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Turnovers doom Bluestone in 35-27 loss

South Boston News
Cam Tucker looks to take down a Charger ball carrier / October 04, 2017
Bluestone traveled to Victoria on Friday night and lost a close James River District matchup, 35-27, to the Central Lunenburg Chargers.

The loss dropped Bluestone (2-2) to fifth place in the JRD, now tied with Lunenburg. Amelia, Goochland, Prince Edward and Nottoway hold the top four positions, in that order.

Bluestone plays Nottoway on the road Friday.

In Friday’s game with Central Lunenburg, Bluestone had one of their best overall performances of the season. The team totaled 391 yards on offense, posted four TDs and played tight defense for the majority of the game.

The only thing Bluestone didn’t do was win.

“If I told you that the Barons traveled to Victoria to play the Central Lunenburg Chargers and ran 61 plays of offense for 391 yards, you would most likely believe that the Barons won,” said coach Jessie Chropka. “Unfortunately, that was not the truth. The Barons did pick apart the Chargers defense. We were so successful in fact that we went for it on fourth down twice inside our own 35 yard line; both times we were successful.”

But as good as the Barons were most of the night, five turnovers were the team’s undoing.

“The stat that hurt us — the stat that cost us the game was the turnovers,” Chropka said. “It was not sloppy turnovers, it was careless, uncharacteristic of the Barons. We had five turnovers, two interceptions and three fumbles. We cannot win if we are not careful, not cautious, and do not protect the football.”

All that may be true, but for a team that didn’t punt the entire night and held the Chargers basically in check, Bluestone looked good.

Central opened the game with a two-play series for an immediate TD and a 7-0 lead.

The Barons took the kick-off and with some nice rushes by RB Trey Small and QB Dale Sturdifen soon were in Chargers’ territory.

Studifen ran the ball past the pylons for Bluestone’s first score. The PAT try was good and score was knotted, 7-7.

The ground game was the Chargers’ bread-and-butter all night and they pretty much stuck to the ground as much as possible. The Chargers were able to turn their next possession into another TD for a 14-7 lead.

Bluestone began to move the ball well on the next series of plays. But an interception by Central resulted in another score and a 21-7 lead for the host team.

The Barons used their next possession to drive deep into Charger territory but failed to convert a fourth and long situation. It was the only fourth down play of the game that Bluestone did not convert.

“The Barons did not punt the entire game and only failed on one fourth down,” Chropka explained. “The other times the Barons had the ball but did not score was because of turnovers.”

The Bluestone “D” held the Chargers and forced the punt. The Barons then began what was their best drive of the night at the 15-yard line.

Bluestone methodically moved the ball down the field, gaining most of the drive’s yardage in small chunks.

Runs by Small, Neil Clayton Jr. and Sturdifen and catches by Cedric Taylor, Chris Gregory and Cameron helped to make the drive successful.

The series was capped off with a TD reception by Cam Tucker, making the score 21-14 in favor of Central. That margin lasted until the half.

Bluestone received the ball to begin the third quarter and it wasn’t long before Sturdifen was in the end zone again for the 21-21 tie score.

Central’s next drive sputtered out and the team punted. Bluestone was on point and worked the ball inside the Chargers’ red zone.

Sturdifen scored his third TD of the night on an end-around run, which was blocked perfectly by his “O” line. Bluestone then went for a two-point conversion — using a pass play — that was unsuccessful to Chris Gregory as he tiptoed the backline of the end zone. The score was now 27-21, Bluestone.

The momentum shifted quickly, however, as the Chargers used the missed Baron two-point attempt to pump themselves up. After taking the kickoff, Central was soon back in the end zone. The Chargers went for two and upped the score to 29-27.

Bluestone got the ball and did a good job moving across midfield. But as the team got into Charger Land, the Barons fumbled on their next series of downs.

Central recovered and scored another TD to extend the lead to 35-27.

With under five minutes left in the game, Bluestone threw an interception. The Barons “D”, which has played tremendous ball practically all season, stopped Central dead in its tracks.

With less than 1:30 left in the game, the Chargers were forced to punt. As the Baron return man caught the ball and made his move towards the sideline, the ball popped out of his hands. Central recovered and ran out the clock.

The game was an emotional roller coaster for the Baron players and their fans, with outstanding individual performances negated by the losing outcome. QB Dale Sturdifen Jr. ran 15 times for 121 yards and three touchdowns. Small ran 10 times for 69 yards. And wide receiver Roger Dailey Jr. ran twice for 24 yards.

Sturdifen was 11 for 28 passing for 187 yards and a touchdown. Cedric Taylor, Chris Gregory and Cameron Tucker had 64, 62, and 57 receiving yards, respectively.

Coach Chropka said as usual, the defense rose to the challenge on Friday and had a good game.

“After playing the Chargers, the defensive stats are hard to compute, hard to understand, and even harder to interpret into words,” said Chropka. “The Chargers ran 58 total offensive plays from the exact same formation, no personnel changes, no shifting, nothing. They ran 58 total plays in which 55 were runs.

“The three pass plays were relatively unsuccessful in that they were 1 for 3 in completions. Inside linebackers Cameron Tucker and Neil Clayton Jr. led the team in tackles as Noah Forbes, Trey Smalls, and Walter Evans cleaned up the rest. Kwhali Hesrer recovered yet another fumble which led the Barons’ second offensive touchdown of the game.”

Looking toward Friday’s game versus Nottoway, the coach called it a must-have win if the Barons are to host a postseason game.

“We are 2-4 overall, 2-2 in the James River District and we have four brutal games remaining,” Chropka concluded. “The coaching staff believes a 6-4 record (winning out) will result in a home game for the playoffs. We travel to Nottoway next week and host Goochland on Friday, October 13th for Homecoming. It’s a great 14 days to be a Baron.”

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