A battle lost, a war won

Nov. 16, 2001, midnight | By Jeremy Widder | 20 years, 6 months ago

Blazers fall to Warriors in last game, still end with a winning season


Blair's miraculous 2001 football season ended on a sour note as the Sherwood High School Warriors dominated all facets of the game en route to crushing the Blazers 42-0.

The Blazer offense sputtered from the start and was never able to take off. Blair (5-4) was held to only three first downs in the entire game, all of them coming in the insignificant second half.

Coach James Short was not pleased with the way that his team played. "Nothing went right. They played better than we did," he said.

Senior quarterback James McCrae reiterated Short's thoughts, but did not believe that the Blazers were less adroit than the Warriors were. "We just didn't come to play", he said. It wasn't about talent."

Sherwood took control of the game from the start. Blair's running game, which the offense has regularly counted on this season to provide virtually all of its yardage, was inefficient due to Sherwood's ability to routinely put eight men in the box. Thanks in large part to Sherwood senior linebacker Brandon Sturman's 13 tackles, the Warriors' defense held Blair running back Alfonso Angus to just 10 yards on 14 carries.

The Blazers' struggles also carried over to special teams. Sherwood blocked two Blazer punts and converted both into Warrior touchdowns. When Sherwood wasn't blocking punts or stuffing the Blair ground game, it was moving the ball at will on offense. Five different Warriors found the endzone against a Blazer defense that was inconsistent at best.

The Blair defense was able to make a few tough plays, such as junior Cedric Mack's deflection in the first quarter, but other times the most routine tackles would be missed.

Senior defensive and offensive lineman Junior Jabbie summarized the game the best when he said, "We didn't execute. It wasn't a shining moment." However, Jabbie was quick to point out that the overall season was a success. "[This season] exceeded my expectations, he said.

McCrae echoed his co-captain Jabbie's sentiment. "We always expect to go to the playoffs, but we had a winning season," he said, putting things into perspective. "[We] can't ask much better than that."

Indeed, the 2001 campaign was Blair's best since 1994 when the team went 8-2. And one would have to search back an additional 27 years before '94 to find another winning Blair football season.

This year, Blair beat Bethesda Chevy-Chase, Einstein, Blake, Wootton and Magruder high schools. The 20-13 win over Wootton on Oct 26 was the first time in seven years that Blair had won its Homecoming game.

The season was filled with exciting finishes including come-from-behind victories in the Einstein, Blake and Magruder games. The Blazers took unconventional approaches to win those games. In the 9-7 victory over Einstein on Sept 21, Blair scored all of its points with less than four minutes left in the fourth quarter, including a rare two-point safety to win the game. Two weeks later against Blake, Mack returned a kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown that brought the game into overtime.

With less than two minutes remaining versus Magruder, a two-yard run by junior running back Ricardo Campos tied the game at 13. After Blair took the lead on the extra point, the Fighting Colonels stormed down the field and put themselves in position for a game-winning 46-yard field goal. The kick failed, but a roughing the kicker penalty was called on Blair, allowing Magruder to attempt an even shorter field goal. The kicker failed to deliver again, giving the Blazers their fifth win and guaranteeing them the winning season.

Coach Short said that Blair had a "great year . . . [but] there's a long way to go to close the gap between teams like Sherwood and Seneca [Valley]."

Jabbie was more optimistic in the team's hopes for the future. "We're going to be a powerhouse," he said. "This is a great bunch of guys here."

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