Celtics top Fuqua in state semifinals

Published 1:39 pm Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Fuqua School varsity football team improved Friday on its previous meeting this season with Roanoke Catholic School, but the Falcons could not limit their opponent’s big plays enough to advance to the state championship game.

The Celtics ended Fuqua’s season with a 52-30 loss in the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) Division III state semifinals at Vineyard Park in Roanoke.

Falcons Head Coach Ben Manis highlighted three Celtics players who are extremely speedy and athletic and noted that his team does not have players at the same level to match up against them. Nevertheless, he was pleased with one way his squad limited the Celtics.

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“They really couldn’t drive on us; they really had to rely on big plays,” Ben Manis said. “They never scored inside the 20.”

But the Celtics managed to do plenty of scoring outside the 20, including converting a special teams touchdown on a kickoff return.

Roanoke Catholic, which defeated Fuqua 54-11 on Oct. 10 during the regular season, held a 30-11 lead at halftime Friday.

The Falcons tried to catch the Celtics off guard with the surprise return of star senior quarterback Devin Allen, who had been sidelined with an ankle injury since Oct. 21.

“We were planning on playing Devin today, for the most part,” Manis said. “We didn’t want that out for them to know about it because they had been to a couple of our games and knew that he was out.”

The coach said Allen played well in the first half before reinjuring his ankle.

“Late in the first half, a couple minutes left, he rolled out and threw a ball out of bounds to avoid taking a sack and slipped and fell on their field, and that was the last of him,” Manis said. “That was all he could handle.”

He was 10-for-13 passing for 91 yards and a touchdown.

Fuqua pressed on without Allen, and senior Ed Newman and junior Billy French performed well while filling in for him in several different ways.

“It really took us until we were in the third quarter to really get the ball going down the field,” Manis said.

French went 4-for-7 passing for 52 yards and a touchdown and 18 carries for 99 yards. Newman had 14 carries for 77 yards, one touchdown and one 2-point conversion, along with six catches for 57 yards and a score.

Junior Tyler Thomas had four catches for 50 yards and a touchdown, and junior Ben Bailey gained 48 yards and a score on 14 carries.

On defense, French had an interception, and senior Michael Thornton had a fumble recovery.

The Celtics improved to 9-1 and advanced to the VISAA Division III state championship; the Falcons finish the year with a 6-4 record and have played mostly teams from larger schools in VISAA Division II.

“I’m really proud of the group of kids I’ve got,” Manis said. “It really was a home-grown group of kids that really worked their tails off.”