By David Wagner
The Henley Warriors won the championship of the Thomas Jefferson Youth Football League (TJYFL) Presidents Division. The teams are made up of middle school students from Albemarle and Louisa Counties. The Henley Warriors are the western Albemarle representatives in the league.
A team banquet was held Sunday, Nov. 1, to celebrate a great season, capped off by a win in the championship game.
Head Coach Trevor Henry opened the evening with a few words going back to July when things got started and ending up with how proud he was of this group of kids and the hard work, dedication and commitment they made to themselves, their coaches and teammates.
Practice started in July with voluntary seven-on-seven workouts. Many of the kids showed up on their own accord to get started on a new season. The coaching staff was impressed by the commitment of the players to attend these workouts. Then in August the real work began with the start of scheduled practices.
Coach Ed Pierce of Western Albemarle reached out to Coach Henry to help the Henley team incorporate what is being done at the high school level. Because a number of these kids will be at Western next year, Coach Henry wanted to implement Western Albemarle’s brand of football as much as possible. Through meetings between the two coaching staffs, the Henley team was able to run many of the defensive schemes and a number of plays from the Western playbook. Coach Henry is intent on getting the kids ready for what they will be doing at the next level.
The team set some goals at the beginning of the season. They wanted to play with sound fundamentals, they wanted to play as a team, and they wanted to improve every step of the way. Improving each week in practice and playing better as the season progressed was probably the most important goal of the campaign. The team achieved these goals through listening to the coaches, working hard (really hard), and a great support network from the parents. All of the coaches were in agreement about these factors, with Coach Henry emphasizing the parent support. Congrats to the moms and dads; this is a fine group of kids.
The Henley Warriors faced off against the Monticello Black (there’s also a Monticello Gold), in the championship game. Having played twice during the regular season with a tie and a Warrior win, the guys were prepared for a battle.
The game started about as badly as it could have for the Warriors. Monticello received the opening kickoff and scored on the first play from scrimmage. From a standard formation, Monticello ran a basic sweep play and the running back went 60 yards for a touchdown. Monticello followed up with a two-point conversion and a quick 8-0 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, Monticello caught the Warriors by surprise with an onside kick and recovered the loose ball. The Warrior defense held and forced a punt, but disaster struck again. The punt was fumbled and Monticello recovered at the Warrior 10 yard line. The Warriors then made a statement on defense, and the offense followed suit.
The Warrior defense, led by Patrick Maupin at noseguard, stonewalled the boys from Monticello and took over on downs at their own 10 yard line. The offense then put together a 90-yard scoring drive going well into the second quarter, topping it off with a 2-yard touchdown run by Kent Henry. The extra point failed and the score was 8-6 Monticello.
Then, with a minute to go in the half, Wylie Mendicino intercepted a pass at midfield. With not much time, Kent Henry suggested a play to the coaches, and it worked. They ran a wheel route (a pass play to the running back down the sideline), and Nate Ingram hauled in the pass and went the distance for a touchdown on the last play of the half. 12-8 Warriors.
And then the skies opened and rain came down sideways. The weather kept the game between the 35 yard lines for the entire third quarter. It took the kids on both teams a while to get adjusted to the rain. As the fourth quarter started, the offenses came back to life.
Monticello struck first. The Warrior defense bit on a play action fake and Monticello burned the Warriors down the middle. The tight end caught the pass and raced 60 yards for a touchdown and the lead. The conversion was no good and Monticello led 14-12.
It was the Warriors’ turn to respond. Facing a fourth-and-15 on their own 30 yard line, Wylie Mendicino made another huge play. The Warriors ran a reverse and Mendicino went 40 yards for the first down well into Monticello territory. A couple of plays later they ran the same play. This time the handoff went to Nate Ingram, who scampered into the endzone for the Warrior lead and his second TD of the game. 18-14 Warriors.
Following the kickoff, Monticello was able to move the ball again. They got down to the Warrior 20 before the drive stalled and the Warriors took over.
Then the Warrior offense stumbled. Following back-to-back plays that resulted in losses, the Warriors quick kicked on third down, giving the ball back to Monticello. The defense then sealed the victory. On third down Monticello snapped the ball over the quarterback’s head and the Warriors recovered the fumble and ran out the clock to win the game. With the weather playing a factor, the ball was hard to handle. The starting center for the Warriors (Henry Chiles) missed the game due to the flu. Coach Henry gave Tucker Herr a big pat on the back for filling in and doing a superb job handling snaps. In an offense where the center plays an integral part, Herr volunteered to play the position in less than desirable conditions. His solid play and willingness to fill in at a spot he hadn’t played all year was a huge lift for the team and displayed their dedication and commitment to do whatever it took to come together as a team. This selfless attitude was an embodiment of what this team was all about from July to October. Congratulations for a job well done and an unforgettable season.