The Titans pulled off a last-second kick-6, ensuring Dominion’s upset of undefeated Woodgrove.
Final score –
Dominion Titans (9-3) 0 7 14 9 = 30
Woodgrove Wolverines (11-1) 7 7 6 3 = 23
1 / 4:11 – Woodgrove TD (Mike Kovich 31-yd pass to Russell Blackwell; Cameron Gieseman kick)
2 / 10:05 – Woodgrove TD (Chima Kpaduwa 15-yd run; Cameron Gieseman kick)
2 / 0:24 – Dominion TD (Vashon McCants 27-yd pass to George Richardson; Ramon Blas kick)
3 / 10:56 – Dominion TD (Vashon McCants 10-yd pass to Jadan Pierre; Ramon Blas kick)
3 / 6:34 – Woodgrove TD (Mike Kovich 5-yd pass to Mason Gryniuk; kick missed)
3 / 0:00 – Dominion TD (Vashon McCants 8-yd pass to Billie Walker; Ramon Blas kick)
4 / 2:42 – Woodgrove FG (Cameron Gieseman 31-yd kick)
4 / 0:55 – Dominion FG (Ramon Blas 31-yd kick)
4 / 0:00 – Dominion TD (Billie Walker 74-yd blocked-kick return; no kick)
Woodgrove High School, Purcellville, Va. (November 25, 2016) — What it was, was FOOTball.
For most games of this sport, that name seems off-target. It ought to be called tackleball or territoryball or gettheguywiththeball. And there was no shortage of that hard-nosed slobberknocker stuff going on between the Titans of Dominion High School and the homestanding Wolverines of Woodgrove High School as they traded punches on the scoreboard through three seesaw quarters of the Region 4A West playoff tilt.
This game was won – and lost – because of what actual feet did to the actual ball.
Senior kicker Cameron Gieseman‘s strong right leg (and the foot that goes with it) powered through a late-fourth field goal into the western Loudoun wind, slicing it down the middle to put the Wolverines in front…and to redeem a missing point from a missed kick after Woodgrove’s last touchdown.
Then junior kicker Ramon Blas and his own right foot followed suit, drilling from the same distance a low liner that nearly scraped the crossbar as it toppled over it, and the visiting Titans were back up one with under a minute on the clock. The Dominion fans rocked the visitors’ stands.
“I just had to trust my teammates. It was almost short, scared me a little,” said a widely smiling Blas. “I just barely got it off, but I knew I had it. I was so happy.”
But we hadn’t heard the last from the feet. Time of the absolute essence, the Wolverines quickly matriculated the ball down the field to set their field goal unit up for a 43-yarder, a long one for high school but certainly within reach of Gieseman’s foot. Six little seconds were all that remained of the game. Time for one play, and this was it.
Gieseman’s feet moved toward holder Mike Kovich‘s hands. The football was snapped back from out of a pile; chaos exploded. Helmets crashed as the ball, unlifted, skidded along the ground to Kovich. The senior quarterback wasted no time deftly pointing the darn thing up, and Gieseman, his feet slowed by what his eyes saw, stepped toward it again. He kicked it, but too low and too late, the entire attempt foiled from its outset.
A grasshopper could have blocked that field goal. But a grasshopper wasn’t available, so all-conference senior Vashon McCants and the Titans did the honors of making the ball go thunk. The redirected football wobbled away, pursued and scooped by senior tailback Billie Walker who led a caravan of ecstatic Titans on a 200-foot victory sprint down the field for a punctuating touchdown as time ended.
“I’m at a loss for words,” McCants stammered, the commotion of post-game exuberance all around him. “I’m just so excited right now. Our team is moving on.”
Just like he was the offensive star of the year Conference 21B, McCants was the offensive star of the game – thanks to his right arm and both his, yes, feet.
McCants was the Titans’ offense, accounting for all but nine of their rushing yards and each of their passing ones. Though he was sacked six times (twice apiece by Kevin Burke and Aaron Fitzwater, once each by Grant Ammann and Chima Kpaduwa) for losses of 36 yards, McCants’ confidence grew with the game, his patient improvising paying dividends with scrambling gains.
The QB’s open-field skills were displayed best in the late stages of the third quarter. McCants quickly abandoned the designed play and designed one of his own, maneuvering slickly around green-clad Wolverines and bursting into open space, not stopping until 72 yards had been consumed to flip the field.
But it was his arm – a good but not his best quality – that put points on the board for Dominion. That lengthy carry set McCants up for his third TD pass of the evening, when he play-faked, rolled, pointed and threw a strike to a diving, catching Walker.
Earlier, in the halftime locker room, Dominion head coach Karl Buckwalter asked his assistants to give him some time alone with his team.
“I wanted to remind them that the next 24 minutes would define who they are,” the veteran head coach related.
The contest commenced with Woodgrove easing out to a 14-0 advantage, and the Wolverines looked for all the world to be on their way to the woodshed with a purpose.
On their second possession, Kovich found Russell Blackwell downfield, and the senior receiver made one little wiggle move to create space to dash the last 10 yards to paydirt. On their third, senior runner Kpaduwa slipped the grasp of a shirt-tackle and motored home.
The Titans bided their time in answering. After four possessions ended on punts, Dominion finally found cracks in Woodgrove’s armor. McCants connected with junior wideout George Richardson for a 21-yard gain and Jadan Pierre on a 27-yard advancement; three plays later, out of a timeout, McCants lofted it into the end zone where the 6-foot-3 Richardson jumped over his defender to snag it.
So ended the first half. The second half started rough for the home team too, as Kpaduwa muffed the kickoff and Dominion got it on the Woodgrove 1. Evidently angry, Kpaduwa immediately sacked McCants back to the 10, but the Titan QB made it moot by rifling a pass to Pierre, who reached back for a two-handed grab in the end zone. Game tied up, just over half-over.
The Wolverines were having none of it. Behind their big, bruising offensive line, Kovich and Kpaduwa picked up first-down yardage to chew up 60 yards in four minutes. Having used the run to move the ball, they used the pass to score as a rolling Kovich zipped it to a diving Mason Gryniuk, and the prolific senior receiver put the home team up six.
Dominion flirted with disaster on its next drive, fumbling it back to their hosts as Fitzwater fell on the loose ball. The Titan defense held the Wolverine offense to three fruitless plays, however, and the visitors from Sterling got it on their own 20, down six, with the third quarter melting away.
That’s when McCants’ feet went to work, flipping the field and setting the stage for those wild final few minutes of kicks and kick-blocks.
“We made a couple mistakes, but they’re high school kids. They’re going to make mistakes,” said head coach Mike Skinner, whose Wolverines own a 22-3 record over the past two years. “It is what it is. I thought the kids played hard…. This is the best football team western Loudoun’s ever had.”
Kovich fought through the pain of defeat to reflect on his winning career as a Wolverine.
“It was a good four years,” said the quarterback, the two-time Offensive Player of the Year for Conference 21A. “In ten years, I’m not going to remember all the stats, I’m going to remember these guys. I wouldn’t want to do this with anybody else.”
With the win, Dominion is in the final four of Group 4A. The Titans will ride I-81 down to Salem for a Saturday state-semifinal showdown against the defending champion Spartans of Salem High School (11-1). The winner there will battle the winner between Lafayette and Dinwiddie for ultimate supremacy.
It is already the most successful campaign in Dominion’s 14-season football history.
“We started from the bottom, now we’re here,” Buckwalter quoted, citing the rapper Drake. “They’ve come a long way.”
The feeling of bigness surrounding the late-playoff Viva Loudoun TopTicket matchup was visible well before the Woodgrove campus. A bank of four megabright spotlights, stationed at the school entrance, waved infinite shafts of photons up to the stars. On the football field, a huge plume of manufactured smoke billowed over the yard markers so that the Wolverines could emerge dramatically from it.
The Woodgrove students, on school grounds despite the holiday weekend, were heavily into it, while their classmates in the band and on the cheer squad provided that Friday night football pageantry. None of the above could be heard, however, whenever those two firetrucks from the Purcellville Volunteer Fire Company were fired up, sirens blaring and lights blazing.
The youngsters of the Upper Loudoun Youth Football League were the game’s special guests, presented team-by-team to an adoring public.
Dominion stats –
Rushing: Vashon McCants 17-87; Alex Wertz 2-5; Isaiah Webster 3-4; Jayson Robinson 2-0
Passing: Vashon McCants 12 of 21 for 167, 3 TDs
Receiving: George Richardson 4-67, 1 TD; Jadan Pierre 4-59, 1 TD; Billie Walker 4-41, 1 TD
Woodgrove stats –
Rushing: Chima Kpaduwa 16-94, 1 TD; Mike Kovich 22-61
Passing: Mike Kovich 16 of 23 for 151, 2 TDs
Receiving: Mason Gryniuk 6-45, 1 TD; Russell Blackwell 4-72, 1 TD; Ben Castellano 4-26; AJ Organ 2-8
Other scores –
Stone Bridge 48, Brooke Point 21
Massaponax 42, Potomac Falls 29
Up next –
Stone Bridge at Massaponax (Fri., 7 p.m.)
Dominion at Salem (Sat., 2 p.m.)
VivaLoudoun: We Live For Loudoun™
Written by Jason S Rufner
for Viva Loudoun Media Communications