DILLWYN - Goochland only crossed the goal line on two possessions in a heated rivalry game with Buckingham on Friday.
It was enough.
Led by Devin McCray's clutch play, the Bulldogs claimed a hard fought 13-7 double overtime victory over the Knights.
The scores began with a well designed first-possession drive that covered 64 yards, and ended with the Bulldogs’ game-winning fourth-and-one conversion in double overtime.
What occurred between those two scores was 48 minutes-plus of what can only be described as hard nosed football, with both teams displaying determination, tenacity and an old-school will to win.
Goochland took the opening kickoff and moved the ball 64 yards despite a holding penalty that negated a long pass play from CJ Towles to McCray. Steady runs from Quincy Snead and Conner Popielarz highlighted the drive.
The Bulldogs faced a critical fourth and two scenario from the Buckingham 12-yard line on that opening drive. Towles kept the ball and sprinted around the end for a 12-yard touchdown run that put the Bulldogs up 7-0 early in the first quarter.
The Knights relied on their power running game, hitting the middle for sizable gains as they mounted a response to Goochland’s opening score.
The first two drives set the tone for the game with Goochland utilizing its speed and precise running game and Buckingham responding with an inside power attack from its talented running backs.
“Buckingham is a tough, physical team,” Goochland coach Alex Fruth said. “The fact that each team only had two offensive possessions during the first half shows how you had two teams that enjoy playing similar styles of eating up the clock.”
Goochland’s defense refused to allow the Knights to capitalize on several promising opportunities.
“Our D did a great job of bending, but no breaking,” the coach said. “Our effort was never in question.”
Early in the second period, the Knights’ opening drive stalled with a fourth and four stop on a run that the Bulldogs sniffed out. The Bulldogs took over on downs at the Knights’ two-yard line.
The Knights got the ball back after a 51-yard punt by Goochland’s McCray, and continued their barrage up the middle to move towards Goochland’s territory. They reached the Bulldogs’ 3-yard line on a 48-yard run around the right side, with McCray running down the ball carrier to keep him out of the end zone. A false start penalty moved the ball back to the seven-yard line with 35 seconds remaining in the half. Recording their second goal line stand of the first half, the Bulldogs stopped the Knights on two consecutive runs as the first half came to an end to preserve a 7-0 lead.
“Considering we were missing two of our top defensive linemen and lost one of our inside linebackers, we just found a way to make play after play,” Fruth said.
The teams continued to bash heads in a heated defensive struggle as the third quarter ended with the Buckingham offense at midfield, still searching for that leveling score. Early in the fourth, it appeared the Bulldogs’ defense had again thwarted a Knight drive, but heated emotions altered that outcome. The Bulldogs stuffed Toney on third and nine, but a personal foul penalty and a subsequent melee resulted in several ejections. When the game resumed, the Knights had the ball at the Bulldogs’ 29 yard line with a first down.
The Knights leveled the game on a 22-yard touchdown run and the point after was good to knot up the game at 7-7 with 10 minutes remaining in the contest.
Towles and company went to work testing the edges of the Knights’ defense but couldn’t muster a first down, and the Bulldogs were forced to punt with 7:43 to go in the game.
The Bulldogs flirted with disaster when a bad snap forced McCray to retreat and pick up the ball around his own 10-yard line. The senior eluded a host of Knights’ defenders and carried the ball to the Buckingham 49-yard line for a first down.
On a key fourth and one situation, Towles kept the ball and converted at the Knights’ 41-yard line. But the Knights’ defense also forced the Bulldogs to go for it on a fourth and 12 try, which fell short of the mark.
“We need to find consistent play from our fullback and our offensive line. Missed assignments hurt us and some timely penalties killed drives,” Fruth said. “We have a long way to go for this group to be where we want to be.”
The Knights took over at midfield with three minutes remaining and the score still tied at 7-all.
With less than a minute remaining and the Knights threatening deep in the Bulldogs’ territory, Goochland’s defense came up big when Kindrick Braxton dropped Tae Toney on a fourth down, sending the contest into overtime.
Goochland got the ball first from the 10-yard line but failed to move the ball and attempted a 32-yard field goal that was partially blocked and sailed wide right.
Buckingham got its chance and moved the ball to the one yard line and attempted to end the contest when Toney reached with the ball for the goal line, but no signal ensued and the ball popped loose. A 20-yard field goal attempt by Wesley Snoddy was blocked.
The second overtime began with the Knights on offense, but a fourth down field goal attempt failed due to a botched snap.
The Bulldogs appeared to capitalize on their first opportunity to end the game when Towles apparently scored on a keeper, but officials overruled the initial call, forcing a fourth down inches from the goal.
Fruth turned to a familiar face to finish the deal for the Bulldogs.
McCray scored on the fourth down keeper, giving the Bulldogs their first win of the season in a game that, according to many observers, neither squad deserved to lose.
The senior’s effort drew high praise from his coach.
“Devin made three of the biggest plays of the game. His relentless effort on defense on an early long run stopped a score and led to us having a goal line stand,” Fruth said. “That basically stopped them from putting up six.”
His effort on a botched punt attempt avoided almost certain disaster.
“His ability to take a bad snap on punt and turn it magically into a first down was unreal,” Fruth said. “He ran over 50 yards to get a first down for us.”
And, at the end of that multiposition performance, Fruth said putting McCray in for the winning sneak was a logical choice.
“He just came up big when we needed him to do so,” he said. “That is what seniors do.”
The Bulldogs host Cumberland for their home opener this Friday, 7 p.m.