The Virginia Crusaders quest for an unbeaten season and their third Mason-Dixon Football League championship came to a stunning end Saturday night at Wanner Stadium in Williamsburg.
The top-seeded Crusaders, who had reeled off 11 consecutive victories, had a night they'd just as soon forget. They lost to the fourth-seeded Arbutus (Md.) Big Red 14-0 in the semifinals of the league playoffs.
Only four weeks earlier, the defending-champion Crusaders had beaten the Big Red 14-0 in the regular-season finale and looked primed to repeat as champions again after a 20-14 opening-round victory over the Virginia Jaguars.
"It was disappointing, heartbreaking," coach Larry Stith said Monday about the loss. "We had achieved two of our goals — going unbeaten in the regular season and gaining the home-field advantage for the playoffs — but we didn't close the deal."
Stith said the Crusaders, 24-1 in the MDFL the past two seasons going into the game, didn't have a good week of practice before the game and weren't mentally ready to play.
"I have to take responsibility for that," Stith said. "They looked like a whole different team out there."
Overall, it was a night where nothing went right — five turnovers, dropped passes, costly penalties, and an offense that never clicked despite averaging more than 20 points a game.
It was believed to be the first time the Crusaders had been shut out in their six-year history.
The Hampton-based team had a couple of opportunities to score but turnovers ended both drives into Big Red territory.
The defense made a respectable showing for the Crusaders, yielding only one touchdown in the first half on a 5-yard run. The other Arbutus score came in the waning minutes on a sack and turnover in the Crusader end zone.
"Basically, this was a lesson learned; we can't take any team lightly," Stith said. "We'll have to shake this off and make some changes for 2012. We're gonna be back."
Harry Cain, playing on his home course, faced a tough challenge going into the final round of the 54-hole Two Rivers Senior Invitational on Wednesday in Williamsburg.
The 74-year-old standout responded with a closing 1-under-par 71 to finish ahead of former PGA Senior Tour pro Gary Strickfaden and second-round leader Gene Ryzewicz to win the Super Seniors Division for golfers 65-and-over.
Cain, a winner in this tournament two years ago and runner-up last year, finished with a 220 total after earlier rounds of 76 and 73.
Strickfaden, the No. 2-ranked super senior in the U.S. who plays out of Southern Pines, N.C., finished two strokes behind Cain with rounds of 74-75-73.
Ryzewicz, from Westport, Conn., had the lead after opening with rounds of 72-75 but closed with a 76 to finish three back in third place.
"Overall, I played surprisingly good for my ancient age," Cain joked afterward. "I got off to a slow start but played the second and third rounds pretty well."
On the final day, the front nine proved decisive. Cain shot 34, Strickfaden 36, and Ryzewicz 40. But throughout the day, Strickfaden kept the pressure on Cain.
"We both hit 17 greens and had birdie opportunities. I was just fortunate to make the most putts," Cain said.
In the 55-65 senior division, Mike McDonald, who also plays out of Two Rivers, just missed winning the title. He lost on the third hole of a playoff to Virginia Beach's Skip Zobel, who birdied from 8 feet after McDonald missed from 10 feet.
In regulation play, McDonald shot 72-70-76 and Zobel 68-75-75.
Jeff Fleishman of Williamsburg took third place with rounds of 71-78-72.
Competitors from Axsom Martial Arts, a new dojo located in Newport News, made an impressive showing in the karate part of the Ultimate Combat Sports Challenge Oct. 15 at the Boo Williams Sportsplex in Hampton.
The newcomers brought home 27 medals from the competition, including the Shuri Cup for winning the most divisions in the tournament. All 19 of its participants finished in the top four in one or more divisions.
Nicholas Hayes, a sophomore at Menchville High School, led the way individually by winning the Grand Champion belt in the beginner kata division.
Axsom's students especially excelled in kumite with eight first-place medals, four seconds, and four thirds. They added four firsts, three seconds, and two thirds in kata and a first and third in weapons.
Doug Marshall, running on his home turf, was among the top winners in the Bobby Stewart 5K and 8K at Williams Wharf Landing in Mathews on Saturday.
Marshall, 37, topped the field in the 8K with a time of 31 minutes and 18 seconds.
Karla Havens, 49, of Plainview prevailed over the women in 36:33.
In the 5K, Sam Jasinski, a 15-year-old from Gloucester Point, emerged the men's champion in 19:11. Sheila Scott of Newport News headed the women in 21:34. ...
John Piggott of Williamsburg, coming off one marathon and preparing for another, finished third overall in the Ashland Harvest Fest 10K on Saturday in 34:45. The 46-year-old marvel, second in the masters division at the Baltimore Marathon Oct. 15, will compete in Sunday's Atlanta Marathon.