Falcons rout Chargers for homecoming, solidify playoff picture

Published 6:29 am Saturday, October 28, 2017

Fuqua School’s varsity football team jumped out to a 29-point lead in the first half of its homecoming game Friday night against visiting Isle of Wight Academy, and the Falcons ended up with a 55-32 victory that likely secured them home field advantage in the state semifinals.

Ben Manis, Fuqua’s head coach, expressed significant respect after the game for the Isle of Wight Chargers, a team with which the Falcons have enjoyed a strong rivalry.

“They’re very good with their fundamentals,” he said. “They’re a hard out. You can’t ever slack up on them. We were up big, and we started slacking off, and they came right back.”

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After Fuqua took a 7-0 lead, Isle of Wight quickly responded to make it 7-6. Aided by strong offense and Chargers fumbles, the Falcons pulled away to hold a 41-12 lead at halftime, but the Chargers outscored Fuqua 20-14 in the second half.

“They could have won this game if we came out and made the same mistakes they made,” Manis said. “Three fumbles in the first half make a huge difference — change of possession, you get an extra possession in. All those times they were driving. It wasn’t like they were sputtering out. They were driving. And credit our kids — they made good plays, they made smart plays. They did what they needed to (do) to win.”

Manis said he was proud of his players.

“With everything that goes on at homecoming, it’s easy to get distracted,” he said. “They played well, and we got to work on a couple things that we’re hoping to keep using as far as on offense and defense. So, we got those on film. Film will really tell the tale. … You’re not as good as you think you are. You’re not as bad as you think you are. We’ll see on film.”

Giving a standout performance for Fuqua was “the senior class in general,” Manis said. “Billy (French) had a great night, (Benjamin) Bailey had a great night, Tyler (Thomas) had a great night and our senior offensive linemen blocked their tails off.”

The Falcons took a 7-0 lead after French connected with Thomas for a 3-yard touchdown pass.

Isle of Wight scored shortly thereafter, but the Falcons blocked the extra-point attempt to stay up 7-6.

Before the first quarter was over, Fuqua had built a 22-6 advantage after touchdown runs of 40 and 25 yards from Bailey. Following the first of Bailey’s scoring runs, French completed a pass to sophomore Elijah Warner for the two-point conversion.

The Falcons extended the lead to 29-6 in the second quarter when French ran for a 32-yard touchdown.

Senior running back Hunter Edwards was a primary weapon for the Chargers on offense, and he scored on a

six-yard run with two minutes, 38 seconds left in the half. The extra-point kick was blocked again, keeping the score at 29-12.

French helped push the Fuqua lead to 35-12 with 1:56 remaining when he hauled in a pass from Warner for a 66-yard touchdown.

A mere 30 seconds later, the Falcons scored again to go up 41-12 when senior Clay Osborn recovered an Isle of Wight fumble and returned it approximately 50 yards for a score.

In the second half, Bailey and junior Christian Adams helped Fuqua seal the win with touchdown runs of 24 and seven yards, respectively.

For the game, French had two catches for 80 yards and a score, nine carries for 69 yards and a touchdown, and he also went 3-for-4 passing for 13 yards and a touchdown.

Warner went 6-for-9 passing for 204 yards, a touchdown and an interception, also logging three carries for 19 yards and two catches for 10 yards and a two-point conversion.

Bailey had 10 carries for 185 yards and three touchdowns, plus a 36-yard reception. Thomas finished with three catches for 78 yards and a score, and Adams had three carries for 25 yards and a touchdown and one catch for 17 yards.

Only the top four teams in Division III of the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) will reach the playoffs, and Friday’s homecoming win was important to Fuqua’s position in that picture.

“I am pretty sure that solidifies our spot at No. 2,” Manis said. “It would almost be impossible for us to jump to No. 1.”

A No. 2 seeding means the Falcons would host the VISAA Division III state semifinals in two weeks.

But before the playoffs, Fuqua (6-2) will wrap up its regular season schedule Saturday when it visits Broadwater Academy for a game with a 1 p.m. kickoff.

“We can’t be thinking about the game in late November and forget about the game in early November,” Manis said.