Jake Rombach and Mahki Robinson-Washington admitted it wasn’t easy watching from the sidelines during the first month of the season as the Albemarle football team struggled to find success.
The senior captains were all smiles Friday night as they returned to the gridiron and helped lead the Patriots to a 45-16 home victory over Monticello. AHS racked up a season-high 557 yards of total offense, including 387 yards on the ground.
Ebenezer McCarthy Jr. rushed 18 times for 115 yards and a touchdown and Robinson-Washington chipped in 111 yards on 12 carries and a score as Albemarle (1-5, 1-1 Jefferson District) extended its winning streak to three in a row against Monticello (1-5, 1-1).
“It felt amazing, getting [a chance] to turn the wheels again and playing with my teammates,” Robinson-Washington said. “It was just an amazing feeling just to get it all rolling again and putting it together. We’ve been busting our butts in practice and we’re just happy to see our hard work pay off.”
But it was Monticello that provided the early excitement. Malachi Fields returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown to give the Mustangs a 7-0 lead just 18 seconds into the game.
Albemarle didn’t panic and went to work offensively. QB Jacob King hit Robert Jones on a 56-yard pitch and catch to give the Patriots a first and goal from the 10.
After an illegal procedure penalty moved the Patriots back five yards, Robinson-Washington rumbled in from 15 yards out on his second carry of the season to tie the game at 7-7 with 9:15 left in the opening quarter.
“We’ve been working all year to get the offense rolling and execute our plays and tonight we really came together,” said King, who finished 7 of 12 for 170 yards and a touchdown. “We obviously got Mahki back, that was a huge help, but our [offensive] line played a great game. We were able to execute tonight, which is something we hadn’t been able to do all season.”
Monticello regained the lead with 5:48 left in the half as Jack Culbreath split the uprights on a 29-yard field goal to give the Mustangs a 10-7 advantage.
Albemarle answered right back with another scoring drive just before halftime. King broke off a 32-yard run on a keeper around the right side to give his team the ball inside the red zone. Three plays later, King threw a perfect pass to Torry King, who just got his right foot in for a touchdown and a 14-10 lead.
“Torry’s a tall guy and he’s athletic and we knew he could get up there and make a play,” King said. “We isolated him out there and we knew we could get him up there to catch that ball. We all believed in him and tonight he was able to go up there and made a great catch and got his toes down and everything.”
Coach Brandon Isaiah’s team tacked on another score just before halftime as McCarthy took a delayed handoff and rumbled 18 yards for a touchdown and a 21-10 halftime lead.
The sophomore running back drew inspiration from the return of his senior teammate.
“I missed Mahki a lot,” McCarthy said. “I got to see him play last year, he’s a great running back and I look up to him a lot. I’ve been working hard all season, doing my job and my teammates have been doing their jobs. We’ve been working hard every single day, fighting and fighting. This was a big win. I loved it.”
Albemarle’s offense continued to produce in the third quarter as placekicker Yousof Algburi booted a 32-yard field goal on his team’s first possession to give the Patriots a 24-10 lead with 7:42 left.
The defense got into the act as Robert Jones forced a fumble at the 10-yard line to stop a Monticello drive. Albemarle cashed in on the opportunity as Nolan Pitsenberger scored from 49 yards out to push the lead to 31-10 with 1:17 left in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter was more of the same as Aquon Smith rumbled 35 yards for a touchdown for a 38-10 lead.
Monticello’s offense struggled to find a rhythm as Rombach and company limited big plays. The Mustangs posted just 229 yards of total offense and one touchdown, a four-yard run from Fields with 8:03 left to cut the lead to 38-16.
Jones capped the scoring five minutes later with a 10-yard touchdown run to become the fifth player on the night to reach the end zone on the ground for the Patriots.
Fields finished with 87 yards on 14 carries and was responsible for both touchdowns for the Mustangs.
Defensively, Albemarle forced four turnovers, including a pair of fumble recoveries.
“It felt really good to get back out there,” Rombach said. “I didn’t do my thing necessarily tonight, but I’ll be back and ready to go in two weeks.”