Western Albemarle had some momentum going into halftime with a late touchdown and a defensive stop. The Warriors then drove into the redzone right out of the gate in the second half. But after a turnover on downs, things spiraled out of control for the Warriors and Collegiate pulled away for a 33-14 victory over Western on the strength of a methodical drive and a pair of back-to-back pick sixes in the fourth quarter.
“Credit to them, they played hard and they’re a good football team,” said Western Albemarle coach Ed Redmond. “Our kids compete and mistakes are mistakes, we’ll correct it and get better. We’ve just got a lot of work to do.”
It was a complete about face from a week ago when, while the Warriors lost, put up a superb performance on the road against a state title contender in Lord Botetourt.
Against Collegiate, turnovers and flameouts on promising drives cost Western, including the two pick sixes in the middle of the fourth that blew open the game as Travis Reifsnider and John Ballowe picked off passes within a minute of each other and returned them 25 and 29 yards respectively. Suddenly the Warriors went from down 20-7 but within striking distance to down 33-7 and out of contention.
“We knew they had a good offense and we knew the quarterback (Derek Domecq) is the key,” said Collegiate coach Mark Palyo. “He’s an extremely tough player and he was very tough against us. We had some kids make some great breaks on the ball and I don’t know when I’ve been in a game where I had two pick sixes.”
The first major blow to Western’s comeback effort came when the Cougars answered that promising but eventually fruitless Western drive to start the second half with a 14-play, clock-melting drive that ended with a 2-yard pass from T Brewer to Trey Boll for a touchdown. That put Collegiate up 20-7, and a strange sequence followed where Western surrendered an onsides kick recovery on a mortar kick just outside the redzone, with Garrett Wilson catching the mortar kick and Western then recovered a fumble on the next play. Wilson was also credited with a second quarter touchdown when he pounced on a fumble in the endzone when a Collegiate running back coughed it up near the goal line.
Western’s offense didn’t manage to score off the fumble recovery by Aidan Saunders and eventually found itself backed up near the Collegiate goal line. That’s when Reifnsnider picked off the pass with 7:11 to play and raced in for the score, followed by Ballowe, a freshman, picking off a pass after the kickoff and scoring himself.
“For the team that happens to, that’s a backbreaker type of play,” Palyo said. “(Ballowe) is a freshman learning his way, he’s worked very hard to prepare and worked his way into a starting role in our preseason. He showed himself out there today.”
Brewer was solid for the Cougars at quarterback, going 24-for-36 for 227 yards and two touchdowns while throwing a pair of interceptions. He found big target Ayinde Budd 12 times for 120 yards and Reifsnider six times for 70 yards. Joseph White had 79 yards on 16 touches on the ground.
For Western, Domecq threw for 194 yards and a score despite the four interceptions, one of which came on a tipped ball. Wyatt Hull had 91 yards on seven catches while also picking off a pass on defense while Jack Weyher went for 67 yards and a touchdown as well as an interception on defense.
Cornerback Robert Sims had seven solo stops while tasked with the unenviable assignment of marking Budd much of the night.
Western will look to bounce back Friday against Powhatan at home.