was the Orange County offense.
Between the running ability of Carter and Jaylen Alexander and the wide receiving talents of Darius Minor, Chris Washington, and Tyrone Warren, the AHS defense barely had a moment to catch its breath.
After Warren hurdled a pair of Albemarle defenders for a 17-yard touchdown to give the Hornets a 35-21 lead with 9:12 left in the third quarter, it appeared as though the Hornets were going to cruise to a relatively easy win.
But after being picked on for the first three quarters, a trio of Patriot defense backs helped the visitors finally turn the tables in the closing 12 minutes.
Fresh off of Albemarle’s first touchdown of the second half, senior Kris Anderson perfectly read a route, intercepted a Carter pass, and managed to maintain possession despite a vicious hit on the interception return.
On the Hornets next offensive series, the Patriots forced OCHS into a punting situation on fourth and long. Only instead of punting for the first time, and Hornets elected to fake it and run for the first down. Thankfully for the Patriots, Shemar Powell came from the opposite side of the field to force the ball carrier out to the sideline and force Orange County to turn the ball over on downs.
With all of the momentum on the side of the visitors, Orange County made one last gasp to send the game into overtime late in the fourth quarter. Following a bevy of big plays through the air, the Hornets marched all the way to the Albemarle 20 before an unlikely hero helped slam the door on the home team.
Following an 18-yard reception by Washington, Albemarle’s Kaysean Allen, who had strictly been playing offense for most of the game, scooped up a fumble and returned it to midfield, which allowed the Patriots to run out the clock.
“I was backing out and I saw [Alexander], he’s a great player, Na’il Arnold came and stripped the ball, and I came and picked it up as fast as I could,” Allen said of the game-sealing fumble recovery. “I just ran down the sidelines and broke a few tackles, I wanted to score, but I was a little tired.”
In addition to his huge fumble recovery, Allen made a big play for Albemarle in the third quarter. With his team trailing 35-21 and the offense facing a punting situation deep in its own territory, Allen hauled in a huge 13-yard grab to keep what would end up being a 13-play 84-yard scoring drive alive.
J’Quan Anderson capped off the march with a 27-yard touchdown strike to Taylor on fourth and long, and the Patriots never looked back on either side of the ball after the near-six-minute drive.
Friday’s contest marked the second time this season in which Orange County lost while scoring at least 35 points. The Hornets fell despite a tremendous showing from Carter and the offense. Carter passed for two touchdowns, while running for an additional score. Alexander, who had a huge game running the ball and blocking for Carter, rushed for a pair of TDs.
Minor and Warren both hauled in receiving touchdowns for Orange County.
“There were so many momentum swings in this ballgame,” Orange head coach Jesse Lohr said. “[My team] left it on the field and gave me everything they had. It was just another game that didn’t go our way. It was the second game here at Porterfield Park where we’ve excited the crowd, but to come up short in the fourth quarter.”
The Hornets will look to improve to 2-2 in the Jefferson District next week at Western Albemarle, while Albemarle will welcome rival Charlottesville for its annual Homecoming Game.