The Stone Bridge football team showed once again that while they may sometimes be down, you can never count them out.
Final score –
Stone Bridge Bulldogs (12-2) 0 6 13 8 = 27
Massaponax Panthers (12-2) 7 0 14 0 = 21
1 / 1:11 – Massaponax TD (Trey Carson 34-yd run; Jonathan Kim kick)
2 / 0:42 – Stone Bridge TD (Easton Turner 18-yd pass to Tyrese Johnson; 2-pt run failed)
3 / 7:59 – Massaponax TD (Kamrin Jackson 37-yd pass to Jordan Kalemwa; Jonathan Kim kick)
3 / 4:02 – Stone Bridge TD (Joshua Breece 2-yd run; 2-pt run failed)
3 / 3:10 – Massaponax TD (Kamrin Jackson 53-yd run; Jonathan Kim kick)
3 / 0:02 – Stone Bridge TD (Josh Lawyer 4-yd run; Bradley Block kick)
4 / 7:04 – Stone Bridge TD (Joshua Breece 16-yd run; Easton Turner 2-pt run)
Massaponax High School, Fredericksburg, Va. (December 2, 2016) — Topping the list of Job Duties for a high school football coach is showing support for his players in every situation, letting them know he has their back, no matter what.
It’s nice when it works the other way around too.
The Bulldogs of Stone Bridge High School told head coach Mickey Thompson they had his back…and then they went out and showed it, supporting their leader by pulling off a memorably amazing, epically dramatic, come-from-behind playoff victory on the home field of the Panthers of Massaponax High School, the top seed in all of Region 5A North.
“They just kept saying, ‘Coach, we got you, we got you,'” Thompson said. “To have that support in the background from them, as coaches, it means a lot to us. We can screw up all day long, and they’ll have our backs.”
It was the case of a missing point that had the third-seeded Bulldogs rallying behind their intrepid coach. When Stone Bridge tallied its first touchdown in the last minute of the first half, Thompson opted to go for two, eschewing the easy tie in favor of a possible 8-7 halftime lead. The try fell short; the resulting 7-6 halftime score representing a single solitary point the Bulldogs would chase for most of the game.
“We went for two, and now we’re chasing points. And that’s on me,” admitted one of the most successful high school football coaches in Virginia history.
But Thompson was heartened by the football intelligence and indomitable sticktoitiveness his pupils demonstrated, taking their promise onto the field.
“A lot of high school kids don’t realize that situation, that we went for two and now we’re chasing points,” Thompson said. “They don’t realize you’re chasing points, or that the coach feels like it’s on him. For them to understand the game that much, that’s amazing to me. They rallied around us and supported us like we support them.
“I think we have a unique relationship between coaches and players at Stone Bridge, always have. But this group is really close to us.”
Relentlessly did Stone Bridge chase that missing point, the visitors’ stands packed to the edges with the blue-clad Dog Pound, their energy keeping players warm on the unforgivingly cold night. They chased it through the third quarter and into the fourth, first down one, then down eight, then down two, then down nine.
Then, finally, well into the final quarter of the game and possibly the season, they got it. They got back that darn point, added a few more for good measure, and walked off the Massaponax gridiron with a thoroughly satisfying come-from-behind triumph over a valiant opponent fully capable of defeating them.
“We knew how much was at stake in this game,” said senior running back Leland Girdy. “We just had to calm down and play our game, focus on ourselves. Our captain, [senior lineman] Dillon Carey, brought us together. We needed to slow down and play Stone Bridge football.”
More than a missing extra point, the Bulldogs had to feel like they were owed an entire touchdown. After the Stone Bridge defense pushed the Panthers back on the home team’s first two snaps, Thompson’s famed single-wing went to work, juking and spinning and misdirecting as it marched down the field to the 5. Running to drive and passing to score, quarterback Easton Turner rolled right, fluttered the ball into the end zone and saw it tapped around and corraled by a Massaponax defender. No early advantage for the boys from Ashburn.
The Panthers began their own march. With a stud combo of quarterback Kamrin Jackson and running back Trey Watkins, the home team and its full stands of fans employing the same sort of gashing offense that led to a 43.0 points-per-game average coming in. A four-minute 80-yard drive ended on Trey Carson‘s long scoring run off an option pitch, and Massaponax took the lead.
Senior Joshua Breece‘s nice kickoff return back to midfield set the Bulldogs up, and Turner and gang matriculated it to the 10. A chop-block infraction pushed Stone Bridge back, and a turnover on downs meant the Bulldogs’ second empty trip to the red zone.
The Panthers started to drive but then stalled and the Bulldogs got it on their own 20. A couple runs for first downs preceded a couple low-gain plays, and a 4th-&-7 presented itself. Turner connected with wideout Daniel Thompson for 19 yards and a third red-zone visit, which the Bulldogs took advantage of when Turner rolled right, stopped, turned and threw left to a wide open Tyrese Johnson who sped across the remaining hashmarks for Stone Bridge’s first score, 42 seconds before the half.
But the two-point conversion was thwarted when Massaponax stuffed the Bulldogs at the line. Point not taken.
The Panthers’ 45-yard field goal attempt landed well short, so the teams went to their locker rooms with the Bulldogs just short.
Opening the third, Massaponax’s athleticism rose to the fore as they held Stone Bridge yardless on the opening possession, then produced a time-consuming drive punctuated by Jackson’s 4th-&-9 completion to Jordan Kalemwa despite both being draped by Bulldog defenders. The home team’s lead was eight with 20 game-minutes left.
The sides exchanged TDs again. Breece took the ensuing kickoff back to midfield, then led a drive to the 2 which he finished off with a scamper to the right. A second two-point try failed like the first. Massaponax answered when, from midfield, Jackson slipped through a hole in the middle and outran people to the goal. The home team’s lead was nine with 15 game-minutes left.
The Bulldogs had ’em just where they wanted ’em.
Undaunted, and with that promise to their coach for redemption, the guys in the white with the navy blue trim got down to work. Turner engineered a drive mixing runs and passes, dinking down the field to the 4 from where Josh Lawyer barreled up the middle for a score on the third period’s final play. Bradley Block nailed the conventional extra point to bring the Bulldogs within two, 12 minutes left. (Point still missing.)
After raising four meaningful fingers in the air, the Bulldogs cranked up the intensity for the decisive fourth quarter. Dohnavyn Jefferson dove to intercept a Massaponax pass on the 45. After an unsuccessful ensuing possession and an inadequate fake-punt run gave it back to the Panthers, the Bulldogs took it right back by forcing and recovering a fumble, surging after the ballcarrier as he tried to sweep out wide.
“Coach [RJ] Windows changed our entire defensive scheme,” said senior lineman Daniel Renaud, talking about his defensive coordinator. “Going in, we thought they’d do a lot of inside runs, but I was in there and they weren’t really doing much inside. So we adjusted it so I’d go on the outside a little bit. Once we were stopping them outside, we figured them out a bit.”
Thompson pointed to those two takeaways as “critical.”
“That gave us some momentum so we felt like we could take a run at it,” the head coach said. “Getting down there twice and not scoring, we left 14 points on the field and we needed a break. We needed those turnovers.”
Set up on their own 31, Stone Bridge’s offense did what it does very well: move the ball. First down after first down was produced as the Bulldogs made it yet again into the red zone, then they handed it to the reliable Breece. The senior made a spin move in the backfield, eluded one grasp and bolted across the yard-markers to the goal for their first lead as hundreds of crazed Bulldog fans went wild.
The Bulldogs yet again went for two, and the third time was charmed. Turner wanted to throw left, but it wasn’t there and he tucked it. The Massaponax rush came and the 6-foot-3 QB ducked out of it and took off toward open space on the right. He made it untouched, scoring the deuce at almost the identical spot QB Joe Thompson tallied a game-winning two-pointer to beat Massaponax by one in last year’s playoffs.
Point found. Up by six with seven minutes to go.
The Panthers soldiered on. Jackson ripped off a 32-yard run to lead Massaponax into Stone Bridge’s red zone. The Bulldogs needed another defensive answer, and they got it. On 4th-&-9 from the 17, Jackson looked to his left and threw there. But sophomore defensive end Paul Moore got a paw on it, redirecting it upward so it fell harmlessly to the ground for a big large huge enormous turnover on downs.
Still the result wasn’t assured. Later, Massaponax had 47 seconds to play with, and they used the first few to make a lengthy sideline run. So, cue the Bulldog defense.
Jackson zipped a slanting pass to the right where Stone Bridge junior Hunter Petrakis stepped in front of it, catching it chest-high and falling to the ground as suddenly ecstatic teammates mobbed him. It became the game’s final play, the one that put the Bulldogs back on the Virginia High School League’s biggest stage for Group 5A.
Thompson expressed pride for Windows’ defense as it came up with three turnovers in the second half and allowed no points in the final quarter. Kellis Martin grabbed two tackles for loss and Jack Kosko pulled down a pair of sacks.
“Just Stone Bridge football,” quipped Renaud, the Conference 14 Defensive Player of the Year. “We know how to finish at the end.”
The Marching Bulldogs band played Final Countdown while a horde of Stone Bridge students amassed at the fence. Their uniformed classmates obliged with a high-five line before sprinting back onto the field to accept the Region 5A North championship trophy.
Another Rematch Awaits
The victory over Massaponax puts Stone Bridge back into the state championship game for the second consecutive season, and for the seventh time in the 12 seasons since 2005. The Bulldogs have a 1-5 mark in their previous appearances in the grand finale.
Just like the Bulldogs’ date with Massaponax was a highly anticipated rematch, the upcoming rendezvous with the defending champion Highland Springs Springers will bring Stone Bridge face-to-face with familiarity too.
Highland Springs (13-1) is the top seed out of the 5A South region, making the final by slipping past Norview 28-25 in the semifinals. A year ago the two squads met with a title on the line and the Springers came away with a 27-7 win.
The Bulldogs’ seniors expect a different outcome this time.
“We’re going to have a good week of practice, and we’re going to bring it to them,” Girdy declared.
Stone Bridge stats –
Rushing: Joshua Breece 19-89, 2 TDs; Josh Lawyer 6-41, 1 TD; Easton Turner 8-34; Bradley Block 7-32; Leland Girdy 5-26; Dohnavyn Jefferson 1-7; Tyrese Johnson 1-3
Passing: Easton Turner 10 of 20 for 127, 1 TD, 1 INT
Receiving: Tyrese Johnson 4-53, 1 TD; Daniel Thompson 4-46; Joshua Breece 2-28
Woodgrove stats –
Rushing: Kamrin Jackson 16-140, 1 TD; Trey Watkins 13-60; Trey Carson 4-43, 1 TD; Tyler Knowles 2-33; Josh Lewis 1-(-2)
Passing: Kamrin Jackson 4 of 10 for 80, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Receiving: Jordan Kalemwa 1-37, 1 TD; Trazell Ash 1-18; Trey Watkins 1-15; Nick Pullum 1-10
Other scores –
Salem 38, Dominion 22
Up next –
Stone Bridge vs. Highland Springs at Hampton University (Sat., 12:07 p.m.)
VivaLoudoun: We Live For Loudoun™
Written by Jason S Rufner
for Viva Loudoun Media Communications