by Nick Ward
After the Western Albemarle varsity football team’s season opener against Waynesboro August 28, Coach Ed Pierce’s squad is going to find it hard to improve. The Warriors thoroughly dominated Waynesboro in every aspect of the contest in their 49-0 victory.
The Warrior offense, led by senior quarterback Stephen Schuler, wasted no time before it scored against the Little Giants. The blue and gold offensive machine looked primed and well-oiled on their opening six-play, 53-yard drive. Senior running back Cody Davis scored on a one-yard touchdown run with 9:52 left in the first quarter, leaving the fans at Warrior Field with high expectations for the defense.
WAHS senior middle linebacker Mitchell Parks did not allow his squad to disappoint. Parks was all over the field against Waynesboro, amassing a team-high 17 tackles. The defense held strong and quickly got the ball back into the offense’s hands.
On Western’s second drive, it looked as if Waynesboro came to life. Backed up on their own five-yard line, Waynesboro stopped Schuler from completing passes on second and third down. Being so close to the goal line, Coach Pierce did not opt to use Dom Losco’s leg to kick a field goal; he left the ball in Schuler’s hands. The Warriors lined up in a shotgun formation on 4th and goal with three wide receivers to the right. Schuler rolled right towards his receivers with Davis blocking in front of him. After evading rushers wearing purple and white, Schuler found Losco, who is also a talented receiver as well as kicker and cornerback, in the back of the end zone for the home team’s second touchdown.
The Warrior defense forced another three-and-out, quickly giving the ball back to their potent offense. Davis got the ball moving again with a 21-yard run on a sweep play. Soon after, Losco struck again with a 16-yard touchdown catch. Losco caught a short out pass to the left, broke two tackles at the 10-yard line, and scampered into the end zone for his second score in less than two minutes.
WAHS was leading the Little Giants 21-0 with 3:41 left in the first quarter. The defense once again forced a three-and-out, but on the Waynesboro punt Western made one of its few mistakes. Waynesboro’s punt was short, but there was a yellow piece of laundry lying on the turf next to the fallen punter. Western had roughed the kicker, which gave the ball back to the boys from the Valley. The defense quickly made up for their mistake. Senior linebacker Hunter Mitchell scooped up a botched snap and returned the fumble more than 40 yards to the end zone. Western led 28-0.
On Waynesboro’s next possession, senior safety Tyler Ward got into the action, forcing another fumble, recovered by fellow senior A.J. White. Davis reaped the benefits of this defensive play, scoring his second touchdown of the game on another sweep around the right side. After Losco’s extra point, the score was 35-0 as the first quarter ended.
The game did not change very much when the teams switched sides of the field. Mitchell recovered his second fumble of the half on Waynesboro’s first drive of the second quarter. He returned the ball to Western’s three yard line, setting up a one-yard touchdown run by Schuler, extending the Warrior lead to 42 points.
After kicking the extra points on the first five touchdowns, Losco stepped back and gave underclassman Pete Barber a chance. The new kicker knocked the pigskin through the uprights without a problem. Barber also kicked a touchback on the ensuing kick-off, an impressive feat for a high school kicker.
After Barber’s touchback, Waynesboro’s offense gave Western the ball again. Davis, who plays free safety as well as running back for the Warriors, made a leaping interception on an overthrown fade. Western was not able to score again after Davis’s interception, and after Western’s first punt of the game, happening with 6:24 left in the second quarter, the blue and gold defense forced yet another turnover. Turner Whitworth caught another interception as Davis laid a bone-crushing blow on the intended receiver.
Western did not score again in the first half and walked happily into the locker room with a 42-0 lead.
The second half flew by on the warm August night because of a mercy rule that is enforced when a team has a lead larger than 35 points in the second half. Once the clock was not allowed to stop, drives that would usually last only minutes ate away entire quarters.
Schuler was able to strike one last time, hitting Ward on a 10-yard stop route at the pylon for Western’s seventh touchdown. After another Barber extra point, the score was 49-0 and the Warrior defense held the Little Giants at bay while the clock wound down. When the horn sounded, the Warriors celebrated a great start to the new season, one in which a dedicated senior class hopes to bring WAHS back to the VHSL State playoffs.