Fall 2019 sure seems like an eternity ago. But not for Albemarle’s seniors, whose last visit to Porterfield Park turned into a 50-7 homecoming game romp for Orange County.
Friday night was homecoming once again for the Hornets, and the Patriots’ seniors and staff made sure their underclassmen knew all about it.Sophomores Amaje Parker and Noah Grevious led the offense to touchdowns on their first five possessions, while the defense pitched its second-straight shutout to start their Jefferson District slate. Albemarle avenged its 43-point defeat from two years ago and spoiled the 2021 festivities with a 44-0 triumph.
“We came out and wanted to flip it and we all played for each other,” said Albemarle senior linebacker Kaleb Burtram. “It’s been a lot of discipline and focus. It was a well-rounded effort on defense, doing our jobs and flying to the ball.”
On offense, the Patriots’ success even without the services of senior running back Eb McCarthy this week was a welcome sign of elevated play to match the defense, which was solid back in the spring.
“We just could not score enough points to win games last season, but we knew we had a lot of those kids coming back,” said Albemarle coach Brandon Isaiah. “The fun part of coaching is trying to put it together and watching the development. What we’re starting to see is their confidence is growing, and they’re going out and doing what they’re capable of. As a coach, you want to see it come to fruition, and all these kids are collectively playing good football together and that’s fun to watch.”
Parker and Grevious propelled the ground attack with 117 and 83 yards, respectively. Parker also completed 9-of-11 passes for 174 yards to six different receivers. The Patriots’ offense only faced two third downs through the first three quarters of the game and converted both.
“We don’t want to be one-dimensional on offense, and last year we struggled with that,” said Isaiah. “We have a lot of kids that we feel like have talent and athleticism, so we want to facilitate an offense that puts those things on display.”
Orange, meanwhile, was able to move the chains in the first half, tallying 169 total yards, but bogged down three times in Albemarle territory. The Hornets had a chance to grab momentum heading into the break with a first down at the AHS 13 in the final 30 seconds. However, two incomplete passes and a short six-yard gain left just 3.6 seconds and a final fourth-down play. Senior quarterback Paul Poirier’s pass fell incomplete in the endzone, preserving the Patriots’ 21-0 lead.
“We did some things with screens or misdirection passes, but just didn’t execute in the pass game tonight, either in protection or just throwing the football to the receivers,” said Orange County coach Jesse Lohr.
Albemarle quickly slammed the door in the third quarter as it received the kickoff and marched 65 yards in seven plays. Parker hit TaeVeon Wilson in the back of the endzone for a 20-yard touchdown. After a turnover-on-downs shy of midfield, Parker capped a 42-yard drive with a 13-yard scramble, diving across the goal line to open a 35-0 lead and set up a running clock with 3:53 left in the third.
Albemarle’s defense and special teams then got in on the act. After penalties backed up the Hornets on their next series, Burtram sacked Poirier for a safety. Senior Jake King returned the ensuing free kick 60 yards for a touchdown, making it 44-0 as the quarter ended.
“Our offense has to be balanced where we run the ball well enough to then be able to throw off of it; that’s been our MO for the first several weeks it just wasn’t tonight,” said Lohr, as Orange’s offense netted negative-9 total yards in the second half.
Albemarle had a nearly perfectly-balanced attack early on, posting 109 yards rushing and 110 through the air in the first half. The Patriots’ offense first took the field at their own 10 after Orange punted on its opening possession. They covered 90 yards in 10 plays, with Parker firing a dart to Wilson just across the goal line from 15 yards out to open the scoring. Wilson then batted down Poirier’s fourth-down pass to halt the Hornets’ next series at the AHS 21. Albemarle followed up with another 10-play drive, with a Parker-to-King completion for 29 yards overcoming a holding penalty. Grevious scored on a 7-yard run to make it 14-0 with 7:32 left in the second quarter.
Orange’s next series ended on downs near midfield when AHS senior Jacob Terry tracked down Poirier on a scramble four yards shy of the line to gain. The Patriots’ offense moved more quickly this time as Parker picked up 20 on a keeper and connected with Grevious for a 16-yard gain into the redzone. After an errant shotgun snap cost 14 yards, they went back to the air.
“The middle was wide open, so I just ran a slant-and-go and got behind the defender,” said Grevious, who caught Parker’s 29-yard pass while backpedaling into the endzone to make it 21-0 with 1:52 left in the half.
Albemarle (4-1, 2-0) now enters rivalry week with Western (5-0, 2-0) rolling into town for a showdown next Friday.
“I’m just excited to put on another show,” Grevious said.
Orange (3-2, 1-1) heads to the Jungle to take on Louisa (4-1, 2-0).