Headed To Salem

Headed to Salem

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By Liz Keller / Scrimmageplay.com contributor

GOOCHLAND –  Goochland left no stone unturned Saturday afternoon — the Bulldogs pulled out all the stops.

Goochland used a five-pronged approach — run game, passing game, defense, turnovers and specials teams — and racked up 355 total yards of offense en route to a 47-21 win over visiting Wilson Memorial in the Group A, Division 2 semifinals on Saturday afternoon.

Goochland celebrates its Division 2 semifinal victory over Wilson Memorial that secured a state final berth for the Bulldogs.

With the win, Goochland improved to 14-0 on the season and will meet old Region B nemesis Gretna, the winner over Amelia in the other semifinal, in the state final next weekend. The Bulldogs will face the Hawks on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Salem City Stadium.

“We want to make sure we do everything in our power so we can be successful next Saturday,” Goochland coach Joe Fowler said. “There’s a big difference between 14-0 and 14-1, and while we feel great right now, we want to make sure we go in the offseason the right way.”

The Bulldogs started the right way, using a four-play drive to take the early lead. Mitchell Brice capped the drive with an electrifying 51-yard touchdown run. Goochland wasn’t able to get the kick off on the point after attempt after a bad snap and settled for a 6-0 lead.

The Green Hornets (11-3) answered with an astonishing, methodical, 22-play drive. The run-only effort took more than 12 minutes off the clock. The visitors got a boost from several fourth-and-one conversions, and Malik Rucks found his way in the end zone on a nine-yard run. Grant Sauer converted the PAT and Wilson Memorial took its only lead of the game at 7-6.

But Goochland wasn’t fazed. The Bulldogs stuck to their ground game and moved the ball effectively down the field behind runs from Mitchell Brice, Patrick Clore and Jake Martin. Clore, who made his return after missing most of the postseason with an ankle injury, bulled his way into the end zone from four yards out as Goochland regained the lead, 12-7.

“[After] that first drive, it made us feel relaxed. We had the lead and we felt like we could play a little bit loose and have fun,” Fowler said. “We played with confidence because we felt like we could move the ball whenever we wanted to.”

Goochland added another touchdown late in the first half on a one-yard run from Cody Johnson.

The Green Hornets responded quickly, taking to the air for the first time in three games as Connery Swift found Mack Cullen on a fourth-and-three play for the 20-yard scoring pass just before the half. The score cut the Wilson Memorial deficit to 19-14.

Goochland’s defense quashed that momentum in the second half as it forced the visitors to go three-and-out on its opening drive.

The Bulldogs used a long drive of their own — 12 plays — to extend the lead with a 1-yard touchdown plunge from Johnson.

After making Wilson Memorial punt again, Goochland continued to move the ball with ease on offense. The Bulldogs went 59 yards on the drive, which was highlighted by a critical fourth-and-three conversion as Cody Johnson hooked up with Zakell Johnson for a 16-yard pass play to end the third quarter.

“The coaches all agreed that we were too far down the field to punt, and he had faith in our passing game which paid off,” said Cody Johnson, who completed 5 of 6 passes for 104 yards. “Zakell told me that if I put it up, he would go get it and he did.”

Three plays later, Zakell Johnson rounded the right corner and broke off a 14-yard TD run.

Although the Green Hornets tacked on another touchdown (two-yard run from Swift), they didn’t have an answer for Goochland’s potent offense.

The Bulldogs added scores from Martin (four-yard run) and Dasheem Norris, who put the icing on the cake with a 32-yard interception return.

“We really just focused on our offense and we did what we had to do and we got it done,” said Martin, who hauled in a pair of nifty catches from Johnson and rushed for 87 yards. “We just played hard-nosed football.”

Brice rushed for 79 yards on seven carries, Clore added 46 yards on seven carries and Martin led the team in receiving with 66 yards.

After the win, Fowler took time to reflect on the special season.

“This group of kids as much as any other group of kids, with the exception of that ’06 team, just sticks together,” Fowler said. “They’re a tight-knit group — it’s not the kind of thing you can put into words. It’s just a special group of kids, they don’t want to let each other down.”

Now the Bulldogs have one more game to show just how special they are. They did it in 2006 and are poised to do it again.

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