Thomas Jefferson’s dream season came to a crushing conclusion in the Class 3, Region B semifinals.
Culpeper defenders stripped the ball from Vikings running back Jahlin Russell as he fought to score with less than 20 seconds remaining in Friday night’s playoff game at Huguenot High School. The Blue Devils recovered the football in the end zone for a touchback and grabbed a 14-7 victory.
Thomas Jefferson coach P.J. Adams told his team the sun would come up Saturday, and that they should be proud of what they accomplished this season. The Vikings finished 8-4 — a far cry from preseason predictions — for their first winning season since 1976. They got the top seed in the playoffs and won their first playoff game.
The Vikings took on the visiting Blue Devils (6-6) without star running back Jalen Jackson, who was on crutches on the sideline with an ankle injury, and deep threat wide receiver Tyquon Wilson.
“It was a different game. We knew they were a ‘3 yards and a cloud of dust’ team. We knew they played into our weakness defensively. Our first half … defensively we didn’t play very well. We got a couple of errors from them that helped us out,” said Thomas Jefferson coach P.J. Adams. “We were missing two of our top players on offense this year … still we felt we could have come out with a victory today. Sometimes you live on the edge and you get bit.”
Culpeper quarterback Javae Coleclough put the Blue Devils’ offense on his shoulders. He carried the ball 34 times for 248 yards, a total that would have been higher if not for a 29-yard loss incurred from a center snap that sailed over his head. In the first half, he rushed for 183 yards, scored on a 30-yard run and did the yeoman’s work setting up teammate Noah Staton, who scored from 3 yards out to give Culpeper a 14-7 lead at halftime.
“That’s just my role. I couldn’t do it without the offensive line to lead me through the hole and get yards,” said Coleclough, who began the season as a wide receiver and has led the Blue Devils to six victories in seven games since moving to quarterback. “I was thinking we’ve always got to get the tough wins. We could never win easy.”
After falling behind 7-0 in the first quarter, the Vikings scored on a 1-yard sneak by quarterback Anwar Wilson-Bradley, who finished the night with 148 yards on 18 carries. He also caught a 28-yard pass from Anton Wade on fourth-and-20 to keep the final drive going.
Turnovers and untimely penalties proved just as costly as the agonizing finish for the Vikings.
Culpeper 7 7 0 0 — 14
Thomas Jefferson 0 7 0 0 — 7
C—Coleclough 30 run (Barros kick)
TJ—Wilson-Bradley 1 run (Vaughn kick)
C—Staton 3 run (Barros kick)
C: Coleclough 34-248, Frye 3-26, Staton 6-16. TJ: Hale 9-40, Wilson-Bradley 18-148, Russell 8-26, Boyd 7-13.
C: Coleclough 0-1-0-0. TJ: Wade 1-2-0-28, Wilson-Bradley 8-5-1-30.
TJ: Wade 3-26, Wilson-Bradley 1-28, White 1-0, Spencer 1-4.