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DiGiorgio, Armada savor victory over Richmond

Mike DiGiorgio and his Armada teammates weren’t even in diapers the last time the Tigers beat Richmond in a football game.

That’s why Friday’s 19-14 victory against the Blue Devils in a Blue Water Area Conference game was so gratifying for the Armada players and coaches.

“The last time we had it (the jug trophy that goes to the winner of the Richmond-Armada game) I wasn’t even born,” DiGiorgio said. “I never saw it before. We’ve been working all week for this, really all summer. Everyone’s committed so many hours. We didn’t want to waste it and not win.”

DiGiorgio, the Tigers’ senior quarterback, played a major role in the victory, Armada’s fourth without a loss this season.

He guided Armada on a 99-yard drive for its first touchdown, a 22-yard run by Blake Stewart. DiGiorgio used all of his backfield mates in the drive. Stewart also had a 16-yard run, Aaron Leffel picked up 10 yards and DiGiorgio completed a 12-yard pass to fullback Mark Wolf.

DiGiorgio scored the Tigers’ second touchdown on a 25-yard keeper around right end with 4:32 left in the first half.

“We’d been running counter all game long and we just decided to pull it outside,” DiGiorgio said. “We had Blake Stewart run the backside and they followed him. The line opened up a lane, I saw daylight and I took it. I got a great block on the outside from Matt Goike.”

Armada coach Dan Witgen praised DiGiorgio’s poise.

“Mike is a great leader,” Witgen said. “He brings confidence to both sides of the ball.”

When Leffel gave Armada a 19-0 lead on a five-yard run with 17 seconds remaining in the third quarter a lot of folks might have felt that the game was safely tucked away for the Tigers.

None of them were wearing Richmond uniforms, however.

“Our kids don’t quit,” said Blue Devils coach Brad Nettles. “Our kids are fighters all the way to the end. I’m really proud of them. Armada is a good club. They’re undefeated and we hung with them.”

Quarterback Brendon Quigley scored on a 71-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter and Josip Kounce’s extra point made it 19-7.

“He’s a game-breaker,” Nettles said. “I wish he could have busted a few more.”

The Blue Devils’ defense, led by Tyler Olsen, Ron Schweiger, Justin Mataao and Greg Sebastian, didn’t give up a first down on Armada’s next two possessions and the momentum was quickly swinging to Richmond’s side.

Richmond took over near midfield after an Armada punt with just under six minutes left in the fourth quarter. Seven plays later, Colton Leach, who came in when Quigley was injured on the previous play, scored from nine yards out. Younce’s extra point made it 19-14 with 3:25 left in the game.

Younce put the kickoff out of the end zone for a touchback and Armada had the ball at the 20. It was time for the Tigers’ seniors to come up with another clutch play.

On first down, DiGiorgio passed to Wolf along the left sideline for a 13-yard gain. Richmond forced the Tigers into a fourth-and-one situation, but DiGiorgio picked up the first down and Armada was able to run out the clock.

DiGiorgio explained how Richmond’s defense forced him to make the pass to Wolf.

“They weren’t giving us anything up the middle,” DiGiorgio said. “Every time we ran they stuffed us. I have to give them great credit, so I tried giving a little short one over the corner, a high-low read, and Mark just pulled it in, stayed in bounds and the clock kept going. I have great confidence in him. He’s a hoss.”

Witgen admitted that the pass was a risky call, but it illustrates the confidence he has in his players.

“They were bringing a lot of pressure,” Witgen said. “The last thing you want to do is throw the ball when you’re deep in their zone. You don’t want it going back for a pick six, so it’s a tough call but I just felt that Mark was going to be open and I had confidence that Mike was going to make that connection.”

Witgen said that he wasn’t surprised at Richmond’s comeback.

“Richmond’s defense and offense is always such a threat and Brendon Quigley is a heck of a running and throwing quarterback so we always had to keep him accounted for,” said Witgen. “And 46 (Justin Mataao) was really pounding the ball well. It was quite a combination for us to fight, so we just tried to stay with our game plan. The seniors really wanted it and they’ve worked hard for it.”

“I kept believing in my boys. Never once did I stop believing in them. I felt confident with the ball in our hands.”

Armada is basically a senior club, while Richmond has many juniors filling key roles.

“We’re a young club, but this is a game we felt we should have won,” Nettles said “We’re hungry for victories and we work hard for them. We expected to win, but we expect to win whenever we put it on.

“This game showed our character, to stay with it during the tough times in a ball game. One of our mottos is to have great character and they showed it all the way to the end.”

Richmond slipped to 1-2 in the BWAC and 1-3 overall. Armada is 3-0 in the league.

Last Updated: 9/17/2010 11:42:21 PM EST