CHARLOTTESVILLE — There were plenty of unknowns surrounding the Patrick Henry as it prepared for Tuesday’s football game at Albemarle.
Patrick Henry (3-1) hadn’t practiced in nearly a week, and injuries to a trio of two-way starters made them unavailable for the game.
Despite the challenges, PH left Central Virginia with a 40-31 victory.
“Because of the hurricane, we [haven’t] practiced since Thursday and I had no idea what we were going to get tonight,” coach Alan Fiddler said. “We had a walk-through before we got on the bus to come up here, and we had three starters out due to injuries. We had kids that hadn’t played much in their whole life that made big plays.”
Roy Gunn III rushed for 54 yards and three touchdowns to spark Patrick Henry. He also completed 11 of 24 passes for 111 yards. Leroy Thomas rushed for 75 yards and had five catches for 70 yards in a well-balanced game.
Patrick Henry scored on its first two possessions to build a 10-0 lead four minutes into the contest.
Gunn got things started with a 48-yard TD run on the fourth play from scrimmage to put PH ahead 7-0 with 10:35 left in the first quarter.
Albemarle (0-3) fumbled the ensuing kickoff and PH's Daniel Cox recovered at the Albemarle 43. George Langhammer capped an eight-play drive with a 29-yard field goal to stretch the lead to 10-0 with 8:31 left in the quarter.
Albemarle bounced back from the early miscue and got on the board. DaQuadre Taylor followed Mahki Robinson-Washington on a lead play for a 15-yard touchdown to trim the lead to 10-7 with 8:27 left in the half.
PH regained a double-digit lead when Gunn capped a 13-play, 55-yard drive with a one-yard scoring run to make the score 17-7 with 3:25 to play.
Albemarle tried to answer just before halftime. Taylor rumbled to the 1-yard line, but the Patrick Henry defense forced a fumble and Sean Medley pounced on the loose ball to preserve a 17-7 halftime lead for the visiting Patriots.
Albemarle rebounded with a score on its first possession of the second half, as Taylor rumbled 37 yards for a score. Dayshawn Caldwell blocked the extra point as the score remained 17-13.
Caldwell then returned the ensuing kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown to give Patrick Henry a 24-13 lead. Later in the quarter, Gunn added his third touchdown of the game, another one-yard run, to give PH a commanding 31-13 lead with 4:26 left in the quarter.
But Albemarle didn’t quit. Yousof Algburi kicked a 27-yard field goal with 1:55 left in the quarter, and Robinson-Washington added a 43-yard touchdown run on the final play of the quarter to trim the lead to 31-23 with 12 minutes to go.
Patrick Henry missed a 37-yard field goal with 7:25 to play to give Albemarle life. The home team then went on an 80-yard drive, capped by Taylor’s 13-yard touchdown strike to Bruce McClain Jr. Taylor added the two-point conversion to tie the game at 31-31 with 4:25 left.
Fiddler rallied his team.
“I just told them we need a drive, go make plays,” he said.
Gunn marched Patrick Henry on a 14-play, 68-yard drive that stalled on the Albemarle 11. The sophomore completed 4 of 9 passes on the drive, including a 12-yard strike to Nasir Stevens Noel to put PH in field goal range.
“We have a sophomore quarterback out here making plays,” Fiddler said. “He’s not always perfect, but he makes things happen.”
After a muffed snap on third down, Langhammer jogged out on the field and kicked a 28-yard field goal with 54.5 seconds left to give Patrick Henry a 34-31 lead.
“I was trying to center it up for him,” Fiddler said. “When the pressure was on, he made a big kick.”
Albemarle had one last chance to score, and Taylor hooked up with Aquon Sims on an 18-yard completion for a first down at midfield. Two plays later, Thomas intercepted Taylor and rumbled 65 yards for a score to seal the win for Patrick Henry.
“To me, Leroy is one of the best players in the area, probably in the state,” Fiddler said. “He does it all for us every week. If you’re going to throw his way, you better be on target, because he’s a lock-down cover guy.”
Taylor carried 23 times for 249 yards and a touchdown for Albemarle, while Robinson-Washington added 19 carries for 151 yards and a score.
Fiddler had nothing but high praise for his team.
“I’m real excited for them,” Fiddler said. “I haven’t had a team that I’m prouder of than these guys gutting this thing out.”