Playing in a game where they desperately needed a win, Louisa instead left the field desperately looking for answers.
The Lions were held scoreless in their 21-0 defeat to the Albemarle Patriots on Friday, Nov. 1. It marked the first time Louisa had been shutout in a regular season game since a 26-0 defeat to Courtland on Sept. 18, 2009.
“I think my guys played hard, and I think they played well, but Albemarle has a really good defense,” head coach Jon Meeks said after the game. “There’s a reason that every week they’re giving up zero to 14 points, consistently.”
Albemarle’s stingy defense didn’t give many breaks to Louisa, and when it did, the Lions failed to capitalize. Three times in the first half, Louisa had a first down from the Patriots’ 35-yard line and closer, yet failed to come away with any points. Two of the possessions resulted in a turnover on downs, while another ended with a punt due to lost yardage on running plays.
“We had opportunities in the first half,” Meeks said. “We’ve got to poke those in and we didn’t.”
Both teams struggled finding a rhythm early on, as the team’s punters traded turns attempting to pin their opponents back. Louisa ended the first quarter with just two first downs, while Albemarle had none. Besides a 62-yard run by quarterback Trey Cherry on the Lions’ second possession, the only action worth noting were the numerous gang tackles and missed blocking assignments by both teams.
Albemarle struck first on an 11-yard over-the-shoulder, diving touchdown catch by receiver Kevin Bernardino off of a DG Archer pass with 9:23 left in the second quarter. Lions cornerback Idris Davis trailed right behind Bernardino on the go route, but wasn’t able to make a play on the ball.
“You can’t cover a perfect ball,” Meeks said. “It was great coverage, a great ball and their kid made a play.”
The same couldn’t be said about Albemarle’s next score. After an interception gave the Patriots the ball at Louisa’s 32-yard-line, Albemarle needed just three plays to score. Archer avoided pressure in the backfield and found running back Brandon Haney in the right flats, who ran 33 yards down the sideline for the score.
Before the snap, Meeks had audibled to shift coverage responsibility of Haney to his linebacker corps, who failed to adjust accordingly. Louisa didn’t make many mistakes defensively during the game, but the blown coverage on the play was one of the most glaring oversights of the contest.
Trailing 14-0 at halftime, Louisa’s defense held strong for most of the second half despite working in less than ideal situations. Five out of Albemarle’s six possessions in the second half started on Louisa’s side of the field, with the lone exception starting on the Patriots’ 48-yard line.
Regardless, the Lions forced two punts, two turnovers on downs and recorded an interception all in the second half. Albemarle’s only score of the second half, a three yard touchdown run by running back Jordan Shelton with just two minutes left in the game, was only made possible due to a lengthy pass interference call.
Overall, Lions’ defensive performance was a bright spot for a night darkened with mistakes on the other side of the ball.
“Defensively, especially in the second half, I think we played lights out,” Meeks said. “The whole game we stopped the run, and they have a power run game. I couldn’t be more proud of how we stopped the run.”
Louisa outgained Albemarle on the ground, 159 yards to 81, but Louisa’s passing game looked as ineffective as it has all season. Trey Cherry was pressured throughout the night by Albemarle’s defensive line, led by Old Dominion University prospect Ryan Londree. Cherry had as many interceptions – three – as he had completions, and had fewer yards – 11 – than he had attempts – 12.
Louisa’s offense also suffered from the loss of senior captain Deion Johnson, who was unable to play due to an ankle injury he suffered in the Lions’ game versus Orange last week. Normally rotating between backfield and receiver, Johnson’s absence eliminated most of the versatility Louisa’s offensive attack had.
To read the entire story, see the Nov. 7 edition of The Central Virginian.