On a perfect fall afternoon in St. George, Blue Ridge enjoyed success in all three phases of the game while rolling to a 56-14 victory over Christchurch.
If ever a coach needs an exhibit on the value of special teams, the Barons’ first quarter on Saturday afternoon is the film to play.
“At first they were (saying), ‘why do we do so much special teams?’, but it’s important and they bought in,” said Blue Ridge coach Clint Alexander. “They’ve seen the effects of it, getting a short field and setting up the offense. Now they’re eager to practice.”
Larry Smith III got things started with a punt block after Christchurch’s opening possession stalled at their own 40. Blue Ridge’s offense stepped on the field with first-and-goal at the 10, and senior quarterback Camden Brewer cashed in from there on a keeper.
Next, the defense made a huge contribution when the front chased down Christchurch quarterback Charles Hatcher III as he rolled out for a third down pass and caused a sack-fumble. Junior linebacker Idan Kogan scooped the loose ball and returned it 15 yards to the 3 yardline. Brewer ran in from there on the next snap to make it 13-0.
After another short Christchurch possession ended with a successful punt, the offense put together one of its longer drives of the afternoon. Starting with the only snap in Blue Ridge territory of the opening period, the Barons marched from their own 40 in six plays, making up for a holding flag along the way. Brewer capped it with a 16-yard pass to junior receiver Kamren Martin and a 19-0 lead.
“It’s been hard for Cam because we got up on a couple teams early and of course he’s dying to throw the ball,” said Alexander. “We wanted to make sure we gave him some shots in the first half. He’s a dual threat and a heck of a player.”
Then it was time for a second game-changing special teams play, courtesy of junior running back Malachi Terrell on Christchurch’s ensuing kickoff return.
“I wasn’t expecting [a return] because our kicker had been getting touchbacks every time,” said Terrell. “I ran down there and I guess he got scared because the ball just came out, so I took it and ran in.”
Terrell’s 10-yard scoop-and-score made it 26-0. On its next series, Christchurch gambled on fourth-and-1 at its own 29, but the Barons’ defense stuffed Hatcher in the backfield. Two plays later, Brewer connected with Martin again for a 31-yard score. Blue Ridge took only 11 offensive snaps in the first 12 minutes but managed to hang five touchdowns on the scoreboard.
After the Seahorses went three-and-out early in the second, Blue Ridge kept things rolling with freshman Paul Kloberdanz in at quarterback. After converting on third-and-9 with a 17-yard pass to Carson Hoewe, Terrell found the endzone for a second time with a 40-yard run around the right end. With an errant snap on the PAT, Brewer as the holder popped up and hit junior tight end Leonardo Figuero for two to make it 41-0.
“I was sitting there being patient, waiting for blocks from my o-line because they were doing a great job, and then I hit second gear and took off,” said Terrell, who led the Barons’ ground game with 60 yards on six carries.
After a good Christchurch punt, Brewer returned for the offense’s next series that began at the Blue Ridge 17. Senior wideout Diarmid Stewart flipped the field position quickly via a 36-yard jet sweep. Brewer hit Figuero for a third-down pickup of 18 to move the chains and then tossed a backside screen to Stewart who took it 25 yards to the house. Another Brewer ad lib on the PAT made it 49-0.
Christchurch momentarily turned a special teams snafu into a positive as their punter corralled an errant snap and raced 12 yards for a first down. However, the Seahorses could not keep the drive going, and the next long snap sailed over the punter’s head, giving Blue Ridge another short field just before halftime. The Barons rounded out their scoring as Kloberdanz tossed a 24-yard touchdown to Martin, his third of the game, and it was 56-0 at the break.
“Kamren’s just getting better and better,” said Alexander about Martin, who led the receivers with four catches for 68 yards. “This is his first year of football and we’ve been really excited about him. I think he’s scored almost every week.”
With a running clock in the second half, Christchurch got on the board thanks to touchdown runs of 1 and 71 yards by Hatcher, who finished with a game-high 135 yards on 18 rushes. Sophomore linebacker John Sullivan prevented a third score when he intercepted Hatcher in the redzone in the game’s final minute.
For the Barons, Brewer completed 7-of-8 passes for 116 yards and added 28 yards on four keepers. Kloberdanz went 3-of-4 for 45 yards.
Blue Ridge (3-1) travels to Roanoke on Friday afternoon for a showdown with North Cross (3-1).