Western shuts out Liberty Bealeton

From Crozet, the journey to Liberty-Bealeton High is a lengthy one.

“It was a long trip,” said Western Albemarle coach Ed Redmond. “And it was well worth the trip.”

Redmond and the Warriors put together one of the state’s top upsets Friday with a 21-0 shutout of Liberty, riding a four-interception effort defensively to an easy victory over an Eagles squad that advanced to the Region II finals in 2011. Steven Hearn, Daniel Kuzjak, Patrick Greer and Kent Henry all came up with interceptions.

The Warriors found an answer for Liberty’s star lineman Wyatt Teller, a Virginia Tech commitment, assigning right tackle Donte Henry to handle the bulk of the job. Henry was solid, containing Teller throughout.

“We had some schemes ready for him,” Redmond said. “We put Henry at right rackle and he played really well, plus we chipped the back over there. Once they started coming up field then Kent (Henry) would tuck it and scramble and he’s pretty elusive.”

That goes without saying. Henry unleashed a 150-yard, one touchdown performance on the ground on 22 carries, at least six off broken plays or due to pressure like Redmond described. Henry also threw for 234 yards, going 18 for 34 with two touchdowns, both to Kuzjak. While the Warriors held the 21-0 final margin at the break, they still controlled possession in the second half, but several turnovers prevented them from extending the lead.

“Every single drive we drove into their territory,” Henry said. “We controlled the clock enough that it didn’t really bite us in the end.”

Henry and the Warriors smartly mixed up the tempo as well, blending a lot of no huddle pacing early with some slow down once they were up before taking it back up to breakneck speed. The approach seemed to keep the Eagles off balance throughout. Plus Donte Henry and the rest of the front five including Tommy Mullin put together a big-time performance.

“Our offensive line in general played their best game in probably three years,” Kent Henry said. “I got sacked maybe once.”

That lack of pressure allowed him to pile up the 234 yards through the air, with Nic Drapanas leading the receivers with five catches for 102 yards. Kuzjak had 51 yards on six catches. Hearn’s 43 yards on three catches and Isaiah Cowan’s 44 yards on five receptions rounded out the receiving effort.

The defense’s four picks were critical, neutralizing the Liberty threat and keeping the Warriors’ multi-faceted offense on the field. Redmond claimed Western would get better defensively this year after giving up some big numbers at times last year, and so far the Warriors have been just that. They’ve given up just 12 points in two games against tough opponents this year.

“We’ve just picked it up a little and started getting after people,” Kent Henry said. “We’ve just improved a lot.”

The Warriors, now looking to go 3-0, host Fort Defiance Friday night.