By Ben Sheridan / Scrimmageplaycva.com contributor
To this point in the year, Fork Union had logged a tremendous turnaround season under head coach Mark Shuman, qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
Saturday they hung with St. Christopher’s and showed tremendous grit throughout their VISAA D2 state semifinal matchup, but in the end the hosting top-seeded Saints pulled away for a 28-14 victory, ending the Blue Devils’ season.
“We had a great effort today, it’s my job as a coach to put us in the best positions to win, and I didn’t do that to the best of my ability today,” said Shuman. “But the one thing I love about this team is that they fought to the end.”
Fork Union had that fight right from the beginning in a tightly-contested first quarter. The Saints who struck first however, as Gill Williamson found Walker Wallace on a 20-yard touchdown pass to help give the Saints a 7-0 advantage. The Saints also forced an interception on the Blue Devils’ next possession.
Fork Union fought on though as the defense came up with a huge stop deep in their territory, forcing a field goal attempt that the Saints missed. On the first play after the kick, V’Jon Hampton reeled off for an 80-yard touchdown to tie things at 7-7. Hampton ended the game with 122 yards and a score on 16 carries.
For the rest of the half, both defenses matched each other’s performances, coming up with big stops or turnovers for most of the contest. The Blue Devils in that half forced a turnover on downs and had an interception from Nasir Edmond. That interception came late in the half as the Saints were driving, and the momentum carried over to the Blue Devil offense. They were able to move the ball down the field assisted by a couple big plays to Montigo Moss, who had 117 receiving yards on seven receptions in the game, but couldn’t get points on the board, and went to the half with a tied game.
The second half began with Fork Union getting the ball first before being forced into a three-and-out. The Saints then marched down the field, resulting in a Hayden Forrest 10-yard rushing touchdown to give the Saints a 14-7 lead. Forrest also finished the game with 69 yards on the ground on 11 attempts.
The Blue Devils wouldn’t go down without a fight as Steve Zegbe delivered a kickoff return for a score to tie things up at 14 apiece. Zegbe came up with an interception in the second half.
The Saints responded with not one, but two more touchdown connections from Williamson to Wallace, to give them a 28-14 lead. Williamson finished with 197 passing yards on 15-for-30 with two interceptions while Wallace had 113 receiving yards on 8 catches. The Blue Devils never gave up, but the deficit proved to be too much to overcome.
“It was a great season, my first year here and I told these guys that I wouldn’t want to coach any other group,” Shuman said. “From the seniors down, everyone worked hard every day, whether I was waking everyone up at 5 A.M., to in-season lifts and offseason programs, these guys fought, and they propelled Fork Union for a great future, and I couldn’t be any prouder of them.”
It certainly was a great season, and while the Blue Devils lose a talented group of seniors, there are reasons to look forward to next year.
“The seniors propelled us for the next step, and we’ve got to keep building off of this and come back next year ready to go. Like one of my assistants said, the offseason starts tomorrow, so we’re going to hit the weight room harder than we ever have, and hopefully next year we’re the ones on top,” Shuman said.