All season, No. 13 North Stafford riddled opponents with the pass. Last night it was the rush--the rush of Hylton defenders--that riddled the Wolverines and lifted the No. 2 Bulldogs to a 24-6 home win in the Northwestern Region Division 6 championship.
Hylton (12-0), winner of 28 consecutive games, hosts the winner of the Bayside-Princess Anne East Region final at 1:30 p.m. next Saturday in a state semifinal. North Stafford (10-2) was making its first region championship appearance.
Wolverines senior quarterback Chris Ashinhurst, the state record holder for passing yardage in a season, picked up 219 more yards last night, but they came at a high price. Hylton, led by senior defensive lineman Chris Fields, sacked Ashinhurst six times, and forced several hurried passes, three of which resulted in interceptions.
"They brought everybody," said Ashinhurst, whose offense picked up 14 first downs. "I don't ever have to block somebody, but I'm sure it's hard to block two people at once, and that's what some of our linemen were facing. [The Bulldogs were] the first ones to figure out what to do to put pressure on me."
"I should have picked up those blitzes quicker, and I didn't," said teary-eyed North Stafford coach Chris Beatty. "They were crowding the line of scrimmage and flooding zones and bringing more people than we could protect on certain sides of the ball. We made some adjustments, but we didn't make them quick enough."
For the Bulldogs, it ended up being a fairly typical outing. Two rushers, this week juniors D.J. Walton and Jason Kaminski, each ran for more than 80 yards and scored touchdowns, and senior Chris Fields added 51 yards and a touchdown.
Hylton, playing in its third region championship in five years, scored on a three-play, 80-yard possession late in the second quarter. Walton skirted around right end for a 36-yard gain, and Fields followed with a 43-yard touchdown around left end with 1 minute 37 seconds to play in the first half. Junior Jason Brown ran for a two-point conversion on a broken play to give the Bulldogs an 8-0 lead.
North Stafford had its chances to take a lead in the first half, but the pass rush helped keep one of the area's highest-scoring offenses scoreless. Early in the game, on second down from the Hylton 8-yard line, senior Quintin Beltran drilled Ashinhurst, causing a fumble that senior John Brower recovered.
"The reason we were able to get that kind of pressure is because our defensive backs were covering tight," Hylton Coach Bill Brown said. "[Ashinhurst] had to hold it a little bit longer. He's smart enough to get rid of it before the pressure gets to him--if he's got somewhere to get rid of it.
"When you throw the ball as many times as they throw the ball . . . Dan Marino or Brett Favre or nobody else makes perfect decisions all the time. You're going to have to make a split decision, and some of them will be good, and some of them may not be."
CAPTION: Nate Illaoa, left, battles Hylton's D.J. Walton for ball. "They brought everybody," said North Stafford's Chris Ashinhurst, who was sacked 6 times.