Built like a fullback, Culpeper High quarterback Mike Jenkins looks awkward bouncing in the pocket and tossing touchdown passes. But after getting cut on the right index finger early in last night's Virginia AAA Division 5 Northwestern Region final against William Fleming, Jenkins turned his throwing hand into a carrying hand.
Although not blessed with formidable speed, the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Jenkins took advantage of a weary William Fleming defense and rushed for three second-half touchdowns, leading Culpeper to a 29-8 victory on its home turf, garnering the Blue Devils their first regional title since 1941.
The ninth-ranked Blue Devils (12-0) will go on the road to face East Regional champion Hampton, 44-0 winners over Heritage last night. The game will be Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Culpeper has advanced to the final each of the past two seasons, but lost both times.
"We've been here the last three years, and we weren't able to win," Jenkins said. "But this year we wanted it. It was all about heart and this team has got so much of heart."
With the score tied at 8 at halftime, the teams exchanged punts on their first possessions of the third quarter. Culpeper took over at the William Fleming 49 and Jenkins struggled to flip a short pass to tight end Ryan Bache for 23 yards. On the next play, Jenkins saw a gap where a linebacker had been playing much of the game. So the senior called an audible. Actually, he called a play that doesn't exist in the Culpeper playbook--a quarterback sneak.
"Nobody ever expects me to run the ball," said Jenkins, who rushed 13 times for 47 yards. "But I saw an opening, and I just took it and ran with it and scored."
The touchdown was the highlight of Culpeper's 29 consecutive points.
Culpeper Coach Lou Sorrentino had discussed the possibility of a sneak at halftime but wasn't comfortable with the call until he saw the results.
"That was a veteran quarterback you saw there," Sorrentino said. "We don't have a quarterback sneak called. But I told him, 'Just don't go crazy with it. If you see an opening, take it.' It was a big play because it loosened up their defense."
It also might have tightened the Colonels' offense. William Fleming's play-calling was simple--give the football to tailback Jermaine Hardy until he was too tired to run. Unfortunately for the Colonels, that happened early in the second half.
Hardy rushed 26 times for 158 yards in the first half. He also caught a 15-yard fourth-down pass and accounted for all but 49 yards of William Fleming's first-half offense. Hardy also played cornerback on defense. But then he appeared to hit a wall, rushing for only 17 yards on six second-half carries.
"We didn't change a whole lot [at halftime]," Sorrentino said. "It becomes a war of attrition. And he played a lot of two-way tonight."
Fleming lost its chance to blow the game open when the Colonels failed to score on two trips inside the Culpeper red zone in the first half.
The first drive, a 13-play, 65-yard march lasting 5 minutes 26 seconds, ended when Craig Rogers tipped an Elvin Barble 32-yard field goal attempt late in the first quarter.
Later in the half, the Colonels drove 70 yards in 12 plays, but on fourth and five at the Culpeper 10, Hardy, running right, tried to throw to a wide-open Cedric Preston in the right corner of the end zone. The pass went through Preston's fingers.