Turnovers are the worst enemy of any football team. Fort Defiance lived the nightmare first-hand Friday night, while Waynesboro reaped the rewards.
Waynesboro’s defense converted three first-half turnovers into touchdowns and Ryan Barbour ran wild on offense as the Little Giants swamped the youth-laden Indians 43-21 in a Shenandoah District clash.
The Giants’ defense scored 21 points off two fumble returns and a pick-6 in building a 28-0 lead after first quarter and enjoying a 35-0 blowout at halftime.
The victory gave the home fans a rare treat as it was the Giants’ first win on their home turf since beating Turner Ashby 42-28 on Sept. 22, 2017.
Waynesboro had been plagued by key players missing through the first two weeks, but the full roster was virtually intact against a Fort squad that starts a slew of underclassmen, including six freshmen and six sophomores. All told, the Indians’ roster has 15 freshmen and 12 sophomores.
Both teams came into the game going through rough stretches in their respective programs. Waynesboro had lost 28 of its last 29 games, while the Indians have now dropped nine of their last 10.
Neither team’s defenses had shined in their first two games, but in all fairness to the Giants, they had played five-time defending Class 1 state champion Riverheads and two-time defending Class 2 state runner-up Stuarts Draft. Not the most ideal way to have to start a season, especially with a depleted roster. Fort had been outscored 89-6 in losses to its Region 3C counterparts Turner Ashby and Liberty-Bedford.
“Our defense was awesome tonight,” Waynesboro head coach Brandon Jarvis said. “It wasn’t that good the first two weeks, but we focused on it this week. We had a different mentality. We put the first two weeks behind us.”
Waynesboro fumbled the ball away on its first play of the game, but the defense rose up and stopped the Indians on downs at the Giants’ 33. On the second play, Barbour burst up the middle untouched for a 58-yard score.
Then came a once-in-a-generation play by the Waynesboro defense. On third down following the kickoff, linebacker Adam Jackson shot the A-gap and cleanly snatched a pitchout in midair for a 57-yard score.
“The game could not have started any better for us with the good field position after the Waynesboro mistake, but it quickly changed,” Fort head coach Dan Rolfe said. “We are just so young. The kids are learning on every play. We knew they were going to send the house and they did. We missed a block on the pitchout and paid the price.”
The first-quarter nightmare just couldn’t end soon enough for the Indians. On the next possession, Barbour showed his defense skills, intercepting a pass and going 50 yards to the house.
Barbour capped the 28-point blitz by again going up the middle, this time 75 yards on the first play following a Fort punt.
“The game plan was to run that play, but we certainly didn’t expect to score almost every time,” Jarvis said. “The offensive line did a great job with their blocking assignments. Ryan doesn’t need much room and then he goes.”
The lead grew to 35-0 with 2:29 left before halftime when Khalique Spencer scooped up a loose ball and scooted 47 yards.
“We can’t make a lot of in-game adjustments with so many young kids,” Rolfe said. “We are playing a varsity schedule with the likes of a jayvee and varsity ‘B’ team. This week was the first time since early in the preseason we had full team practices because of rain, lightning, heat or COVID-19. These young kids need every bit of practice time possible.”
Fort played much better in the second half, scoring on its first possession when Riley Miller capped a 6-play, 53-yard drive with a 10-yard run.
But Waynesboro needed only one play to answer when Barbour used the same play up the middle for 76 yards. Barbour finished the night with 197 yards on the ground.
Fort used a pair of blocked punts by Jackson Michael deep in Waynesboro territory to set up its final two scores in the game’s final eight minutes. Miller had a 2-yard run and Trevor Rhyne went in from 3 yards out.
“We fought to the end,” Rolfe said. “I was happy to see that.”
Jarvis was happy to almost have his full roster back, especially after nine starters were sidelined against Stuarts Draft.
“We still have a few guys missing, but we are getting close,” he said. “I am super proud of the job Wyatt Harris did stepping in at quarterback. He had good command of the offense as a sophomore.”
Waynesboro (1-2, 1-2) begins the second half of its district schedule next Friday at U.S. 250 rival Wilson Memorial for the Green Hornets’ homecoming. The Giants are playing all six of their district games first before finishing out with four nondistrict contests against former Valley District foes.
Fort Defiance (0-3, 0-1) is back on the road next Friday at Broadway.
WAYNESBORO 43, FORT DEFIANCE 21
FORT DEFIANCE 0 0 7 14 — 21
WAYNESBORO 28 7 8 0 — 43
WAY — Barbour 58 run (Aguilera kick)
WAY — Jackson 57 fumble return (Aguilera kick)
WAY — Barbour 50 interception return (Aguilera kick)
WAY — Barbour 75 run (Aguilera kick)