By Alan Franklin
The Jefferson District Youth Football League (JDYFL) had their inaugural championship November 13 under the lights at Albemarle High School. The Western Albemarle Presidents (12 and 13 year olds) came away with a 22-0 victory over a very talented Albemarle team, avenging a loss in the regular season. The Western team ended the season with a record of 9-2.
“An unbelievably rewarding day for the kids,” exclaimed head coach Jeff Buetow. “This might be the most complete team effort I have been involved with. The boys just played so well. Literally, every defensive player had at least one tackle. Every offensive player executed his responsibility from the snap, exchange, blocking, to running and passing. To beat a team like Albemarle, that’s what is necessary. Just really, really proud of every boy who participated throughout the season.”
The opening drive of the game ended with a 20-yard touchdown run by John Buetow. Buetow then threw for a 2-point conversion off of a fake kick to Matthew Alter for an 8-0 lead. Western wouldn’t look back after that drive, despite turning the ball over two times inside the Albemarle 10-yard line. Western held an 8-0 lead going into halftime.
Coach Buetow added, “The blocking off our left side was extraordinary. Austin Shifflett is not only a terrific runner, but a great blocker and receiver. He’s the complete package. Our leaders on the offensive line, Ty Awkard and Sonny Sims, were dominant. The receivers, Desmond Roberts and Alter, blocked extremely well downfield. Buetow showed great patience throughout the entire game and just piled up the yardage behind these guys all day long. Coach Meulenberg called a great game as well. He seemed a step ahead of everything Albemarle tried to do defensively. The boys executed our plan to perfection. I have to be honest that I wasn’t terribly happy with the fumbles, but fortunately our defense was just playing remarkably well. Our offense seemed to play with a bit more confidence as a result.”
The second half of the game saw more dominance by the Western defense. A broken play resulted in Albemarle getting to the open field only to be chased down from behind by Buetow. That kind of hustle and aggressively smart play was evident all game long. That was effectively the only offense generated by Albemarle all day. The defensive ends, Awkard and Spencer Powell, played great containment football, making it far easier for the interior lineman and linebackers. A trio of defensive lineman consisting of Nathan Fitzgerald, Ryan Manning, and Xander Smith rotated in next to Sims and Buetow to dominate line play. Linebackers Austin Shifflett, Buetow, Dylan Cosgrove, Roberts, who also had a second half interception, and Cole Hinson were dominant. Defensive backs Aidan O’Donnell, Austin Zimmerman, Alter, Connor Jackson, and Trevor Johnson played their best game of the season.
Quarterback Henry Meulen-berg managed the game with precision, peppering the defense with screens and long passes while feeding Buetow and Shifflett the ball. Buetow finished the game with almost 200 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Shifflett added another 100 yards of combined rushing and receiving yardage. Grant Goodall caught a critical long pass that led to a Buetow touchdown that sealed the game for Western in the fourth quarter.
“Our defense seemed to integrate everything we taught them all season long. Kids were flying to the ball and swarm tackling. Albemarle is well coached, has got some terrific players, and we knew going in that it was going to take a total team effort to beat them. Our kids executed the plan to perfection,” stated Coach Buetow. “I have coached a core group of players on this team for five seasons now, and this team just bought into our philosophy from day one, to play with passion, intensity, toughness, focus, and discipline. Back on August 1st I told them how hard they’d have to work to get here again. It’s a great life lesson for these kids to experience how hard work, sacrifice, and being a great teammate pays off.”
Coach Buetow added, “Our Presidents coaches clearly did a tremendous job. They really deserve a lot of credit. Coaches Meulenberg, Franklin and Powell sacrificed a tremendous amount for these boys and for youth football in the Western area in general. In fact, all our youth football coaches did a great job. I hope all the parents in our community appreciate their commitment.”
The JDYFL was formed following the 2015 season as the Thomas Jefferson Youth Football League (TJYFL), Pop Warner, and the youth AAU programs combined into a single league. It is the only youth football program serving the Jefferson District. Participating districts include Western Albemarle, Albemarle, Charlottesville, Monticello, Fluvanna, Louisa, Orange, Green and Augusta. It is the most competitive youth football league in the history of Central Virginia youth football.
Western Albemarle fielded competitive teams in three divisions of the JDYFL in 2016: the Founders (8 and 9-year-olds), the Governors (10 and 11-year- olds), and the Presidents (12 and 13-year-olds) with approximately 80 players.