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Barons aim to finish strong with playoff berth in sight

SoVaNow.com / October 17, 2018
The Bluestone varsity football team is scheduled to host Buckingham County on Friday night with three games remaining in James River District regular season competition.

Bluestone stands at No. 6 in the JRD with a conference record of 2-3, 2-5 overall. The game against Buckingham will be critical, as the Knights enter the game 1-3 JRD, 2-4 overall.

Except for two games the Barons were totally beaten in — an opening season 21-0 loss to non-conference Fluvanna County and a 41-10 blowout loss at Amelia — Bluestone has had opportunities to win every Friday night.

The team lost to non-conference rival Park View 32-30, to Central Lunenburg 29-14 and a gut wrenching 21-20 OT homecoming loss to Nottoway just a little over a week ago. Each game came down to two scoring possessions or less.

Amelia County at 4-0 holds the No. 1 JRD spot. Central Lunenburg (4-1 JRD), Goochland (3-0 JRD and Nottoway and Prince Edward (each at 2-2 in the conference) round out the top five teams, respectively.

The Barons’ defense has been a force to be reckoned with for the better part of the entire season. Seniors Rashawn Peterson, Devin Pettus, Xavier Johnson and Noah Forbes along with junior players Neil Clayton, Jr., Mohamed Ghanem, Chad Hayes and sophomore standout D’Andre Alexander, to name a few, have basically shown up every game ready to play ball.

And except for the special teams coaching blunder at Amelia — three back-to-back onside kicks that resulted in TDs — the Barons’ special teams units have been decent and continue to get better.

Bluestone’s kicker, John Clark has been a big positive for the team this season. His blocked PAT in the 21-20 overtime loss is the only PAT he hasn’t converted this season, and his ability to hit the FG has elevated the offense from always having to go for first downs, when not in the best interest of the game.

If there is one area that the team continues to struggle with, it’s the offense and in particular the run game. In pre-season preparations, the run game was a focus of the Barons’ offense. Senior RB Trey Small and the team had been seeing some success in that area during the season but in the Barons’ last two to three games Small has basically been stifled.

Bluestone has a solid group of receivers with seniors Chris Gregory and Jordan Hill and junior classman Michael Harris leading the group. Bluestone senior QB Dale Sturdifen, Jr. has excellent leadership and game skills but all to often this season has been forced to go on the scramble. A mix of factors figure into this — from good downfield defensive coverage to the Barons’ RBs not having or seeing open slots to miscues by the linemen. The offense has also suffered its share of penalties this season, especially illegal procedure calls.

But even with shortfalls in these areas, this team still has the ability to make post-season competition and compete at a high level. A win over Buckingham would be huge as the season comes to a close as No. 8 Randolph-Henry and No. 9 Cumberland are 0-3 and 0-4 in the JRD, respectively and round out the nine-team conference. The Barons’ final three games are against Buckingham, Goochland and Cumberland, in that order.

The one area of consistent concern for head coach Harry John has been his team’s ability to stay focused, whether they are winning the game or losing it. Hopefully for Barons fans the team will make that an area of improvement, too, as they close out the regular season.





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