Halifax County’s offense was on fire during the regular season.
Western Albemarle’s defense extinguished that fire Friday night in the Region 4D playoffs with help from an offense that just didn’t let the Comets have the ball for very long in a 28-7 win by the Warriors. Western held on to the ball for 35 minutes while Halifax had it for just 12 minutes the entire contest.
“Our defense tonight was lights out,” said Western coach Ed Redmond “Against what had been an explosive team. They came in averaging 42 points per game and I thought we shut them down pretty good.”
Despite giving up a handful of big chunk plays, the Warriors managed to hold Halifax to just 250 yards of total offense and was completely locked in on third and fourth downs as the Comets went 0-for-10 on third and fourth on the night. Throw in a couple of interceptions from Jack Intihar and Joey Burch to ice the game late and it was a complete effort on that side of the ball.
“We were just trying to strap everyone together,” Intihar said. “We have some injuries on the team but it really didn’t matter because we pulled together.”
Intihar is emblematic of what Western is going through as as a team. He’s stepped in to play a bigger role in the secondary with a slew of injuries forcing adjustments. Throw in the matchup issues that Halifax created with 6-foot-3 wideout Kanya Caddle that demanded the attention of Burch, the team’s top safety, and Intihar had to step up.
“A kid like that has been working all year and certainly deserves the opportunity,” Redmond said. “I know it’s an old cliche, but it’s next man up. We’re just really happy Jack did what he’s able to do, sometimes you’ve just go to move kids around.”
It was obvious from early on the intensity Western brought to the matchup, with outside linebacker Carson Tujague screaming at his teammates to step it up early, demanding more from a squad that never trailed in the game. It helped the defensive effort of course that the offense absolutely dominated time of possession with that 23-minute advantage. That was the product of a run game that was firing on all cylinders.
“When everybody does their job it’s insane, it’s crucial for everybody to just stick on their blocks and I find a hole,” said Western running back Kaden Morrow, who finished with 111 yards on 23 carries.
The Warriors built a 7-0 lead when Burch, who last night added kicker to the slew of other positions and roles he’s been playing already for Western, hit Tujague for a 25-yard touchdown with 5:12 to play before the half. Then the run game gave Western a boost in the third quarter, pushing the Western lead to 12-0 on a Morrow touchdown.
But Halifax refused to go away, with Caddle hauling in a 65-yard catch and run for a score just seconds after Morrow crossed the goal line. The Warriors’ offense shifted gears right after that, knowing that the Warriors’ rugged offensive line led by Spencer Burnette and Ross Bassett was taking a toll on the Comets.
“When our offensive line starts wearing them down, that’s when it’s time for Rhino, that’s the package,” Redmond said. “Once we get in Rhino, (Dakota) Howell isn’t healthy so we have to lean on (Kyle) Keyton a little bit.”
Keyton, who also had two tackles for a loss on defense, essentially provided the hammer to finish off the Comets, plunging repeatedly up the middle while rushing for 101 yards on 19 touches and scoring a touchdown with five seconds left in the third and another with 6:10 left to play after a bad snap on a Halifax punt attempt gave Western a short field.
“(Keyton) puts his shoulder down and just gets upfield,” Morrow said.
The Warriors will likely need more of both Morrow and Keyton next week as they now hit the road, taking on George Washington-Danville in the Region 4D semifinals.