High School Football: Loss shuffles playoff picture for Central High

Published 5:30 am Tuesday, October 31, 2023

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It was not the way Central High envisioned closing out the regular season, failing to hold a late fourth quarter lead in a heart-breaking 28-21 loss at Amelia County.  

Lunenburg was looking to win their fifth straight in the series and take a 9-1 record into the Region 2A playoffs as the top seed. Instead, they will be 8-2 and may have to play the region title game, if they get there, on the road.

“Three turnovers didn’t help with two interceptions and a fumble.  We haven’t been turning the ball over and take pride in that.  Nonetheless, it happened.  Hat’s off to Amelia, though.  They played well and made the plays,” said Lunenburg coach Will Thomas.

“They put a little stress on us defensively that we hadn’t seen.  We still had well over 300 yards of offense.  We’re just having a hard time stopping anybody, which is crazy because we only gave up 13 against Buckingham, the best team that we played.  We gave up run plays, pass plays and we’re not very good right now on that side of the ball.”

The Chargers led 13-0 in the first half, but Amelia rallied to grab a 14-13 advantage by half-time. However, Central High’s ground attack – which churned out 366 yards – enabled them to take a 21-20 fourth quarter lead following a touchdown and successful two-point conversion.  

Another splendid rushing performance was turned in by senior two-way star Connor Mattox, who ran for 231 yards and a touchdown on 30 attempts.  It puts Mattox over 1400 yards on the campaign.

Last chance for Central High falls short 

With 35 seconds to go, Amelia re-claimed the lead.  Tony Jones returned the ensuing kickoff to about the 20-yard line of the Raiders.  As time expired, Lunenburg’s final pass play in the red zone fell incomplete.

In the latest power ratings, Lunenburg is No. 2 in Region 2A at 22.3, just barely ahead of Amelia 21.89 and trailing top-seeded Poquoson (24.22).  Unless Amelia beats Buckingham, the Chargers will be the No. 2 seed in the opening round and likely draw a first round opponent of Southampton, who’s currently 4-5 overall.

Even as frustrating as the loss was for Lunenburg, their goals do not change.  They’re aiming to be the last team standing in Region 2A, no matter who they end up seeing in the playoffs.

“To me, a regional runner-up doesn’t mean as much to the rest of our staff.  We’d like to win a region championship.  You have to be a good football team to do that, and right now we’re not a consistently good football team,” noted Thomas.  

“Up until a minute and a half to go, it was looking good and like we might get out of there.  You can have a bad game, but you better find a way to win it.  We’ve been able to do that most of the time all year.”

Streak continues for Buckingham 

This season started slow for the Buckingham Knights. They lost the first game of the year, 23-6, to Appomattox County. That was both the last time Buckingham lost and one of only two times this season the defense gave up at least 20 points. 

Since then, Buckingham has shut out three teams, including Cumberland, who they beat Friday 49-0. Three others have managed to score one touchdown each. The 72 total points Buckingham has given up is the fewest in both the James River and neighboring Dogwood regions. The two closest are Gretna, which has given up 126 total points and Altavista, which has given up 148.

The offense hasn’t been too shabby either, having put up 322 total points over nine games. Only two teams in the area have scored more. That’s Gretna at 326 and Central High, which comes in at 396. In this year’s meeting back on September 25, Buckingham’s defense shut down Central, as the Knights won 13-10. 

But Buckingham still has something to play for, when the game kicks off next week. They’re tied with Amelia County for first place in the region, as both teams are 5-0 in regional games. First place will be decided, as the two teams face off Nov. 3 in Dillwyn. 

Eagles hold off Nottoway 

Something just wasn’t working. Prince Edward Eagles Coach Larry White saw that clear as day. With the offense struggling this season, White stepped in and made a change, then reworked his system around it. He took senior tailback DeJuan Little and plugged him in at quarterback, turning things into a more option based scrambling system. You can’t really argue with the results. Prince Edward has two wins in the last three games, including Thursday’s 48-42 shootout against Nottoway. 

“The offense is (driven) by DeJuan Little taking over as quarterback,” White said. 

In many ways, it’s a reversion back to the system White prefers. 

“My philosophy has always been run first,” White told us earlier in the season. “I’m gonna run to open up the pass. I’ve been a run first man ever since I’ve been coaching.”

Thursday’s back and forth battle, played on the road in Crewe, saw the Prince Edward Eagles put up the most points they have this season. White says the team is just settling in to the new system. 

“Nothing changed (since last week), just the offense continues to get better,” White said. 

He pointed out the only struggle so far since the switch came last week against a very good Buckingham team, as the Knights are 8-1 and 5-0 in the region. Yes, Prince Edward lost last week 47-6, but they are in very good company. Over nine games, the Knights have only allowed a total of 72 points. 

“(We had) a small letdown against a really good Buckingham team,” White said. Otherwise, he’s been extremely happy with how the new offense is running. 

White still isn’t fully satisfied, as he still feels the defense gave up too many points Thursday night. 

“We’re still making adjustments,” White said. “It’s not where I want our defense to be.”