CHANTILLY – Here’s a stat you won’t find in the box score at the end of this story: the Stonewall Jackson football team managed just 15 yards of offense on its first three drives of the second half Friday night at Westfield.
Those 15 yards came on 15 snaps with none of the three drives lasting longer than six plays. When the Raiders got the ball back for their fourth go at it, they trailed 23-7 with less than 4 minutes remaining in the game.
They weren’t going to win the game. Not on this night. Not against one of the most talented teams in the state of Virginia.
Undeterred, Stonewall Jackson moved the ball down the field as if the score was tied. Four of the drive’s nine plays went for at least 10 yards, including a 22-yard dart from quarterback Toviel Jung to receiver Khalid Shabazz-Williams to end it. The drive covered 72 yards, nearly five times the yardage gained the rest of the half.
By the time the final whistle blew, the score hadn’t changed, but perhaps the perception of the Stonewall Jackson football program had. The Raiders stood toe-to-toe with the best and looked every bit like a team poised to be playing when the calendar flips to December.
“Look at them,” Stonewall Jackson head coach Carroll Walker said outside the visitor’s locker room, gesturing toward his players. “They’re upbeat. They’re not down about it. Right now, we have nothing to hang out heads about. We didn’t give up.”
Walker said there were plenty of lessons to be learned from Friday night’s game, such as seizing control of momentum when it’s on your side.
The Raiders limited Westfield’s prolific offense to 21 plays in the first half and trailed just 13-7 at halftime. Shabazz-Williams took the opening kickoff of the second half and sprinted down the right side of the field, seemingly on his way to the end zone, which would’ve given the Raiders the lead.
Avery Howard, Westfield’s speedy wide receiver, trailed the play, but caught up with Shabazz-Williams at the 30 yard line. He punched the ball loose, and teammate Alex Richards smothered it, giving possession back to Westfield and taking the wind out of Stonewall Jackson’s sails.
“Game-changer, man,” Walker said. “That was a big blow to get the momentum and then turn it back over to a pro set team that controls the ball.”
Although Westfield didn’t turn that Stonewall miscue into immediate points, they did extend the lead late in the quarter on quarterback Noah Kim’s second rushing touchdown of the game to make it 20-7.
“Westfield is a really good team,” Jung said. “We made our own mistakes, and that’s how we lost.”
Jung, who is in his second year as the Raiders’ starting quarterback, showed poise against the menacing Westfield defense. The junior was sacked five times, but never looked completely uncomfortable in the pocket, often calmly stepping up to avoid the rush and fire the ball downfield.
Jung was at his best in the second quarter, when he directed a 13-play, 79-yard drive that took nearly 7 minutes off the clock. He converted a pair of third-and-longs with completions to Elijah Reese and Jovon Jackson just past the line-to-gain. Later in the drive, on fourth-and-4 from the Westfield 40, Jung hit Reese on the far sideline with a perfectly placed back-shoulder throw for 14 yards.
Two plays later, Jung found a streaking Reese in the back of the end zone for a 31-yard touchdown to cut Westfield’s lead to 13-7. Jung completed 11-of-20 passes for 171 yards, that touchdown, and one interception.
“To deal with what Westfield throws at you – the different disguises – he did well.” Walker said. “He did a great job moving the ball.”
Stonewall Jackson’s defensive front put consistent pressure on Kim, who has verbally committed to Virginia Tech. The Raiders didn’t record a sack, but they forced Kim to get rid of the ball quickly or throw on the run. Kim finished with 243 yards on 13-of-23 passing.
Westfield’s 23 points is 20 below its season average and the lowest output of the season by two touchdowns.
“They’re a very athletic team,” Kim said. “They fly around the field. We knew it’d be a struggle, especially with all the pressure they bring. It took a lot of game planning and hard work [to win].”
That’s music to Walker’s ears. The third-year Stonewall Jackson coach is trying to rebuild a program that hasn’t won a playoff game since 2013 and finished 0-10 as recently as 2015. Compare that to Westfield, which won three-straight state titles from 2015-17 and hasn’t lost more than two games in a single season since 2005.
“They’re a great team,” Walker said of the Bulldogs. “They’ve been there before. We’re working to get there, too.”
Bulldogs 23, Raiders 7
Stonewall Jackson 0 7 0 0 – 7
Westfield 6 7 7 3 – 23
W: Kim 1 run (kick failed), 4:24
W: Richards 61 pass from Kim (Williams kick), 11:43
SJ: Reese 31 pass from Jung (Melendez kick), 5:05
W: Kim 1 run (Williams kick), 2:35
W: Williams 23 FG, 7:45
RUSHING: Stonewall Jackson Albea 4-23, Reeves 1-(minus 3), Jung 8-(minus 7), Coates 2-4, Wofford 9-16, Shabazz-Williams 3-24. Westfield Daniel 20-50, Shank 1-3, Kim 2-2, Richie 2-20.
PASSING: Stonewall Jackson Jung 11-20-1-171. Westfield Kim 13-23-0-243
RECEIVING: Stonewall Jackson Reese 4-77, Shabazz-Williams 5-78, Jackson 1-10, Wofford 1-6. Westfield Richards 7-164, Richie 3-43, Soto 3-36.