Much like the roller coaster of a regular season that Albemarle’s football team had, nothing ever felt quite locked in for the Patriots Friday night.
On a frigid evening and playing on a soggy field, sixth-seeded Albemarle just couldn’t get going, falling 35-0 to No. 3 Harrisonburg in the Class 5 Region D quarterfinals, ending the Patriots’ season.
“Regardless of how many players you have coming back or how much talent it’s not a given that things are going to go the same way as last year,” said Albemarle coach Brandon Isaiah.
The Patriots went 9-3 a year ago and won their first round playoff game while this year they finished 6-5 including the loss to the Blue Streaks.
While Albemarle stalled on drive after drive and turned the ball over on downs, Harrisonburg seemingly did everything right in key situations, jumping out to a 14-0 advantage that, with some help from a gadget double pass, turned into a 28-0 lead before halftime.
“Once we got to midfield I had that in my pocket and broke it out,” said Harrisonburg coach Chris Thurman. “We put that in in pregame. I knew we were going to probably need it.”
Harrisonburg’s standout quarterback A.C. White threw the ball out to Timothy Fiske who then launched it to Steven Gilbert for a 36-yard pickup. Shortly thereafter, White hit Gilbert himself for an 11-yard touchdown and a 28-0 lead. It was a backbreaker at the end of the half for the Patriots who headed to the locker room shellshocked and all but out of it despite showing last week they had the ability to climb out of a large hole.
“You could see this coming the whole week through practice,” Thurman said. “It looked great the whole week, you could kind of see this coming. Everything they did at practice, they did on the field.”
This wasn’t the night for a rally as the Albemarle offense continued to sputter in key situations and struggled to move the ball at all after the break. The Patriots were forced to go for it on fourth down from inside their own 20 midway through the third quarter while looking for any spark, but an incompletion prevented that sequence from igniting anything.
J’Quan Anderson’s improvisational, cut-heavy running and scrambling style wasn’t well-suited for the soggy conditions, and Albemarle struggled to move the ball accordingly despite several solid plays early including a 23-yard completion from Anderson to Kaysean Allen on third and 16 on the opening drive.
Meanwhile, Harrisonburg running back Marcus Robinson-Jenkins was rolling from the start, taking advantage of a perfect night and a perfect surface for a one-cut-and-go downhill running back. He rushed for three first half touchdowns and ripped off big gain after big gain to help push Harrisonburg out to that early 14-0 lead that proved decisive.
The loss ends Albemarle’s season and the prep football careers of several players that have been critical to the early part of Isaiah’s tenure including Anderson, Na’il Arnold, Kris Anderson, Brock Shorten, Ja’Kel Johnson and Jorvin Maupin.
“With the talent and the experience we had in this senior class we would’ve liked to do more, but that’s football and that’s life,” Isaiah said. “I’m appreciative of everything they’ve done and that’s just a football season.”