Fork Union wins shootout with Benedictine

Fork Union has become a notoriously slow-starting club this year and Friday afternoon was no different as the Blue Devils surrendered a first quarter touchdown to Benedictine and trailed, at least for a minute.

“We’re trying to find out how to get off the bus and play,” said Fork Union coach Micky Sullivan. “But once things settle down we do get going.”

No question about it. A little more than a minute after Benedictine scored and put the Blue Devils in a hole, Fork Union’s Christian Hackenberg hit Chrystian Brown for a 63-yard touchdown and FUMA got rolling en route to winning a shoot out 39-30 over Benedictine.

While the run game and strong defense has been Fork Union’s calling card this year, they had to find another way to win Friday afternoon against the Cadets.

“They were giving us some stuff — they weren’t going to let us run,” Sullivan said. “Both (Hackenberg and Brown) had big days.”

Hackenberg unleashed his finest statistical performance of the year, going 21 of 29 for 342 yards and three touchdowns while tossing just one interception. Brown was his favorite target of the day, as he hauled in 220 yards and two touchdowns on nine catches in a breakout performance.

“Christian is able to throw it out there to him and he’ll go get it,” Sullivan said. “He’s that big, lanky guy who can go get it.”

By halftime, the Blue Devils had built a 17-12 lead and Benedictine never could get even again. In the second quarter, Dylan McCormick hit a 40-yard field and Hackenberg and Brown connected for a 48-yard touchdown. Those scores and a Brian Burton 95-yard kick return in the fourth quarter helped allow Fork Union to withstand an 18-point fourth by Benedictine.

Nick King’s 5-yard touchdown run gave Fork Union some breathing room after Benedictine cut the Blue Devils’ lead to 33-30 with back-to-back touchdowns from quarterback Bryce Hamilton to Amani Williams.

Richland Freeman led the Fork Union defense with 10 tackles, eight of them solo, and, perhaps most importantly, four for a loss. Dale Richardson had six solo stops and 2.5 tackles for a loss while Malcolm Cook finished with seven tackles. Tyron McDade had eight total stops.

The win over the Cadets was critical in the VISAA standings as Fork Union was ranked third in the state while Benedictine was seeded second behind No. 1 LCA.

“I hope that’s enough to get us in,” Sullivan said. “Right now they’re all big (wins).”

Fork Union has one monster of a game left on the regular season schedule against Woodberry Forest next Friday. The annual battle could decide the Prep League champion depending on the result of the Tigers’ game against St. Christopher’s Saturday.