Brentsville senior Justin Thomas was not the only one to make big plays for the Tigers last night, but he certainly made a lot of them. Thomas scored four touchdowns--one in each quarter--and totaled 269 yards to lead host Brentsville to a 39-21 victory over Buckingham County in a Virginia A Region B Division 2 semifinal.
Brentsville (8-3) defeated a physically larger Knights team (5-6) that was in the playoffs for the first time since 1987.
Thomas rushed for 131 yards and all four of his touchdowns on 16 carries, but he also had four receptions for 138 yards. Three of his catches were on third-down plays, and two set up scores.
"Justin demonstrated the type of athlete he is capable of being tonight," Brentsville Coach Mike Madison said. "He had a pretty good night."
Madison's understatement seemed to be an effort not to overlook the performances of junior quarterback Chris Jenkins, who completed nine of 14 passes for 192 yards, or the Tigers' offensive line, led by senior Jason Flory, which controlled the game.
But Thomas was the obvious standout. The teams traded punts through much of the first quarter, neither able to get its ground game going. Then Thomas turned a simple screen pass on third down into a 48-yard gain and scored on a four-yard run on the next play.
To open the second quarter, Thomas broke loose for a 55-yard touchdown run that he named his favorite play of the game.
"That play was so well-executed," Thomas said. "I had a huge hole to run through, I got a block upfield--everything came together and it was just dig and go."
Man for man, Buckingham County's starting backfield outweighed Brentsville's defensive line, but the Knights did not begin to take advantage of their size until senior tailback Erik Austin (228 pounds) scored midway through the second quarter. Quarterback Derek Austin (211 pounds) and fullback Marco Shuler (264 pounds) were never able to get big gains.
Buckingham defensive back Gavin Glover fell down just before Brentsville's Greg Halsey caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Jenkins, giving the Tigers a 19-7 halftime lead.
After Thomas's four-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter, Buckingham rallied with two straight scores to cut Brentsville's lead to 26-21. With momentum swinging in the visitors' favor, Thomas made perhaps his most important play of the game, tracking down a wobbly pass from Jenkins amid triple coverage for a 38-yard reception. He scored on a seven-yard run on the next play.
"They were a much bigger team than us, but nobody on our team came out scared," Thomas said. "Some people were saying we were going to lose because we had a weaker schedule, but we proved to ourselves that we can win against playoff teams."
Buckingham (5-6) 0 7 14 0--21
Brentsville (8-3) 6 13 7 13--39
B--Thomas 4 run (pass failed)
B--Thomas 55 run (kick failed)
BC--E. Austin 6 run (Goode kick)
B--Halsey 24 pass from Jenkins (Baker kick)
B--Thomas 4 run (Baker kick)
BC--Suggs 38 run (Goode kick)
BC--Goode 17 pass from D. Austin (Goode kick)
B--Thomas 7 run (run failed)
B--Croushorn 16 run (Baker kick)
RUSHING--Buckingham: E. Austin 7-53, Suggs 5-49, Perkins 3-42; Brentsville: Thomas 16-139, Croushorn 12-65.
PASSING--Buckingham: D. Austin 8-20-0 79; Brentsville: Jenkins 9-14-0 142.
RECEIVING--Buckingham: Goode 4-46, Suggs 2-13, Warner 1-6, Bolden 1-14;Brentsville: Thomas 4-138, Halsey 1-24, Jeffries 1-12, Ross 1-12, Suzuki 2-6.
CAPTION: Brentsville's Greg Faith tries to inch the ball forward as Buckingham County's Erik Austin holds on during the Tigers' 39-21 win in the regional tournament semifinals.
CAPTION: Above, Brentsville's Rodney Ross, left, tries to shake Buckingham's Wes Pride. At right, Brentsville's Justin Thomas, who had a whopping 269 yards and four touchdowns, celebrates a 48-yard run placing Brentsville in scoring range.