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Fumble call one of several costly factors for Bruins

After going back and taking another listen to No. 4 Lake Braddock’s news conference following Saturday night’s 35-21 loss to Thomas Dale in the Virginia AAA Division 6 final -- as well as reading some of your comments posted right here on this site -- I felt compelled to throw a few more things out there for clarification.

In short, the third-quarter call that took away a fumble recovery from Lake Braddock’s Thomas Stickford, though incorrect, did not decide this game. I certainly thought that was conveyed with Bruins Coach Jim Poythress’s comments that ran in my notebook from this morning's paper, as well as what appeared in the game story from colleague Preston Williams.

Here’s the scenario: Lake Braddock was trailing by a touchdown (14-7) when Thomas Dale started a drive from its own 27-yard line with 9 minutes 29 seconds to play in the third quarter. After six running plays -- four of those resulted in first downs -- Thomas Dale was looking at second and goal from Lake Braddock’s eight-yard line.

At the end of a run up the middle, Thomas Dale running back Demetrick Jackson was hit by Lake Braddock’s Nate Fleming as he was falling down. Still, the call was made that Jackson fumbled after he was ruled down. Replays shown on the scoreboard at U-Va.’s Scott Stadium clearly showed the ball was out beforehand, which prompted a chorus of boos.

After getting stuffed for no gain, Thomas Dale’s Mike Edmunds scored from a yard out to push the Knights ahead, 21-7. Edmunds then intercepted Lake Braddock quarterback Michael Nebrich on the ensuing possession, returning the pick 32 yards for another touchdown and a 28-7 lead.

But as Poythress said, what about the fact that Thomas Dale drove all that way without the Bruins being able to stop the run? What about the fact that Lake Braddock allowed 245 rushing yards on 49 attempts, an average of exactly five yards per carry?

“I did not feel going into this game that we’d give up the rushing yards we did,” said Poythress, whose team reached the state final for first time in school history and finished its season at 12-3. “We knew we had to stop the run, but we were not able to do it. They were able to run the football.”

And here’s the quote that ran in the paper:

"It didn't look like a fumble, it was a fumble," Poythress said. "Even a blind man could see that. [The referees] missed that. It happens. But what about the other 80 yards they drove down the field?

"We could've had the break, and maybe it would have made a difference, and maybe we would have gotten some momentum and maybe things would have changed, but let's not forget they drove it right down there."

I’m very much of the mind that officials do not decide games. Whether it's football, baseball, playground kickball or curling, for whatever reason or reasons, one team outplays another one. But there are contributing factors -- ebbs, flows and storylines to every game -- and this, in my opinion, was one of them.

When looking at the entire game, Lake Braddock was hurt by three interceptions to just one for Thomas Dale. The Bruins also allowed Thomas Dale to convert on a fake punt, to score on fourth and goal from the five with 4:42 left in the game and had a punt blocked with only 10 players on the field.

“We don’t have any excuses,” Poythress said. “We’ve said all along that we’d play them in the parking lot if we had to. But you can’t turn the football over. When you have special teams mistakes, turnovers and then you can’t stop the run, you’re going to lose. It’s really a simple equation. There’s no mystery. We didn’t stop the run, we turned the football over and we lost."

“They made every play. Fourth down and goal at the five … we’re a pretty good goal line team and we didn’t even cover [Thomas Dale’s Airek Green]. [If] we get a stop right there, that’s one score off the board. When you get on this stage, somebody has to step up and make plays and they made ‘em.”

By Jason Mackey  |  December 13, 2009; 2:44 PM ET
Categories:  Football , Lake Braddock , Northern Region  
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