It’s beginning to look as if no one wants to come to Goochland to face the Bulldogs.
Two weeks ago, Bluestone withdrew from what was scheduled as the Bulldogs’ last game of the regular season due to a lack of healthy players.
Nine days later, Warren County, the Bulldogs' first named opponent in the Region 3B playoffs, decided they couldn’t make the trip.
Independence assumed that role as the number-eight seed in the tourney, and showed up for the first round last Friday.
Despite some rustiness associated with the two-week layoff, Goochland, seeded first in Region 3B, quickly found its pace and sent the Tigers packing with a 42-6 win in the playoffs. The first-round victory means the Bulldogs live to fight another day, but the performance reflected the layoff in Coach Alex Fruth’s estimation.
“It showed we hadn’t played a game in some time,” he said. “While we did solid work both weeks, we showed the rust of a team having not played in a while.”
Some of that rustiness produced uncharacteristic results for the Bulldogs.
“I thought we did a bunch of things that aren’t in our norm — penalties, reactions to events out of our control, and just not being ourselves,” Fruth said. “We did a bunch of good in terms of Xs and Os, but not the fine points of what makes great teams.”
Junior Connor Popielarz and Dakhari Burgess contributed first quarter touchdown runs, and the Bulldogs’ defense adjusted to an attack that featured sophomore quarterback Brian Courtney, whose big-arm reputation preceded his arrival. But the quarterback relied on his legs to challenge the Goochland defense. He consistently tested a stout Bulldog defense with probing runs, but couldn’t produce points until late in the game.
Senior Devin McCray had only five carries in the opening round playoff win, but made the most of each of them.
After catching a pass from quarterback CJ Towles, McCray covered 80 yards for a second-quarter Bulldog score and consistently got the edge on the Tigers’ defense.
Quincy Snead and Towles added second half scores in a game marked with a number of penalties on both sides.
“We have to clean all of this up,” Fruth said. “If we want to keep playing for a long time, we have to clean up our play and reactions.”
Fruth said the uncharacteristic penalties are not a recipe for future postseason success.
“We didn’t play Goochland football,” he said.
It was another solid performance for the Bulldogs’ defense, which consistently thwarted the Tigers’ efforts to make a game of it.
“They did a great job of stopping a physical team,” Fruth said. “They bent at times, but didn’t really break up for one play.”
Courtney did finally display that big arm late in the game with a 50-yard scoring strike to Josh Hand.
Fruth said it’s back to work for the Bulldogs as they settle into a familiar playoff routine and focus on working on the things under their control.
“We will focus on us this week.,” Fruth said. “That includes cleaning up our play, polishing both sides of the ball and making sure we play up to our potential. We do this, we will take care of the other things we do on the field.”
Goochland (10-1) will host no. 5 Skyline (6-5) in the playoffs’ second round on Friday, Nov. 22 at 7 p.m.