For a team that hasn’t lost a regular season game against a Prince William County or Manassas City school since 2015 — that’s now 17 wins in a row for those of you counting at home — the Freedom-Woodbridge Eagles and head coach Darryl Overton knows that every opponent they come up against will offer their best.
On Friday night and Saturday afternoon, even a lack of discipline from the Eagles and defensive tenacity from Stonewall Jackson wasn’t enough to put the 6A state title contenders to rest. Freedom outlasted Stonewall, 34-19, in the InsideNoVa Game of the Week that was suspended in the third quarter on Friday due to lightning and, with a noon kickoff, delayed by a further 10 minutes on Saturday when the buses that were to take Freedom across the county showed up late at the Woodbridge school.
The Raiders (0-2) took a 7-0 lead barely a minute into the game on Friday, when safety Chayce Chalmers intercepted a pass from Freedom quarterback Quest Powell and the Virginia commit sprinted 60 yards for the score. Powell made up for it with 6:03 left in the quarter when he found Jason Hawkins on a screen route, and Hawkins took it in from five yards out to tie the game.
The teams traded touchdowns in the final ten seconds of the frame. Stonewall’s Devin Whitaker ran around his right tackle to regain the lead with eight seconds left, and after the ensuing extra point was blocked, the Raiders’ kickoff went into the end zone for a touchback. Powell delivered again in the last play of the quarter, lobbing it to speedy receiver Umari Hatcher in stride along the right sideline for an 80-yard touchdown to give the Eagles (2-0) a lead they would not relinquish for the rest of the night.
An eight-yard scamper in the second quarter from Erik Surrat gave Freedom a 21-13 lead heading into the half.
A litany of Freedom penalties on every one of the Eagles’ offensive possessions culminated in a late hit by Hawkins on Stonewall’s Jovon Jackson with 7:21 left in the third, right after Jackson came down with a pass from quarterback Toviel Jung. Hawkins was disqualified from the game and will miss Freedom’s next game, at Lake Taylor in Norfolk next Saturday.
“The refs as a whole are trying to do a good job cracking down on certain things, it’s just some of the things that they communicated to us in the rules clinic, they didn’t mention,” said Overton. “They talk to you about all the targeting stuff, and leading with your hands first, but they never said anything about guys [making the hand signal for an incomplete pass] after an incompletion, or like yesterday when we’re running to our sideline and guys jump up and chest bump. We did that last week going to our sideline [and] it wasn’t a penalty. This week, it was, so you’ve got to adjust. Different refs, you adjust, you keep it moving. That’s all you can do.”
The game was stopped at 9:10 p.m. with 2:52 left in the quarter because of the lightning that postponed several other games throughout Prince William County, and it was suspended exactly half an hour later as the system showed no sign of letting up.
Weather played a part in the Eagles’ missteps as well, Overton said.
The extremely hot temperatures and high humidity last week forced the team to practice inside much of the time, and when they could go outside, it was for just an hour with no equipment.
“It wasn’t a consistent week preparation-wise. With that being said, we’re still 2-0. Those guys at Stonewall are doing a good job of getting the most out of them. It was never a question of our effort, I just don’t know how well we were prepared, and that’s my fault to some extent.”
When the game continued on Saturday, Stonewall’s drive stalled out, giving Freedom a chance to put the game away for good. Chalmers intercepted Powell’s second pass attempt of the afternoon near the goal line and returned it to the Stonewall 31-yard line with 10:19 left.
On second-and-eight, Jung zipped it to Khalid Williams on a screen route, who took it 41 yards to set up first-and-goal. On second down, Xander Albea took the draw up the middle for the touchdown, and the Raiders were within two when Jung’s pass attempt failed.
Stonewall got no closer than that, as JT Edwards and Tyquan Brown ran for paydirt in the last five minutes of the game to extend Freedom’s overall regular season winning streak to 15 games.
For a program three years removed from a winless campaign, second-year Stonewall coach Carroll Walker believes in how this kind of performance might be a harbinger of things to come.
“I take my hat off to my team for how tough they played. Freedom’s a good team, but we know if we play at our level, we should be able to play with anyone. It was nothing surprising to me.
“Our game, we just try to stop the run. Freedom’s big on the line, so we did pretty well … we took a loss today, but this is a very good, encouraging game for us, Walker said. “We know that if we come and practice and do what we’re told to do, and we study, watch film, that everything will turn out the way it turned out today. We gave people an exciting ball game, but the score doesn’t reflect what happened here today.”
Freedom 34, Stonewall Jackson 19
Freedom 14 7 0 13 — 34
Stonewall Jackson 13 0 0 6 — 19
SJ: Chalmers 60 interception return (Melendez kick), 10:57
F: Hawkins 5 pass from Powell (Sow kick), 6:03
SJ: Whitaker 6 run (kick failed), 0:08
F: Hatcher 80 pass from Powell (Sow kick), 0:00
F: Brown 8 run (Sow kick), 5:48
SJ: Albea 2 run (pass failed), 8:32
F: Edwards 10 run (kick failed), 4:52
F: Brown 4 run (Sow kick), 0:18
RUSHING — Freedom: 40-233, Brown 30-222, Powell 7-0, Edwards 3-11. Stonewall Jackson: 25-(-16), Jung 5-(-40), Albea 11-7, Williams 1-(-2), Wofford 3-4, Whitaker 4-18, Howard 1-(-3).
PASSING — Freedom: Powell 11-20-2-208. Stonewall Jackson: Jung 14-25-0-117.
RECEIVING — Freedom: Armstrong 2-45, Hatcher 4-140, Hawkins 1-5, Surratt 3-5, Pierson 1-13. Stonewall Jackson: Williams 3-58, Howard 3-20, Reese 5-29, Whitaker 3-10.