Final score –
John Champe Knights (5-3) 7 3 7 6 23
Loudoun County Raiders (3-5) 0 13 0 7 20
1 / 2:19 – John Champe TD (Stephen Baker 3-yd run; William Nichols kick)
2 / 11:47 – John Champe FG (William Nichols 36-yd kick)
2 / 1:01 – Loudoun County TD (Tae Crews-Naylor 1-yd run; Matt Suder kick blocked)
2 / 0:40 – Loudoun County TD (Luke Rivera 35-yd INT return; Matt Suder kick)
3 / 8:52 – John Champe TD (Cameron Jones 9-yd run; William Nichols kick)
4 / 2:58 – John Champe TD (Stephen Baker 4-yd run; William Nichols kick missed)
4 / 0:47 – Loudoun County TD (Tae Crews-Naylor 32-yd TD run; Matt Suder kick)
Loudoun County High School, Leesburg, Va. (October 24, 2014) — When both teams in a game can rightly be called “resilient,” who should get the win?
The team with the most points, obviously. But when the Loudoun County Raiders welcomed the John Champe Knights to their homecoming game with playoff position at the forefront of both teams’ minds, the capacity for resiliency was made evident throughout.
Twice the lead changed hands as the Knights’ swords battled the Raiders’ sabers in a gridiron tilt that was undecided until the final 30 seconds. County dominated the final minute of each half, surging from 10 points down to take a halftime lead before nearly pulling off the same trick at game’s end.
But it was the visitors from Aldie who earned the key victory, 23-20 — and the crucial late-season playoff boost that comes with it.
“Tonight was a culmination of us putting everything together,” said Champe head coach Jason Dawson, who has led the Knights to contender status after just two wins in the program’s first two years. “When you play all three phases really well, you can come out with a win.”
Raiders coach Todd Hill, architect of County’s three consecutive playoff berths, commended his team’s effort as well.
“They played their hearts out, as hard as they possibly could,” the veteran coach said. “They never quit and I’m obviously proud of them.”
Nonetheless, Hill pointed out that he needs his squad to be more fundamentally sound at this late stage of the season. Special teams was a constant issue for the Raiders from start to finish, giving the Knights prime field position which they turned into points.
“It’s just them believing what I tell them,” said Dawson about Champe’s special teams effort. He saw his side block two County kicks, drill a long field goal, cover kickoffs stingily, recover a muffed kickoff and grab County’s last-ditch on-sides effort to clinch the victory.
The block party started early when Kamrin Eaton sprinted around the right edge to bat it down directly off the County punter’s foot, setting Champe up near midfield. Six plays later, the Knights were in the end zone.
Their special teams specialness continued right away when they directed the ensuing kickoff at a Raider up-man, who mishandled it. James Palmieri landed on it, and Champe had the ball right back on the County 33. That setup, after a splended Zach Burdick pass was dropped in the end zone, was converted into a field goal.
The lead stayed at 10-0 as the Raider band and members of the homecoming court were gathered for halftime festivities. That’s when the home team found its offense. Tae Crews-Naylor completed pass after pass, moving the chains five times before taking it in himself on a short dive.
They found some defense too. Luke Rivera sat in the flat, and Burdick connected with him perfectly, throwing a touchdown pass to the wrong team as Rivera scampered the other way for a go-ahead score, bringing the vociferous Homecoming crowd to life.
As soon as the teams emerged for the second half, Champe’s answer was immediate. On the strength of Burdick’s left arm and Stephen Baker’s legs, the Knights marched 65 yards for a half-opening score, seizing the lead back.
Dawson gave credit to his senior-laden offensive line, manned by Ben Mertan, Berkley Addi, Aria Bolooki, 290-pound Matt Hunt and 285-pound Troy Addison, bookended by tight ends Owen Cosenke and Jeremiah Smith.
Later in the third, Crews-Naylor found himself under a heavy rush in his own end zone and flung it up for grabs. It was grabbed by Sam Adhikari, giving Champe the ball inside the Raiders’ 10.
The favor was soon returned. Burdick aimed and fired for the far side of the end zone, where Fordham University commit Antonio Jackson made a leaping, body-twisting interception, then zoomed past every other man on the field except Burdick, who had the angle to push Jackson out at the 50 as the third quarter closed.
Down four, the Raiders drove inside the Champe 20 before stalling at the 16, two yards away from a fresh set of downs. Opting to go for it, Crews-Naylor tossed a wideout screen which Baker batted down, and the Knights had a critical defensive stop.
Starting on that same 16-yard line, Champe proceeded to pound the ball with Baker and Albert Wright, running straight at the County defense. Burdick kept the drive alive with a fourth-down conversion using his own feet, and the Knights didn’t stop until Baker took it in from four yards away. The 84-yard drive soaked up eight full minutes of the fourth quarter, and extended the visitors’ lead back to 10.
That’s when the term “resiliency” came back to mind again. Crews-Naylor found one open receiver after another, chewing up chunks of yards against Champe’s zone defense as precious time ticked away. Ultimately the dual-threat quarterback improvised a 32-yard scramble to hit paydirt, and the home team was within three, the miracle within reach.
“He’s playing with a little bit of an injury,” said Hill about his senior signal-caller, “but he’s got the heart of a warrior.”
It was put out of reach moments later, when Champe’s backup receiver Kuony Deng snagged the on-sides kick on a hop and held on for dear life, and the Knights were a couple knees away from a huge road win.
“This is a program,” said Dawson, referring to County. “They go to the playoffs every year. To beat a program like this, you have to put it all together.”
John Champe stats –
Rushing: Stephen Baker 19-96, 2 TDs; Albert Wright 9-27; Zach Burdick 9-23; Cameron Jones 3-15, 1 TD; Michael O’Connell 1-4
Passing: Zach Burdick 7 of 10 for 67, 2 INTs
Receiving: Stephen Baker 2-30; Jeremiah Smith 3-20; Coleman Rafferty 1-11; Ryan Cramer 1-6
Loudoun County stats –
Rushing: Tae Crews-Naylor 13-50, 2 TDs; Luke Rivera 6-22; Zack Costello 1-9; Matt Suder 1-2; John Jackson 5-0
Passing: Tae Crews-Naylor 13 of 19 for 131, 1 INT
Receiving: Antonio Jackson 4-34; Jake Frye 3-32; Matt Suder 3-22; Darius Taylor 1-26; Parker Havens 1-12; Luke Rivera 1-5
Other scores –
Woodgrove 35, Dominion 28
Broad Run 38, Potomac Falls 13
Loudoun Valley 35, Heritage 7
Tuscarora 41, Freedom 3
Stone Bridge 50, South Lakes 7
Briar Woods 63, Park View 0
Tuscarora JV 40, Rock Ridge JV 6 (Monday)
Off-week for: None
Written by Jason S Rufner