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VISAA Division III Football Final: Disappointing ending to FCS seniors’ quest
FALLS IN EFFORT TO CLAIM
VISAA DIVISION III CROWN
FALLS IN EFFORT TO CLAIM
VISAA DIVISION III CROWN
BY JUSTIN RICE
THE FREE LANCE–STAR
LYNCHBURG—It would have been a storybook ending for all of Fredericksburg Christian’s football team, and especially the six seniors who were freshmen four years ago when the Eagles took the field in their début season.
But sometimes those storybook endings don’t happen like you hope they will, FCS coach Tim Coleman told his players as they huddled close at the end of Saturday’s game.
Fredericksburg Christian’s season ended with a 48–14 loss Saturday to Virginia Episcopal School in the VISAA Division III state championship game. Mistakes cost the Eagles (9–2) in the first half, and Bishops running back Ronnie Stringfield powered a strong second-half attack as Virginia Episcopal pulled away.
“We’ve come a long way,” said FCS junior James Mason. “Last year we made the state semifinals. This year we made it here. We just couldn’t pull it through.”
Stringfield finished with 167 rushing yards, two touchdowns on the ground and scored another on a 37-yard pass that gave Virginia Episcopal (9–2) a 21–0 lead in the second quarter. The junior had 121 yards on 13 carries after the break. Coleman knew before the game that wrapping up the 5-foot-9, 185-pound back would be critical, but the Eagles couldn’t do it at some key spots in the game.
“He reads his blocks and he’s shifty,” FCS defensive back Aaron Alexander said. “He never went down on the first hit. Sometimes we’d gang tackle him and he’d still come out of there. I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”
VES used a 93-yard, 11-play drive at the end of the first quarter to take a 7–0 lead, and Trevon Fields returned an interception 46 yards to make it 14–0 with four minutes, 37 seconds remaining before halftime.
And a punt muffed by the Eagles led to Stringfield’s 37-yard scoring catch to extend the advantage.
Bishops quarterback Tom Creasy threw three touchdown passes and had 186 yards through the air.
The Eagles responded late in the second quarter.
Mason made a great catch along the sideline on a pass thrown by Bret Barham and raced 74 yards to cut the deficit to 21–7.
At halftime, FCS talked about a comeback and putting its mistakes in the past.
But the second half was all Bishops.
An FCS interception on its first third-quarter possession gave Episcopal the ball at the Eagles’ 45, and VES scored eight plays later on a short run by Brendon Short.
The Bishops then caught the Eagles off-guard with an onside kick and scored six plays later, with Stringfield dashing around the right end for a 20-yard touchdown run.
“He’s a tough runner,” Coleman said. “He’s very elusive. It’s hard to get a good shot on him. We missed a lot of tackles, but a lot of those he caused.
“We had a couple plays that just killed us defensively, and we had a couple plays early offensively that we didn’t make.”
Alexander made a 44-yard catch that set up Hunter Griffis for a 13-yard run to make it 34–14 late in the third quarter, but by then Fredericksburg Christian’s deficit was too long, and the clock too short.
At the finish, the Eagles were left to savor what they had accomplished.
Barham, Griffis, Chris Barlow, Landon Sharp, Elijah McCain and Ben White are part of the Eagles’ 11-player senior class—the six players who have been a part of this team since Coleman founded the program four years ago.
Barham recalled those first days—when Coleman was trying to shape a bunch of players who didn’t know much about the sport into a football team.
“Coach Coleman talked about planning to be among the top four [teams], because they’re the people that make states,” Barham said. “In my freshman mind, I laughed at that. I didn’t think I’d ever see this.
“Between all the hard work—not just with the original team, but everyone that’s come along—it’s the hard work that got us to where we are, and it’s the hard work that’s going to help this team next year.”
“It’s a job well done,” White added. “We weren’t able to finish today, but I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished.”
Fred. Christian 0 7 7 0 — 14
Virginia Episcopal 0 21 13 14 — 48
VES-R. Stringfield 1-yard run (V. Becker kick)
VES-T. Fields 46-yard interception (V. Becker kick)
VES-R. Stringfield 37-yard pass from T. Creasy (V. Becker kick)
FCS-J. Mason 74-yard pass from B. Barham (G. Sala kick)
VES-B. Short 1-yard run (kick failed)
VES-R. Stringfield 20-yard run (V. Becker kick)
FCS-H. Griffis 13-yard run (G. Sala kick)
VES-T. Fields 29-yard pass from T. Creasy (V. Becker kick)
VES-W. Slominski 19-yard pass from T. Creasy (V. Becker kick)
First downs 9 24
Rushing yardage 24-93 49-302
Passing yardage 191 186
Passes 6-17-2 11-20-1
Punts-Avg. 5-34.8 1-34.0
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-0
Penalties-yards 4-30 18-95
Rushing: Virginia Episcopal—Ronnie Stringfield 26-167, 2TD; Logen Musselman 4-53; Brendon Short 8-45, TD; Tom Creasy 10-36; Romey Poore 1-1. Fredericksburg Christian—Hunter Griffis 14-64, TD; Bret Barham 3-23; Landon Sharp 2-6; Aaron Alexander 5-0.
Passing: Virginia Episcopal—Tom Creasy 11-20-1 186, 3TD. Fredericksburg Christian—Bret Barham 6-17-2 191, TD.
Receiving: Virginia Episcopal—Trevon Fields 4-95, TD; Ronnie Stringfield 2-43, TD; Dante Jefferson 4-29; Wyatt Slominski 1-19, TD. Fredericksburg Christian—James Mason 2-125, TD; Aaron Alexander 1-44; Hunter Griffis 1-15; Chris Barlow 2-7.
Justin Rice: 540/368-5045