Stafford 14, Culpeper 6
It was not a secret that Thomas McClelland would get the ball on offense for Stafford. And with another dominating performance from the Indians' senior workhorse, there was little doubt about last night's outcome.
McClelland rushed for 216 yards and a touchdown on 48 carries, completed a pass for 11 yards and added three fumble recoveries on defense to carry Stafford to a 14-6 victory over Culpeper in the Virginia AAA Division 5 Northwestern Region title game in Stafford.
"I've been doing this all year," McClelland said. "I wanted to do my role, and everybody else was doing their role, so I was going to continue."
A week after winning a playoff game for the first time in the school's 50-year history, the Indians (10-2) won their first region championship. And after 33 seasons without a victory against Culpeper (6-6), Stafford defeated the Blue Devils for the second time this season.
Stafford will go on the road to play Central Region champion Hopewell in the AAA Division 5 semifinal next Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
"Our theme all week was 'Not Yet,' we had not yet won any championships," Stafford Coach Roger Pierce said. "After this game, we are champions."
There was nothing fancy about what McClelland did on offense, just a gritty combination of off-tackle runs and sweeps. The Indians ran only 13 plays in which McClelland did not touch the ball, yet the Blue Devils could not fully contain him.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior had 27 carries in the second half as the Indians methodically took control. For the season, McClelland has 2,172 yards rushing.
"It's normal. That's what we expect out of him," Pierce said. "He's conditioned hard in practice. If we didn't think he could do it, we wouldn't give him the ball. It's expected, I guess."
On the game's pivotal drive, the Indians got good field position with 7 minutes 37 seconds left in the third quarter, and then rode McClelland to the end zone to break a scoreless tie.
While McClelland looked winded in the short time between plays, he continued to march up the field with power and speed. He carried the ball 10 times -- all runs off the tackle -- finally scoring on a one-yard plunge with 3:14 remaining for a 7-0 lead.
The momentum swung toward Stafford until the final moments. Culpeper's next drive resulted in a fumble, and McClelland ran on seven of the next 10 plays.