It’s probably time to move beyond reporting on Fluvanna County’s 2018 season from a vantage point of suspended disbelief. At least, the Flucos’ remaining opponents would probably appreciate it.
“I think it motivates them a lot,” said Fluvanna coach Mike Morris of his squad’s awareness that hardly anyone outside their own huddle believed a 6-1 start to the season was possible. “We all knew that we could be pretty good. We just have to control the turnovers, run the ball, and play sound defense; bend but don’t break.”
And so it was that Saturday’s homecoming matinee against Powhatan was billed as the Flucos’ biggest test to date against a traditionally-stout opponent they had not defeated since 1990. After a miscue on the opening kickoff, Fluvanna played turnover-free football; the offense topped the Indians’ ground attack 179-154; and the defense bent but consistently stiffened in the redzone. Toss in some luck with two missed Powhatan field goals, and it all added up to a 16-7 victory, the fourth straight to open Jefferson District play.
“We moved the ball up and down the field and had two opportunities to score,” said Powhatan coach Jim Woodson. “If you can get the lead, momentum changes; you fight a little harder. If you drive down and you don’t get anything for it, after a while it wears on you.”
Indeed, while the score was 8-7 throughout the second and third quarters, Powhatan twice drove into the red zone and had field goal looks from 29 and 32 yards. The first was mishit and fell short, while the second sailed well wide to the right. Either would have given the Indians the lead, and prevented Fluvanna from opening a two-possession lead when it took advantage of a different sort of special teams error: a 13-yard punt early in the fourth quarter that went out of bounds at the Powhatan 44.
Fluvanna covered the 44 yards via four runs, with senior Prophett Harris scoring his second touchdown from 18 yards. He then added a crucial two-point conversion by rising up from the holder position and tossing to tight end Eli Hartzog in the back of the end zone.
“The defense was put to sleep by all of the motions, and we were able to do the counter-reverse and score,” said Harris. “We just put in [the two-point play] the day before, actually.”
Turns out, it was put in for good reason.
“My kicker wasn’t here today,” Morris said. “It was out of necessity. I knew coming in we were going for two.”
Trailing by nine with 8:48 to play, Powhatan struggled to get anything going through the air, as had been the case most of the afternoon. Woodson even gave a freshman quarterback called up from the JV squad a try, but Fluco senior Austin Craig put the final nail in the coffin by intercepting him with 1:36 remaining. Combined, the quarterbacks completed 7-of-19 passes for 67 yards.
“We dropped some key balls in situations we’d have gotten a first down,” Woodson said. “We did not make the plays, and [Fluvanna] played well and attacked our weakness. Based on the films, we don’t have a great passing game. Even with them loading the box, our running back did a good job picking up yards. We just didn’t capitalize when we had the opportunities.”
Senior tailback Jacob Taylor propelled the Indians’ offense and finished as the game’s leading rusher, amassing 109 yards on 24 carries. However, after attaining 91 yards about four minutes in to the third quarter, Fluvanna’s defense limited him to 18 yards over his final ten attempts down the stretch.
“When we started the game, I knew we were going to play man and 8-man fronts, but I didn’t want to show that too much so that they would do a lot of motion and get us in some binds,” said Morris. “So I kind of mixed it up a little bit [early], and then started calling more what we had done all week in practice, and it was hard for them to run.”
For the second straight week, Fluvanna found itself down a touchdown in the early going. This time, it was largely a self-inflicted wound, as the return unit failed to field the opening kickoff when it fell around the 20 yardline. As the ball bounced between the numbers and the visitors’ sideline, the Powhatan coverage team arrived on the scene and won the race to recover the free ball. Taylor cashed in the turnover with a 4-yard touchdown just 73 seconds into the game.
“I think the sun had a little bit to do with the opening kickoff, and the second kickoff, too,” Morris said. “We hadn’t played during the day here; one other time [at Orange], but it’s something they’ve got to get used to, especially if you make it to the playoffs.”
Yes, that’s a playoff reference from Fluvanna in the first of October. Let’s table the urge to dig through recent decades’ records for appropriate wide-eyes-emoji context.
Fluvanna answered with an 11-play, 80 yard drive. Senior Nate Smith and freshman quarterback Kobe Edmonds did most of the grunt work, including a 2-yard sneak to convert a fourth-and-1. Harris capped it on a jet sweep left with a dive over the goal line for a 17-yard touchdown.
“We just stayed calm and were able to push through [on the first drive],” said Harris. “Thanks to Colby Martin for having a key block in the end zone.”
Daori Green ran in for the two-point conversion and an 8-7 lead. Powhatan looked like it might answer right back, as senior quarterback Jacob Moss hit Brandon Eike for a 31-yard pass; however, the Fluco secondary forced and recovered a fumble after the reception. From there until the next score in the fourth quarter, it was all punts, aside from Powhatan’s two missed field goals.
Nate Smith led Fluvanna with 15 carries for 66 yards. Harris finished with 57 yards and two touchdowns on eight rushes. Edmonds added 20 yards on eight attempts.
Fluvanna (6-1, 4-0) heads to Albemarle (3-4, 3-1) on Friday, beginning a stretch run of opponents whose district records are a combined 11-2.
“We played some teams early that were smaller, but gradually as we made it to the middle of the season, the competition and size of the schools got larger,” Morris said. “I think [the schedule] helped us grow to where we are now. In the back half, every game is against bigger schools, except for Western, and they’re all pretty good.”
Powhatan (3-3, 1-3) hosts Monticello (1-6, 0-4).