By DAVE PAXTON
Editor and Publisher
The hope of Albia’s first football playoff in four years faded on a slippery wet field and an injury plagued night. Williamsburg, last year’s Class 2A runner-up, entered the game Friday with an identical 4-3 record and left as probably district champions with a 41-0 victory over the Blue Demons.
From a statistical standpoint, there wasn’t much to cheer for the Blue Demons. Albia managed just seven first downs, 72 yards rushing and a season low 20 yards passing. A major part of the passing woes was caused by a last first half injury to star sophomore quarterback Blake Chance. He walked off the field on his own accord after sustaining what is thought to be a minor knee sprain, but that wasn’t the half of it.
Garin Grinstead, Albia’s outstanding freshman signal caller, was on crutches on the sideline after a weight training accident resulted in a foot injury. He was on crutches Friday night. That left the quarterbacking duties to Albia’s best receiver, senior Nate Crall, who hadn’t fielded a snap all season. It was a lot to ask of a player, even with a dry, firm field.
Basically, Albia’s offense was halved for the second half.
“Injuries certainly didn’t help,” said Coach Justin Huber. “Williamsburg has a really fine team. They are well coached and seemed to know everything we were trying to do. Their runningback was a dude. There’s a reason he’s the top rusher in the state going on two years.”
Jer McAninch ran hard for the Blue Demons, picking up 68 yards on 18 carries and Dawson Hermsen had four carries for 21. Albia had a woeful 5 completions in 20 attempts for 20 yards and an interception.
On the other side of the ball, Williamsburg’s brilliant runningback Gage Hazen-Fabor rushed 19 times for 209 yards and three touchdowns. The Raiders had 228 yards rushing and 233 passing for a 471-yard night.
It took Williamsburg four plays to score their first touchdown. A 42-yard pass from Jordan Martin to Nick Goodell set up a 17-yard scoring run by Hazen-Fabor. The kick by Leighton Jones was good and the Raiders led 7-0 with 10:51 left in the quarter.
Albia’s first drive netted one yard with a pass from Chance to Crall and Albia punted, but Hazen-Fabor fumbled and Albia recovered at the 9:05 mark at the 50 yard line. A run by Hermsen gained one and a pass to Gage Wilson gained two and Albia punted.
Nathaniel Wynn got off a beauty of a punt that rolled to the Williamsburg one. Hazen-Fabor rained two and three yards and a six-yard pass set up a first down at the 12. Hazen-Fabor got the handoff, cut right and sprinted 88 yards for the Raiders’ second score. The kick made it 14-0 with 5:51 to go in the quarter.
Chance found Crall for nine yards immediately after the kickoff, but a penalty and a fumble set up a second and 19. Hermsen ground out eight, but Chance was intercepted with 3:16 left and Williamsburg set up at the 26. The give went to Hazen-Fabor and he scored with 3:06 left.
You’ve got to hand it to Albia coaches and players. They didn’t roll over. In fact that was the last score of the half for Williamsburg as the Blue Demons shut down Hazen-Fabor for the remainder of the half.
McAninch rushed for eight and 13 for a first down and a steady dose of McAninch from the power I moved Albia to the 36. The Blue Demons brought out the swinging gate offense and tackle Doug Flattery caught an eight yard pass to the 27. McAninch picked up the first down at the 27, but the drive stalled and Albia turned the ball back with 9:02 remaining in the half.
The Blue Demons were back in business a play later when Crall intercepted at the 39, but a three-yard rushing loss and two incompletions set up a punt with 7:55 left.
Hazen-Fabor would gain 24 to the 47, but Beau Leshen dropped the senior and state’s leading rusher for a yard loss and an incompletion and two-yard gain later forced a Raider punt.
That punt rolled dead at the Albia five.
But McAninch picked up nine to the 14 and Hermsen had a first down at the 17 before Chance threw incomplete twice and was sacked back at the eight. Losing eight was nothing compared to losing Chance for the rest of the game. Wynn punted to the 44 and Williamsburg lost 10 on a holding call. Hazen-Fabor made it back to the 39, but a penalty killed the drive and the Raiders punted.
With Crall behind center, the Blue Demons punted after three plays and Williamsburg returned it all the way to the Albia eight with two plays left on the clock. Hazen-Fabor was dropped for a two-yard loss, a 28-yard field goal missed and Albia went into the half trailing 21-0.
Running most of its offense on the ground, Albia enjoyed a five-yard penalty, but a third and one turned into a third and six on an Albia penalty. Crall went back to pass and threaded a pass to Hermsen for a 14-yard rain and a first down at the 44. Two rushing plays gained one and a pass lost four and Albia punted with 7:51 left.
Starting at the 19 Williamsburg got help they didn’t need when the Blue Demons were whistled for a horsecollar penalty. A 32-yard pass from Martin to Kaden Wetjen set up a first and 10 at the 31, Hazen-Fabor was stopped for no gain, but sprinted in on the next play 31 yards for the score. The kick made it 28-0 with 5:58 left.
Albia went three and out and punted to the Raider 43. Martin hit Wetjen for 12, then passed to Nicholas Goodell 45 yards for the touchdown. The kick failed and Williamsburg led 34-0 with 3:56 left.
Albia punted again despite runs of three and nine from McAnich and punted to the 37. After a 12-yard gain for first down, Hermsen stripped the ball carrier and Albia recovered as the third quarter ended.
Leshen gained seven, but Wynn lost six and Crall threw incomplete on a fourth and 16. Williamsburg returned their starters to the backfield, and passed and ran the ball for their final touchdown with 6:09 left.
McAninch kept plugging away, gaining nine on two carries to set up a third and one, but a penalty forced Albia’s 10th punt of the game. A continuous clock ended the game in Raider possession.
“We had a lot of trouble catching the ball in the first half,” said Coach Huber. “We had problems with the quickness of their defensive line. We didn’t play horrible. In fact, the second quarter we did a lot of really good things defensively. Their big plays killed us.”