North Stafford High football fans gazed skyward just before kickoff last night to admire a rainbow behind their stadium. And for the next hour or so their attention was anywhere but ground level. Senior quarterback Chris Ashinhurst attempted a whopping 27 passes in the first two quarters, completing 17 of them, to send the No. 18 Wolverines well on their way to a 44-6 win over Stonewall Jackson in the season opener for both teams.
It could be a fun fall in Garrsionville. Coming off their first playoff appearance since 1992, the Wolverines are showing no signs of settling for another 7-4 season. They started the game with an onside kick--the first of three--and lined up in the shotgun on their first play from scrimmage.
Ashinhurst, running an efficiently chaotic no-huddle offense, looked like the all-time quarterback in a backyard game, peppering the Raiders with passes.
"This is Coach [Chris] Beatty's style of play," said Ashinhurst, who finished with 21 completions in 34 attempts for 270 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. "I guess it's what you see on TV."
If that's the case, the reception is coming in nice and clear for the Wolverines, whose three quarterbacks spread the completions around to 10 targets. The main one was sophomore Josh Baldwin, who caught seven balls for 84 yards and a touchdown.
But North Stafford, despite second-year coach Beatty's half-serious yearning to throw the ball every down, was not one-dimensional. Senior Allen Woodbridge carried 11 times for 114 yards, and several receivers broke off chunks of yardage by slithering away after catches. The Wolverines never punted.
"I have probably the best staff of wide receivers around," said Ashinhurst, who is considering attending the U.S. Naval Academy. "It makes my job a lot easier. Sometimes they break out of their routes and it seems like they are wide open.
"I wish I could move like that," the quarterback added with a grin. "They just tell me to get out of bounds."
Winning by such a blowout marks a breakthrough of sorts for North Stafford, but it was a narrow, come-from-behind victory over Stonewall early last season that Beatty points to as the key to the Wolverines reaching the playoffs. It was the kind of win the program had not been able to pull out. Now, at least in the opener, they are making it look easy with the freshly installed no-huddle attack.
"At first I was kind of overwhelmed by it all," Ashinhurst said. "Now it's second nature to me and the whole offense. If you keep a defense on its heels, you can be a successful offense."
Stonewall alternated quarterbacks Derek Czarkowski, a junior, and Dan Rosinski, a sophomore. Raiders junior Antwoin Saunders rushed 14 times for 71 yards.
CAPTION: Stonewall Jackson's John Puvogel runs to outside trying to avoid North Stafford defenders Jathan Bail (32), Chris Bennett and Jesse Daniels (80).
CAPTION: N. Stafford's Paris Edwards gets past Stonewall Jackson's Thomas Witsman for No. 18 Wolverines.