Hogging the football for long stretches is just one part of playing a ball-control game. Sticking it in the end zone is the other part.
Hurricane got both parts down Saturday afternoon, while St. Albans only managed to do the first.
Senior tailback Joe Lamanca scored a pair of touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving, to lead the visiting Redskins to a 17-0 victory in a matchup of ranked Class AAA teams at muddy Crawford Field, soiling SA’s homecoming.
The 5-foot-7, 149-pound Lamanca, a three-year starter, stood tall in the slop, carrying 24 times for a career-high 187 yards and catching two passes for 31 yards.
“I guess maybe because he’s low to the ground, he runs well in the mud. He always has,’’ said Hurricane coach Willis May. “I thought he had a wonderful game and the line also had a good game to get him those holes.’’
The win should prove valuable for the No. 15 Redskins (5-3), as three of the four teams ranked immediately ahead of them lost over the weekend. The top 16 teams in each class qualify for the postseason.
St. Albans (5-3), meanwhile, missed a chance to lock up its first playoff berth and winning season since 1997. The Red Dragons entered the game holding down the No. 11 spot.
The Dragons’ game plan was simple: Keep the ball and work the clock. It worked ... to a point.
SA strung together first-quarter possessions of 13 and nine plays, but neither got closer than the Redskins’ 34-yard line. The Dragons twice converted fourth-and-1 in their own end of the field and ran 23 plays in the period to Hurricane’s two in the period, but the Skins led 7-0 on Lamanca’s 60-yard scoring burst.
Hurricane later cashed in a long drive of its own, taking nine plays to move 47 yards as the second quarter wound down. On third-and-7 from the SA 19, Jered Chapman’s perfectly threaded pass found Lamanca in the front left corner of the end zone with 48 seconds left until halftime.
Now up 14-0, the Redskins got the ball back to start the third quarter and fashioned another long drive (10 plays, 57 yards) that resulted in Derek Moore’s fifth field goal of the season, a 32-yarder.
Lamanca gained 111 of his 187 yards in the second half, enabling Hurricane to maintain possession and beat SA at its own game.
“Coach said all week long we had to pound the ball,’’ Lamanca said. “I’ve got all the confidence in the world in our line. They’re men amongst boys up front. Our fullbacks had just as big a day as I did. They were opening the holes for me and picking up blitzes, too.’’
Hurricane, which was averaging 230 yards a game rushing, finished with 226.
“We don’t ever underestimate our line,’’ May said. “I’ve been at Hurricane 14 years and that’s the best line I’ve had to this point. They come off [the ball] and work well together. At practice, they concentrate and focus on their assignments. Our line’s our strength. We know going into the game that we’ve got to win up front.’’
Hurricane forced four turnovers in recording its fourth shutout of the season, with 300-pound defensive lineman Grant Grishaber even intercepting a pass on a tipped ball.
The Redskins held SA junior running back Jeremy James to 58 yards on 23 carries, his first game under 139 yards this year. SA ran for only 75 yards and quarterback T.J. Feazelle completed 10-of-16 passes for 87 yards with two interceptions. Andrew Eggleton caught four balls for 40 yards.
St. Albans’ strategy was sound, but the Dragons didn’t finish their drives. As a final testament, SA worked 10:08 off the clock between the third and fourth quarters with a 22-play, 66-yard march, but it ended on downs at the Hurricane 11.
“Jeremy James and our offensive line is our bread and butter,’’ said SA assistant coach J.D. Adkins, “and we have a tremendous amount of confidence in these kids. They’ve busted their butts all year long and we’ve put them in situations where they can [succeed].
“But we need to be consistent on first and second and third downs to put the ball in the end zone. You’ve got to give credit to Hurricane’s defense for a good job of shutting down our running game and making us throw the ball.’’