By Jerry Reid
Finishing last year in an epic postseason game against Staunton River, a 85-79 loss, Western Albemarle High School’s football team opened the new season by crushing the Broadway Gobblers 40-0 before a packed house of noisy, enthusiastic rooters in Crozet Aug. 26.
On the opening kickoff Ed Redmond’s new team got a big return out of Robert Sims, setting the stage for running back Darren Klein and quarterback Derek Domecq to alternate first downs that were capped by Klein’s 10-yard sprint to the end zone. Just like that the Warriors were in front 7-0 after Domecq’s kick and the capacity crowd, Pep Band and Crozet Crazies went mildly berserk. That series showed offensive speed, line blocking and high energy.
Now the fans would get their first taste of what their defense was going to stand for. Domecq, responsible for kickoffs and punts along with extra points, launched a worm-burner with bounce at the Broadway return team, handcuffing their front-line receivers. A few plays later WAHS had recorded a sack, a gang-tackle and solid defense across the board to force a punt that was fielded on the Warriors’ 15.
Then first-game “stuff” got in the way. A fumble and penalty dug the team a hole only a punt could get them out of. The next defensive effort wasn’t a bed of roses either, as a weird mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly combined to almost give the Gobblers momentum.
Linebacker Jack Weyher had two passes just barely slip through his fingers, thankfully as incomplete passes, and a couple of penalties included a roughing the kicker. But Broadway couldn’t take advantage. Good pass defense, a knockdown by Klein, and a big stop by Sims and the team forced a fumble that forced a kick.
The roaring fans got their wish on the next Warrior possession, which the Warriors started at their six yard line. Domecq dropped back, found Klein in the flat, and one or two cuts later he was gone 94 yards. The dazzling pass and run boosted the score to 14-0. Broadway couldn’t do anything on their next try, with a penalty along with a big stop on the Gobblers quarterback by Sims and another pass knockdown, this time by Noah Yourkavich.
At the end of the first quarter Western got another score that came via the ground game. Domecq scampered 28 yards to boost the score to 20-0.
Broadway showed some signs of life on the next offensive set, but a fourth-and-2 run by quarterback Brandon Cruz was stopped cold by Luke Tenuta and Joey Bowen, and the Gobblers turned the ball over on downs.
Bringing the crowd to their feet again, the Warriors lined up on their 37. Domecq hit wide receiver Weyher for a 63-yard breakaway pass to put six more on the board. Domecq struggled a bit with extra-point kicks, missing this one as he subbed for the unavailable senior kicker Andreas McCullough. WAHS led 26-0.
So far, Broadway was getting the ball back only because the Warriors were scoring. The Warriors continued to flex their stopping power on the Gobblers’ next set of downs. Led by Klein, who just barely lost a contested pass interception attempt in an exciting tussle, the Warriors’ Sebastian Crescimanno, Tenuta and Aidan Saunders stopped them cold with blitzes, a forced fumble and frustration.
Broadway opened the second half but had to punt again after a penalty and good pass defense by Saunders, giving the Warriors the ball at the 42. Broadway had no answer for Domecq, who broke tackles on a sack attempt and took the ball to the barn on a 58-yard run that lit up 33-0 on the scoreboard.
By now the huge crowd recognized that this team is the defending, undefeated Jefferson District champion. They’ll settle for nothing less than a repeat of that, one game at a time.
Another disappointing Gobblers effort on offense saw Tenuta almost get a pick-six as penalties and swarming Warriors shut down almost everything Broadway tried. The Warriors had a rare four-downs-and-out series, but the Gobblers again ran into the buzz-saw that’s the Warriors’ defense. Tackles by Saunders and Trev Awkard, and a powerful hit for loss by Ben Alter created a turnover on downs.
Sophomore Tai Atuaia next made his debut at running back and the stocky newcomer bulldozed his way for 41 yards on six carries, setting up Domecq for a sweep around right end into the end-zone for a TD. In the last series of plays, Coach Redford brought in senior Peter Slechta at quarterback and junior Zee Christmas as a runner, along with BB High at receiver.
After this stellar effort, the Warriors hit the road this Friday, playing at Brookville September 2 and Spotswood September 9, returning to home and Jefferson District action against Monticello on the 23rd. They will play Powhatan at their place on the 30th to round out September action.
Gazette Player of the Game Derek Domecq ran for three touchdowns (142 yards) and connected on two scoring passes. The versatile junior also plays defense, punts and placekicks.