By Charles Curcio, Sports Editor
CNHI News Service
Monday, November 12, 2012 —
By the second round of the state football playoffs at any level, there are few secrets left for teams to be able to conceal with 12 or 13 games’ worth of film available for opposing coaches to use in preparation for the games.
The Union Academy Cardinals entered Friday’s second-round 1A game at Albemarle with a defensive gameplan that proved effective for the first 24 minutes of the game, limiting the host Bulldogs in the first half.
However, football is a game of adjustments, along with factors like stamina, and when you have both a deep playbook and bench, the advantage ordinarily favors the deeper squad.
Albemarle (12-1) made full use of the benefits of their deeper bench and playbook, exploding for four second-half touchdowns enroute to a 38-0 win over the Cardinals.
Pitching their second consecutive shutout in the playoff, the Albemarle “Oak Tree” defense held Union Academy (5-7) to 144 net yards, including two sacks of quarterback Aaron Mack by Tiante Leak and Deonte Drake and four interceptions.
Albemarle’s defense has shutout or held the opposition to seven points or less in nine out of 13 games this season.
Offensively, the Bulldogs amassed 327 total yards of offense, all coming in the final three quarters as the Cardinals held Albemarle to one net yard in the first quarter.
The Cardinals pinned Albemarle deep early in the first quarter with a punt to the four-yard line and kept the Bulldogs deep in their own territory, holding Albemarle to two three-and-outs in the opening period of play.
However, Union Academy failed to take advantage of their stronger field position with two punts and a missed 43-yard field goal attempt by Aaron Gonzales that was partially blocked.
After Albemarle quarterback Deon Christian fumbled and the Cardinals recovered at the Bulldog 20, Union was poised to finally put points on the board. Once again on cue, the “Oak Tree” came up with a stop, this time an interception from T.J. Howard.
A Bryan Blanton punt 10 plays later pinned the Cardinals deep, and the Bulldogs forced another Cardinal punt, finally getting good field position at the Union Academy 41-yard line.
Markez Brown delivered the first big offensive volley for Albemarle two plays later with a 26-yard run down to the Cardinal 16. Five plays later, Kevin McKinney crossed the goal line from two yards out to give Albemarle a 7-0 lead with Julio Cisneros’ extra point.
The Bulldogs added a late field goal after Travis Bennett intercepted a Mack pass and returned it to midfield. Nine plays later, Cisneros booted through a 23-yard field goal from the right hashmark for a 10-0 lead that remained into the halftime break.
Albemarle head coach Danny Akins said that it was between halves where the Bulldogs made the critical adjustments, saying, “We cut down the playbook to what we thought would work and we ran those plays in the second half.”
Akins said that he was frustrated with the offense in the first half but that the offense, especially the offensive line, came out stronger in the second half.
After the Bulldogs failed to score on their first possession, the Bulldogs got the ball back with 7:28 left in the third on their own 33-yard line and drove 67 yards in 12 plays, taking 4:34 off the clock. The drive was kept alive at the Cardinal 38-yard line when Blanton gained 18 yards on a fake punt on a fourth down and nine.
Capping off that drive was Lee Autry, all 290 pounds of him. The Albemarle defensive lineman saw snaps Friday night at fullback, including a two-yard plunge into the enzone for a 17-0 lead.
After another three-and-out by the Cardinals, the Bulldogs were boosted by the legs of Christian, who was under constant pressure by the Union Academy defense nearly the entire game. Christian scrambled twice for gains of 26 and 18 yards, setting up a short McKinney touchdown run with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter for a 24-0 lead.
Brown made it 31-0 with a 28-yard touchdown run three minutes later; he finished the night as the game’s top rusher with 155 yards gained.
D.J. Swaringen, who moved up to the varsity roster for the playoffs, added a defensive touchdown when Rasheed Rushing fumbled and Swaringen returned it 36 yards for the score.
“They had a lot of guys going both way in the second half and I think they lost a lot of energy,” Akins said.
Akins also talked about the defense’s efforts, especially in the first half with the shadow of their own endzone right up against their backs for most of the half.
“We spent the first half playing on the wrong side of the 50-yard line most of the half. They stayed strong and gave up no points despite several opportunities.”
Late in the game, the two teams had a number of penalties, which Akins said “will happen this time of year” adding that his team “has to keep their composure.”
The Bulldogs host East Columbus at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night in the third round of the state 1A playoffs (see related story, 6A).
UA 0 0 0 0 0
A 0 10 7 21 38
A – Kevin McKinney 1 run (Julio Cisneros kick), 3:42, 2nd
A – Cisneros FG 23, :32, 2nd
A – Lee Autry 2 run (Cisneros kick), 2:54, 3rd
A – McKinney 2 run (Cisneros kick), 9:01, 4th
A – Markez Brown 28 run (Cisneros kick), 6:10, 4th
A – D.J. Swaringen 36 fumble return (Cisneros kick), 3:07, 4th
1st Downs 10 22
Rushing 40-127 56-296
Passing 17 32
C-A-I 1-14-4 3-11-0
Punts 6-33.8 5-34.0
Penalties 9-70 12-95
Fumble-Lost 3-2 1-1
Ret. Yds. 0 123
3rd Down 3-12 6-14
4th Down 1-2 2-2
TOP 20:37 27:23
Rushing: UA – Rushing 15-43; Anderson 9-47; Martin 6-43; Black 5-17; Pando 2-(-2); Mack 3-(-19). A – Brown 17-155, TD; McKinney 17-38, 2 TD; Christian 14-55; Crump 3-17; Dockery 2-6; Blanton 1-18; White 1-5; Autry 1-2, TD.
Passing: UA – Mack 1-14-4, 17 yds. A – Christian 3-11-0, 32 yds.
Receiving: UA – Pando 1-17. A – Brown 2-16; Currie 1-16.