Annandale refused to be intimidated by bigger, more physical George Washington of Danville and brushed aside the error-prone Eagles, 17-0, in a Virginia state AAA semifinal game before 7,000 yesterday at W. T. Woodson.
The Atoms, now 13-0, will meet Highland Springs, also 13-0, for the state title Saturday at W. T. Woodson at 1:30,
The only mistake that Annandale, which has not allowed a point in three playoff games, made all day was testing GW's 6-foot-4, 245-pound defensive tackle, Darrell McLaughlin, to see if he was as a awesome as his press clippings said. He was. But the Atoms found running room on the other side of the field and began to pile up the yards.
Annandale's Greg Clarke enjoyed his finest fay of the season, rushing for 128 yards on 31 carries and one touchdown. His one-yard run with 9:97 left in the game gave Annandale a 16-0 lead and doomed the Eagles. GW (11-2) also suffered its first shutout since the 1969 season.
"They were big up front and hit hard," said Clarke, a 5-11, 170-pound senior. "Their defensive was very quick but out offensive line did a good job inside."
George Washington made more mistakes yesterday than it totaled all season. The Eagles lost the ball six times and had a punt block. The Atoms' All-Met safety Mike Gullete, was a thorn in the Eagles' side, intercepting two passes, falling on two fumbles and making several unassisted tackles. Linebacker Ron Renzi fell on two fumbles and led the goal-line charge that stopped Eagle running back Leon Illado at the Atoms' two midway in the second period with the game scoreless.
"Great players make great plays," said Atom coach Bob Hardage. "The defense just played super. That goalline stand was a big future."
GW's only scoring opportunity began at its 37 and ended with Renzi and Co. stacking up Illado on fourth down and goal at the two.
The rest of the afternoon belonged to the Big Red Machine. Gullette picked off a Woody Fowler pass on GW's next possession and put the Atoms in excellent field position at the Eagles' 28.
Clarke carried the ball three times to the 11. Mark Cox then rifled a perfect pass to All-Met split end Phil Denfeld for the touchdown. Gullette made the kick and Annandale led, 7-0, with 1:14 left in the first half.
GW stopped itself with one mistake after another. On each of its five possessions in the Annandale's eager hands as a result of a turnover.
Renzi recovered a missed handoff by Fowler at the GW 44. Nine plays later, Gullette booted a 23-yard field goal to increase the Atom's advantage to 10-0, with 52 seconds left in the third quarter.
McLaughin, who is also used as a battering ram inside an opponent's 20 yard line, wasn't very impressed with Annandale.
"They weren't that tough," said McLaughlin, who had nine tackles, seven in the first half. "We just lost the ball too many times."
Following Gullette's field goal, GW's Mike Davis, trying to provide a spark for his team, took the ensuing kickoff and eluded six Atom players before he was buried at his own five.
The Eagles, who gained only 114 yards, were forced to punt and kicker Mike Stephens saw his boot smacked back in his face by Annandale cornerback Paul Frongello. Renzi pounced on the ball at GW four. On fourth and a yard, Clarke slipped past out-of-position McLaughlin for the score.
"It took us a while to get used to all that size up front." said Denfeld, who caught four passes for 57 yards. "After they didn't score when they had the chance and we started to open holes against them, they just got demoralized."
GW's last two desperation drives were halted by Gullette and Frongello interceptions.
"We played them for the run all game. That's what they did best," said Gullete. "They have a great running game and were blowing us off the ball for a while. Then they began to make errors. They had to throw then."
When asked what he plans to do with even bigger, more physical Highland Springs in the final, Hardage smiled and said, "Let me enjoy this one first before I think about them."