Saints Eager to Renew Rivalry with Blue Ridge

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (NEWSPLEX) -- With a playoff spot already wrapped up, and riding a four-game winning streak into November, the football team at St. Anne's-Belfield School is right where coach John Blake hoped it would be at this point in the year.

"The things we've always known - Kareem (Johnson) and Campbell (Miller) and those kids, we already knew what they could do. We knew we had some good backs," Blake said at practice Wednesday afternoon. "We just didn't know if we could block anybody. And I think we're figuring that out, and hopefully we can continue that the next few weeks."

In addition to an unproven offensive line, the Blake's team entered the season with a question mark at quarterback. Enter Jalen Harrison, who moved from wide receiver early in the year. Harrison has thrown for 705 yards and nine touchdown passes for the Saints, including a three-touchdown performance in last Friday's 56-13 win at home over Virginia Episcopal.

"We're clicking very well right now, because we're getting all our players back from injuries. And we're just ready to play anybody that comes our way," Harrison said Wednesday. "So we're just wanting to do our best, and practice hard, and play the game we want to play."

STAB will take a 6-2 record into Saturday's regular season finale at Blue Ridge School. Both teams have already clinched spots in the VISAA Division II playoffs, with the winner earning the tournament's No. 2 seed -- and a home game against the loser of Saturday's game, in a rematch the following weekend in the state semifinals.

Led by a high-powered offense, the Barons are 7-1 under second-year head coach Tim Thomas. Blue Ridge has averaged an even 50 points-per-game over their current six-game winning streak, including a season-high 60 in a win at home over Randolph-Macon Academy last Saturday.

"They are athletic. I mean, they're really impressive on film," Blake said. "They do some great things. Four, Malik (Johnson), is a great athlete; their quarterback is very good. I'm really impressed. I think Tim's done a great job up there."

"We think we match up pretty well with them," said Harrison. "A lot of speed in that game, and we just know that they're a good team. We know what we can do, and we know that we're going to come out and play as hard as we can."

STAB has won two in a row against the Barons in this traditional end-of-season ODFC rivalry. With a home playoff game at stake on Saturday afternoon on Blue Ridge's new turf field, the Saints expect to walk into a hostile road environment.

They say they're looking forward to it.

"It should be a lot of fun," said Harrison. "I'm calling a close game, and just knowing that they have a lot of athletes, we're going to come out and just play with them play-for-play, pound-for-pound, and make it a good game."

"If we're playing this late in the year for a playoff run, then how in the world could you not get the kids up to go play," said Blake. "Plus, it's our biggest rival. We're going up, last game of the regular season, to play for home-field advantage. So heck yeah, I think we'll be ready to go."

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