A.J. Chavis scores lone touchdown on big play for Knights

CHESTER – The weeklong rains dissipated over Ed Karpus Stadium just in time for Thomas Dale’s first playoff game of the year. Although the moisture left the air, enough had been absorbed into the field to be sloshed around as the players battled for position all night.

The Knights (9-2) came away from Friday’s slugfest with a tough 7-0 victory over the Cosby Titans in a game that showed determination to finish out with a win.

The Knights won ugly - and not for the first time this year.

“Right now, we’re just finding ways to keep battling through,” Thomas Dale head coach Kevin Tucker said after the game. “We weren’t really good on offense tonight, but the defense is playing really well. The last couple of weeks, the defense has been a little off, but the offense has played really well.

“If we could ever get three phases of the game together, we would be a scary football team.”

Dale grabbed the game’s only score in the third quarter. Walker zipped a screen pass to senior running back A.J. Chavis on the 45-yard line. He rode the blocks in front of him and broke into open field, motoring into the endzone.

What came after was a sloshy battle between the two teams.

This week’s game was the second week back for two Dale starters: quarterback Ejay Walker and Jasiah Williams at free safety and wide receiver. Their returns could be a small light at the end of the tunnel for Dale after a season plagued with injuries in almost every position. But there is still work to do.

“They’re very rusty,” Tucker said. “Jasiah is still getting his legs back but defensively he looked pretty good. Offensively, Ejay is just rusty. This is two games now that he’s getting some of that rust off and hopefully next week, we can see him back to polished form like he can play.”

The teams being forced to trudge through a mire of pudding didn’t help the team’s offensive statistics. Ninety-seven of Dale’s 182 yards of total offense came through the air. Walker went 6-12, with receivers slipping and sliding every time they had to make adjustments toward the ball. Chris Tyree led in rushing with 78 yards on 13 attempts.

As time ticked away, the white and blue Cosby uniforms stained into a dark gray every time a player landed in the mud.

Thomas Dale nearly scored again after a huge punt return down the left sideline to the 36-yard line. Adam Hall took the first pass over the middle for a 16-yard gain to make it first and goal. Tyree took two chops at the D-line, reaching the 5-yard line. Cosby then stuffed Dale on the next two plays to get the ball back.

“We got the early touchdown on a screen pass but then they did a good job of shutting it down the next three times we ran it,” Tucker said. “You have to give those guys a lot of credit because they played well.”

Cosby pulled a play straight from the whiteboard with just 1:30 remaining in the game. After being unable to make much of an offensive impression all night, the Titans pulled out a 47-yard pass play. The pass went to a wide receiver about 5 yards ahead of the line of scrimmage. He pitched to another Titan who followed behind and then ran to the 31.

Cosby nearly had a touchdown pass on a lofted ball to the right corner, but Dale played physical and took a pass interference. The ball stayed out of the endzone but the Titans took a first down on the 20-yard line with 40 seconds left.

The game finally ended on third down when Adam Hall intercepted a ball thrown straight into his hands by a quarterback who was pressured by the Knights’ D-line all game. Walker kneeled to roll the last five seconds of a truly ugly football game down to zero.

“I’m not satisfied this week. You get a win, you get a win and get to play again next week,” Tucker said. “You can be happy about that, but I’m not satisfied with the execution whatsoever. “We have to do a better job as a coaching staff to make sure these guys are ready to play,” he said. “It’s one of those weeks where it’s muddy, it’s sloppy so I’ll chalk it up a little bit to that, but [Cosby] had to play on the same field we did. It was a sloppy field with sloppy play and neither offense could really get a whole lot going.”

Thomas Dale, seeded third in Region 6B, moves on to play #2 Manchester next week. The Lancers, led by quarterback Brendon Clark, are undefeated after beating James River 49-0 in the first round.

The upcoming week for Dale will be spent getting the returning starters back to their best to get the team engine purring for an away playoff showdown.

“You’re only guaranteed one week at a time,” Tucker said. “We’ll practice a lot with those kids, especially Ejay and Jasiah since they’re coming back to offense and get as many reps in practice to come out with a little more offense next week.”