GOOCHLAND - He took the snap.
The quarterback found his receiver, lasered the pass. The receiver had the ball, but the regulation clock would hit zero. His Woodberry Forest team, trailing host Benedictine 27-26, needed to score now, and he couldn't go forward anymore.
He lateraled the ball to a teammate.
But soon the ball came loose. Contact made it roll away, across the field and towards the right field sideline.
In swooped Woodberry's Luke Blundin, hardly pausing in his motion to bend down and scoop up the football on the Cadets' 30-yard line before he blazed down the right side and towards the end zone, determined to take a wild play that started back at the Tigers' 33 yard line all the way to the house...
...except he didn't. Josh McCray caught up with him and powered into him, sending him to the ground and halting him a handful of yards shy of the goal line.
The Cadets erupted in celebration, triumphant in their Homecoming game for the first time in at least 4 years and against Woodberry Forest for the first time in at least 6.
"To get the win today is big," said Benedictine head football coach Greg Lilly. "Anytime we get a chance to win Homecoming - anytime we get a chance to beat Woodberry Forest - we're thrilled."
"It felt good, because everybody had to come together," said Cadets' defensive standout Malik James. "We had to finish - that's been our big thing this year - finish over everything."
"Everyone played great today," added Dillon Tennyson, who made several key catches in Saturday's thriller including a blistering 47-yard catch-and-run touchdown off a screen pass from Tate Plageman in the first half. "But we've just got to make sure we finish, and next week we're gonna make sure that we can be able to finish games."
Woodberry Forest (0-6) came in winless. That's a deceptive stat. They haven't lost a game by more than two possessions. Their last three games coming into this one, they were a touchdown short.
They were competitive from the start, tying Benedictine at 7-all and then staying on their heels with a field goal to trail 14-10. The Cadets' 21-10 halftime lead - gained off of sophomore quarterback Plageman connecting with Tennyson on a screen pass that Tennyson turned into a 47-yard touchdown sprint down the right sideline - would end up being their largest lead of the game.
From there, the Tigers flexed their big-play ability. Pinned at their 18 by Nick Turner's punt, they responded with an 82-yard touchdown bomb over the middle from Ben Locklear to Rhys Logan, slashing the Cadets' lead back down to one possession.
Then came a yo-yo of plays that ultimately went the Tigers' way. The Cadets recovered the Tigers' onside kick, but soon fumbled the ball away. The Tigers marched all the way to the Cadets' 1-yard line, but had their momentum erased by Eddie Jackson III's interception at the 2...
...but only for a moment.
The Tigers responded by bringing down the Cadets' ball carrier in the end zone for a safety, further reducing Benedictine's lead to 2. And then, with the Tigers receiving the kick following the safety, they went back to the Locklear-Logan connection that worked very well for them earlier in the half, this time for 51 yards and a trip to the end zone that pushed the Tigers into a 26-21 lead.
But nearly an entire quarter remained, and the Cadets took advantage. They ended up losing Plageman for the rest of the game after he hurt his non-throwing hand, but they turned to switching off Anthony Fisher and Henry Dolan in the pocket.
It was Fisher who aired out the 34-yarder that Nick Turner hauled in for his second touchdown catch of the game to push the Cadets back to the point at 27-26.
From there, the Cadets found different ways to halt the Tigers, including on their final wild drive.
"Woodberry had a great offense, so I knew they had some trickery in it, so I respect them for that," Tennyson said. "But I'm glad our defense came up like the past few games they have."
"It was very big - they had to do what they had to do," James said of his defense. "I told them...this game's gonna be hard, we've got to fight, and they just all stepped up to this challenge."
Joel Starlings dropped a booming sack on the Tigers' quarterback in the first half for a loss of 8 yards. Gary Seigler, who was key in pressuring the QB throughout the game, also brought down the signal-caller for a big play in the fourth quarter. James and Brian Daughtry were both in on stops for loss. Nick Neighbors late in the second quarter robbed the Tigers of a promising drive on a diving interception in the red zone.
"Defense has kept us in every game this year and has done a good job," Lilly said, "and we've done it with guys out. Hopefully over the next couple weeks, we start getting back Jack Hall and we start getting back Christian Dunn and maybe even Stevie Walden. Hopefully we start getting a little more full strength on the defensive side."
Henry Dolan has been a part of the Cadets' heartbeat all season long. In this game, he continued to make impact plays, scoring his team's first touchdown on a three-yard rush and then hauling in a huge interception that he returned all the way to Woodberry's 39 in the closing minutes, helping his team limit the Tigers to 12 seconds to make something happen when they got the ball back.
"Henry Dolan's been great," Lilly said. "He's not our biggest player. He can really run. But he's the kid that we've started to rely on a lot from an offensive standpoint, a defensive standpoint. He's in every play now for us."
Dolan's opening touchdown capped a drive that saw Plageman connect well with Tennyson through the air. There was one highlight reel-type catch that saw Plageman scramble out of the pocket and rifle the ball 20 yards down the left side to Tennyson, who jumped up and caught the ball against a defender's helmet at the Tigers' 13 yard line.
"He just put it right there on-the-money where nobody can get it besides me," Tennyson said. "That was just a beautiful throw."
Plageman finished the game with a pair of touchdown passes - one on the 47-yard screen play to Tennyson, and then an earlier 20-yarder to a leaping Nick Turner who secured the catch to make it 14-7 for Benedictine.
"We just need him to continue to improve, continue to get better," Lilly said of Plageman. "But he's getting better..."
"He has really good people he's throwing the ball to," said Tennyson who added the Cadets featured great blocking on the outside on Saturday. "He's a sophomore, he stepped up real big and he made some beautiful throws today. But next week, whenever he gets back, we're gonna make sure that it gets even better."
The Cadets (6-2) roll into King William (5-2) for a 7 p.m. matchup on Friday, Oct. 25.
"Hopefully we can really lock in with a great week of preparation," Lilly said, "and the kids be really ready to play a fun Friday night game."
"We've got to keep working...We're not satisfied as a team. We want this ring, more than anything," James said, adding: "I figure we get everybody working, everybody on the same mindset, we can't fail."