Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Motley's all not quite enough for Christiansburg

Briar Woods 28, Christiansburg 26

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Game story

LYNCHBURG - He walked slowly off the Williams Stadium field, like he didn't really want to leave. And truth be told, Brenden Motley didn't want to.

Couldn't he have just a few more seconds? A few more plays? A few more chances to make the bone-jarring hit, the decisive pick, the perfect pass - anything that could get Christiansburg the two points it needed?

The Christiansburg quarterback and safety was a ubiquitous presence in this VHSL Group AA Division 4 championship game. He threw a touchdown pass. He led two fourth quarter scoring drives. He forced a fumble. He made a critical interception. He amassed 13 tackles - six more than anybody else on either team.

In other words, he played like Brenden Motley. But as he walked slowly to the locker room, Motley passed under the scoreboard that told the somber news: Briar Woods 28, Christiansburg 26.

Dream over.

Still, Motley earned as much respect for this performance as he did in any of the 28 wins he helped engineer in 2 1/2 years as Christiansburg's signal-caller.

"The key for him is he's just a humble guy," Christiansburg coach Tim Cromer said. "All he ever did was just whatever I asked him to do. When you combine that character with that athletic ability, we're really going to miss him."

And Virginia Tech is going to love him. Motley will be headed to Blacksburg next year, and he'll carry with him talent, humility, class - and yes, more than a little bit of pain from what happened here Saturday.

"Never," Motley said, when asked when he thought the memory of this game would wear off so he could fully appreciate this season. "You can't just lose the state championship by two and it's just going to wear off. It's going to be with you forever.

"But we broke through this year, got to the state championship. Hopefully in the future, they can break through and win a state championship."

They nearly won it this time. Motley's 35-yard interception return with 2:47 remaining gave them a shot, putting them at the Briar Woods 17. Two plays later, Joey Augustin was in the end zone, and the Blue Demons were a two-point conversion away from tying it after trailing by 15 with less than four minutes to play.

The Motley magic, though, stopped one play short. Briar Woods defenders pressured him as he rolled to his left, and Motley did all he could, throwing up a floater in the end zone that Mike Barta picked off.

Game over.

"They covered it well," Motley said. "I just tried to throw the ball up, give my team a chance, but they covered it well. Congrats to Briar Woods."

Yes, congrats to the Falcons, who were deserving repeat champions. Their big men up front gave Christiansburg's offensive line trouble all day. Their stud wideout and defensive back, Alex Carter, showed why he'd been honored as the Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year. Their running back, Cory Colder, was a relentless churner in traffic who amassed 186 rushing yards.

Colder's only mistake came in the first half, when Motley drilled him at the Christiansburg 7 and dislodged the ball.

"My whole arm went numb," Colder said. "I don't know what the heck happened. ... He laid the wood on me, I'm not going to lie. Heck of a player. I've never seen a safety come down so hard in the district or region. He's probably the best safety we faced."

As a quarterback, Motley was 9-for-20 for 132 yards and a touchdown through the air and ran for 35 yards. He picked up a critical fourth-and-10 on Christiansburg's touchdown drive that cut the deficit to 28-20, hitting Kevin Thompson for 16 yards on a slant route.

He did a little bit of everything, except accept any credit.

"Just tried to come out and play as hard as I can," Motley said. "It's the state championship game. It's the last game you'll play in your high school career. Why not go all out, leave it all on the field? I believe that's what we did. The whole team gave it their all, never stopped."

And when it was over, he hugged his teammates, then went up in the stands and hugged his family. It seemed every step he took was met by somebody offering a hand, an embrace, a word of congratulations for a great career.

Eventually, Motley disappeared inside the team building. He would be the last one in the locker room.

If it were up to him, though, he'd still be out on that field now.

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