On a night of firsts in St. Albans, the Red Dragons defense was second to none.
Freshman quarterback Peyton Brown drilled an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jaimelle Claytor with 7:08 left in the game to break a tie Monday night and give SA a memorable 12-6 victory against Capital.
It was the first regular-season game on the new FieldTurf playing surface at St. Albans’ Crawford Field, and the Red Dragons christened it with their first-ever win against Capital. SA had been 0-19 against the Cougars since Capital opened in the fall of 1989. Only two of those games were decided by fewer than 14 points.
St. Albans did it by stifling Capital’s offense, holding the Cougars to a net of 34 total yards, including minus-15 on 28 rushing plays. Six times the Red Dragons forced three-and-outs by the Capital offense and six times they sacked Capital’s two quarterbacks.
“Our defense was lights out,’’ said SA coach Nick Watts. “Coach [Ricky] Steele, our defensive coordinator had those guys ready to play. I can’t say enough about the defense. They bailed us out a bunch. We couldn’t get some things going offensively through the middle quarters and they just kept bailing us out and giving us opportunities. They bowed up when they had to. Really proud of those guys and their effort.’’
The Red Dragons didn’t sport much offense themselves, just 122 total yards, but they had two drives that counted.
They took over at the Cougars 15 late in the first quarter when a snap sailed over the head of Capital punter Mike Robinson for a loss of 12 yards. It took SA seven plays — and they retreated all the way back to the Capital 29 — before getting the game’s first touchdown. On third and goal, Brown lofted a 29-yard scoring pass to Bones Johnson to make it 6-0. The extra-point kick was blocked.
Capital (0-2) tied it up about four minutes later after linebacker Tanner Burnette dashed into the SA backfield and swiped the ball when Brown was trying to hand it off. The Cougars took over at the SA 28 and scored in five plays, with Shawn James punching it across from the 1. With kicker Brayden Scott not on hand until halftime (he was playing in a school soccer game), Capital went for 2 and didn’t make it, leaving the score tied at 6 at halftime.
The decisive drive for St. Albans started at the Capital 13 early in the fourth quarter after Claytor returned a punt 28 yards. Again, it took a while — six plays — but on third and goal from the 11, Brown threw a dart to Claytor for the game winner.
“It feels great,’’ Claytor said. “We’re the underdog, of course ... they wanted a revenge game and we wanted to show them we wasn’t no joke. It feels great — 2-0. We’ve got a new quarterback out there and the line’s doing great. It feels good to win again.’’
St. Albans hasn’t started the season 2-0 since 2007, the season in which it finished as the Class AAA runner-up to Parkersburg.
“It’s new territory, but we’re ready for it,’’ Watts said. “This is what we’ve been working for. This is what our kids have been building for. Just really proud of them, proud of their effort and their buy-in and work ethic through practice, through all this crazy [COVID-19] situation. I couldn’t be more proud of our guys. They deserve it and we’re going to try and keep this thing going.’’
Due to bad snaps, fumbles and sacks, Capital had nine such plays for losses of 59 yards and SA seven for 41 yards. Red Dragons sophomore lineman Elijah Edge had three of SA’s six sacks. After Claytor’s winning TD, Capital never got closer than the SA 36.
“We preached that to them pretty hard this week,’’ Watts said. “We felt we had some guys who were pretty confident after the Nitro win, guys who we felt like could make some plays for us down the stretch, and we just trusted those guys and let them believe in themselves and believe in each other, and they put together a true, total team win.’’
Brown hit on 7 of 16 passes for 94 yards for SA, finding Claytor thrice for 42 yards. For Capital, Trenton Tiggle had five catches for 37 yards and Demarcus Daniels picked off an SA pass in his own end zone to thwart a drive.
The last time Capital was 0-2 was 2009.
“We were terrible on offense,’’ said Cougars coach Jon Carpenter. “We just couldn’t do anything. I think we’re trying to find a head coach, seriously. That’s too bad right there. I’m not giving those kids a shot.’’