Late in the first half of the Virginia AAA Division 6 semifinals at Battlefield, after the Bobcats had given up yet another long pass play, senior defensive back Sidney Henry barked in the huddle: “We are not playing Battlefield defense! At all!”
Against a typical opponent, maybe that kind of scolding would have recalibrated the defending state champions and spurred another victory. But such admonishment was of no use Saturday.
Moments later, the Bobcats allowed the third of the four scoring passes they would give up to fall behind by three touchdowns in a 42-14 semifinal loss to Eastern Region champion Oscar Smith.
The Tigers (13-1) advance to face No. 4 Centreville (13-1) in the state final at 4 p.m. Saturday at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville.
Henry just as easily could have substituted “offense” for “defense” in his rant. Battlefield junior quarterback Ryan Swingle threw four interceptions — the first of which was returned for a touchdown less than two minutes into the game — and also lost a fumble after the Bobcats (10-3) had scored on the opening drive of the second half to make it 28-14.
Two plays after the turnover, the Tigers scored again. They later intercepted a pass at the goal line.
“They’re fast and they jump routes,” Swingle said. “I’ve never seen a team that fast. If [the ball] was late at all, they picked it.”
“They jumped everything,” Battlefield Coach Mark Cox said. “They were there before our guys got out of their breaks sometimes. It just makes it so hard. You really have to run different types of routes. We couldn’t throw quick routes because they jumped them so much.”
In a game pitting teams that had claimed two of the last three state titles, Oscar Smith had four touchdown drives that required only 14 plays to traverse 289 yards. Tigers senior quarterback J.J. Williamson, bound for Hampton University, threw for 313 yards and touchdowns of 95, 11, 22 and 74 yards, to three different receivers.
“They weren’t expecting what we had,” Williamson said. “We came out here from the start and did exactly what we wanted to do.”
“We had so many [defensive] plans for them, but we just didn’t execute. At all,” said Henry, who had a fumble recovery and also returned an interception 53 yards to set up the Bobcats’ first touchdown. “Today, we just didn’t fight. We were yelling at each other. We have never, ever yelled at each other before. It’s a terrible feeling. It’s god-awful.”
On three first-half possessions, Battlefield reached the Oscar Smith 42 (punt), 17 (missed field goal) and 14 (interception) without scoring. But there was hope after Swingle punched in a one-yard keeper a little more than two minutes into the second half to cap a 57-yard drive.
The Tigers went three and out on their next possession, and Battlefield picked up a quick first down before Swingle fumbled. A 32-yard reverse and 10-yard run later, Battlefield was down again by three touchdowns.
“We never had an opportunity to close the gap, except that time,” said Cox, who reminded his players at halftime that Salem had rallied from down 35-7 to make it a 35-34 game in the Eastern Region final against Oscar Smith.