When you play Charlottesville you think you know exactly what the challenge is, that you’ve got to stop the option, that Sabias Folley is going to be blasting it between the tackles all night and that you’ve got to get ready for that physical challenge.
Then Charlottesville senior quarterback Sam Neale unleashes what seemed like an endless series of riffs on the play action waggle including one he apparently drew up in the dirt to throw. Neale threw for five touchdowns in a 55-41 shootout win over Monticello Friday night in a game where the two teams combined for exactly 1,000 yards of offense.
“We’ve been pounding the ball all year, giving it to Sabias every play it seems like and they came out and stacked the box a lot and that opened the field up to get guys like Jake (Poe) and Rakeem (Davis) out in the open,” Neale said.
The win locked the Black Knights into the Class 4, Region D playoffs and opened up the possibility for them to host in the first round. The loss didn’t negatively impact Monticello as they’ll still be the No. 3 seed in Class 3, Region C and will likely host Waynesboro.
The Black Knights completed a 5-0 record at home with an uncharacteristic aerial assault that started essentially from the opening kick as Neale threw his first of those five touchdowns to a wideopen Rakeem Davis on the Black Knights first drive to take a 7-0 lead.
“That gave us huge momentum,” Neale said. “The first play we had was the same play and I didn’t hit him so it was big hitting him on that one.”
Neale threw for 216 yards and the five touchdowns after throwing for just 363 yards and three touchdowns all season coming into the game. He also put up those numbers without throwing a single pick just a week after the Black Knights came apart at the hands of Louisa County on the road.
“The kid who just comes up every week and is just unassuming is Sam Neale,” said Charlottesville coach Eric Sherry. “I wouldn’t trade my Sam for anything. A lot of bad things happened at Louisa, before we touched the ball it’s 35-0, it was weird, but these kids didn’t fold. Whoever we play I’m sure we’re going to have a great effort.”
There was plenty of the Black Knights’ usual ground game too as they built a 33-13 halftime lead. Folley scored on a 16-yard first quarter touchdown as part of a 104-yard night and Davis, now a James Madison commit, scored on a 46-yard run en route to registering 165 yards of total offense.
“He can catch it, he can run it and speed kills,” said Charlottesville’s Jackson Poe. “He’s just a speed demon, he’s going to be a big player at JMU when he goes there.”
Poe caught Neale’s second touchdown pass late in the first half, on a leaping, acrobatic catch where he managed to get both feet down even though he only needs one.
“We practice getting feet down a lot and our coaches always say ‘one foot, one foot’ and I always put two feet down just a force of habit,” Poe said. “I got two feet down and got seven points on the board.”
Monticello refused to go away though, with Kevin Jarrell and Jerrick Ayers willing the Mustangs into the end zone on the opening drive of the second half to cut the Charlottesville lead to 33-20. Jarrell went 15-for-29 and threw for 268 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 75 yards and another score. Ayers accounted for 134 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries.
The offense struggled though to convert third and fourth downs, going 4-for-11 on third and 1-for-3 on fourth as Charlottesville gave up 481 yards of offense but got key stops and an interception by Cam Brown when it had to have them.
“I was proud of our kids the way they came back in the second half to cut it to seven,” said Monticello coach Jeff Lloyd. “Hopefully this turns out as something good for us because our kids had a sense of desperation. They played desperate and we played well in the third quarter.”
After that early touchdown by the Mustangs, the teams exchanged turnovers before Neale got going again, hitting Tre Durrett for a big gain down the middle and then finding Poe for their second score on a terrific cross body pass that gave Poe a chance on a jumpball that he came up with.
The final nail in the coffin for the Mustangs came after they cut the lead to 40-34 at the start of the fourth quarter on a touchdown pass from Jarrell to Trenton Johnson. That’s when the Black Knights ran a 10-play, five-minute drive that culminated in the play Neale drew up in the huddle.
“Sam came in the huddle and just told us ‘nobody is in the middle of the field’ so he said ‘Ben go straight down the middle and I’m going to throw you the ball,” said Charlottesville senior Ben Casarez. “That’s exactly what I did.”
A wide open Casarez hauled in a 31-yard pass for a touchdown and a 48-34 lead after the two-point conversion to essentially put the game out of reach with 6:20 to play. After a Monticello punt though, Neale struck again, hitting Davis for a 34-yard touchdown that extended the lead to 55-34.