By Alan Franklin
The 10- and 11-year-old Western Albemarle Warriors captured the 2015 Thomas Jefferson Youth Football League (TJYFL) Championship for the Governors Division with a victory over the Orange County Hornets November 29. The Hornets were an outstanding football team coming into the championship game undefeated and having dominated all season long.
The Warriors finished the regular season with 8 wins and 2 losses, qualifying them as one of four playoff teams. Exhibiting great resilience and toughness, the Warrior team avenged both regular season losses. A first round was a 22-20 win over a very big and hard-hitting Louisa County Lions team. They followed this with a great team effort in the TJYFL Governors “Super Bowl” by beating the Hornets.
The Hornets entered the championship as defending champions and had a two-year undefeated streak on the line. The Hornet talent was immediately apparent as the Hornet quarterback scrambled untouched for a 50-yard score on the first play from scrimmage. That was the last defensive mistake by the Warriors. The point-after-touchdown kick was blocked by Warrior John Buetow, limiting the Hornets’ lead to 6-0. This would prove to be a crucial play.
The remainder of the first half was tightly contested. The half expired with the Hornets denying the Warriors a touchdown from inside the 5 yard line.
In the third quarter, big plays from Warrior quarterback Henry Meulenberg and slot back Joe Burch set up a 5-yard touchdown run by John Buetow to tie the game at six points apiece. The PAT by John Buetow was straight and true to give the Warriors an 8 to 6 edge entering the fourth quarter.
The Hornets threatened deep in Warrior territory throughout the final quarter, but each time were thwarted by outstanding Warrior defense, led by aggressive end and linebacker play. The Warriors were able run out the clock to seal the victory with a final display of terrific offensive line play and gutsy and powerful inside running by Buetow and Smith Callaghan. The play that sealed the victory was a screen pass from Meulenberg to Buetow on a fourth and long. Buetow scampered for a long run, giving the Warriors a fresh set of downs and a well-deserved championship victory.
“A terrific total-team win,” declared Warriors coach Jeff Buetow. “Other than the opening play, our defense shut down the highest scoring team in the league. It was an extraordinary effort by the entire unit. Offensively, we just play hardnosed football. We played our best football when we had to. Obviously, all of our players were fantastic, but hats off to all of the coaches as well in preparing the boys for the intensity that playoff football requires.”
In an uncanny coincidence, the trophy ceremony had a dramatic, perfectly timed flyover by F-18 fighter jets as they swooped overhead on their way to Scott Stadium for the UVA vs. Duke football game as the Warriors hoisted their trophy!