If Collegiate is able to complete its currently unbeaten run through the Prep League, the Cougars are going to have gotten there because they’ve started to make a habit of winning absolute nailbiters.
The Cougars won another one Friday against Fork Union, pulling out a 21-18 victory over the Blue Devils, that gives them two 3-point wins over Prep League opponents after their 31-28 win over Woodberry Forest earlier this month.
“I was proud they hung in there and we had some guys step up and make some critical, big plays there at the end,” said Collegiate coach Mark Palyo. “That’s what they have to do.”
The Cougars got it done with a late defensive stand, with standout defensive back Nigel Williams making an interception to snuff out any hope of a late Fork Union comeback.
“He understands what’s happening in front of him, he has great athletic ability,” Palyo said. “He dropped back in his coverage and turned and took the ball away. I think on our film we’ll see he was fully extended, he high-pointed that ball as much as he could.”
Collegiate struggled in the first quarter, with Fork Union building a 12-0 lead thanks to Daniel Reynolds’ 77-yard run and a touchdown pass from Luke Wilson to Malcolm Mays. The Blue Devils failed on both two-point conversion attempts in that frame. Wilson went 15-for-29 for 166 yards on the day with both his picks coming in the fourth quarter.
“Fork Union scared me, that is a scary good team,” Palyo said. “I knew their record didn’t show what they were as a team.”
Collegiate got on track in the second quarter though and scored all three of their touchdowns in that frame, with T Brewer hitting K.J. Rodgers for the first score and Trey Boll for the second one. Then with just 1:54 left before the half, Joseph White ran in from 14 yards out to extend the Collegiate lead to 21-12.
“You can’t give a team momentum and we gave them momentum a couple of times,” Palyo said. “Our second quarter was an outstanding quarter for us, we took care of business on offense, we controlled the line of scrimmage and we were driving the ball and executing and scoring touchdowns.”
Fork Union cut the lead to 21-18 with an Iosefa Pua’auli 43-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter, and despite the defense locking down Collegiate (including an interception by Mays), the Blue Devils couldn’t break through for a tie or the lead.
“How else are you going to build a program?,” said Fork Union coach Mike Hooper. “If you can’t go up against the best you can’t beat them? Last year we had seven seniors, this year we had 13. We’ve just got to keep working, keep digging, keep grinding.”
Williams’ late interception provided the final closing act, ending FUMA’s comeback hopes.
The Blue Devils (2-6) will take on Bishop O’Connell Saturday while Collegiate (6-1) hosts Norfolk Academy the same day.