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Western Albemarle falls to GW-Danville in regional semifinals

Western Albemarle falls to GW-Danville in regional semifinals

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DANVILLE — A bright, full moon settled in over J.T. Christopher Stadium before the start of George Washington’s Region 4D semifinal matchup against No. 3 Western Albemarle on Friday evening.

GW shined just as bright on the field, recording five total turnovers — including two on the Warriors’ first two plays from scrimmage — on its way to a 40-8 win over Western Albemarle.

The Eagles advance to their second consecutive regional championship game, where they will once again face No. 1 Salem on the road.

On a chilly night at the Eagles Nest, GW’s defense didn’t waste any time bringing the heat.

After a long return on the opening kickoff gave the Warriors the ball in Eagles territory, Western Albemarle fumbled on its first play from scrimmage and sophomore Kamori Dixon jumped on the loose ball and took it back for a 53-yard touchdown that gave GW a quick 7-0 lead.

“Good coaching, every week in practice, we practice the scoop-and-score,” Dixon said. “Coach [Robertson] has told us so much about the scoop-and-score and the first play of the game is a scoop-and-score. We put the first six points on the board and that right there was a game changer because we got the motivation going from there.”

Déjà vu was the theme on the Warriors’ ensuing drive as the Eagles once again punched the ball loose and senior Will Daniel recovered it, giving GW two turnovers on two Western Albemarle plays.

“I think it’s really important we started the game hot like we did,” Daniel said. “Coach was telling us in the defensive meetings before the game that everybody has a plan until you punch them in the mouth, and I think we gave them a really good punch in the mouth on those first two possessions that knocked their game plan off and they didn’t know what to do from there.”

Daniel was right.

The two early turnovers set the tone early and the Warriors never recovered.

“By the time we got the turnovers and fumble recoveries, that put them out, they just gave up,” Dixon said. “They didn’t want to play us anymore. They really just gave up. By the time the third quarter rolled around, we had put enough points on the board and then we came back out on defense and shut them down again. They just didn’t want anymore.”

Altogether, GW (9-1) recorded five takeaways on the evening with three coming on fumble recoveries and the other two on interceptions. Seniors Tamarion Hawkins and Donavan Howard each recorded picks while Dixon, Daniel and sophomore Darrell Mabin each added fumble recoveries.

“I’ve got to give it up to the coaches, they prepared us great for the playoffs and as we land our keys we keep going and just make plays,” Mabin said.

The Eagles’ defense has forced eight turnovers in each of their playoffs games thus far after recording three last week in their rout of Orange County.

“It all starts in practice really, we’ve got turnover circles every Tuesday and we just keep getting better and better every day,” Poole said. “We’ve got this strip drill where whenever somebody’s got the ball, we strip it from the top and we’ve just been grabbing interceptions.”

GW’s defense wasn’t the only thing cooking. The Eagles kept the Warriors off balance with a deadly mix of run and pass. Senior Jakobe Dixon paced GW’s offensive effort with three rushing touchdowns, while Kamori and Poole each added touchdown receptions, giving senior quarterback Jeb Byrnes at least two touchdown passes in eight of his nine starts this year.

Aidan Carver-Woodson accounted for all eight of Western Albemalre’s points. He hauled in a 10-yard touchdown pass and converted the 2-point attempt with 20 seconds remaining.

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