Probably the only people that enjoy Thanksgiving Day more than the folks on the Mayflower is the Goochland football team.
The Bulldogs can’t wait to dig in.
According to Goochland coach Joe Fowler, there’s not much better than practicing on Thanksgiving Day.
This year, unlike the past two, Goochland will get that opportunity.
The Bulldogs rolled up 348 yards on the ground against No. 7 Strasburg en route to a 35-13 victory on Friday night. With the win, Goochland (12-0) advanced to the Region 2A East semifinals. The Bulldogs will entertain No. 3 Clarke County next Friday.
“For any high school football player or coach who’s had the opportunity to practice on Thanksgiving, it’s a wonderful thing,” Fowler said. “It’s great to get up with your team and practice early in the morning and then go spend the rest of the day with your family. I’m thrilled that these kids get that opportunity because the second round has been kind of a roadblock for us the past two years and to get over that hump is nice. I’m looking forward to messing up a lot of people’s Thanksgivings.”
Second-seeded Goochland got straight to business against visiting Strasburg, using a three-play opening drive to take the lead. After a pair of runs by Marcus Burton, Calvin Martin darted in the end zone from 26 yards out. Zach Gordon converted the point after attempt and the Bulldogs led 7-0.
Goochland got a critical stop on a fourth-and-one play later in the first, as Marqual Chennault helped push the Rams back.
The Bulldogs took advantage of the opportunity, scoring on their following possession with an explosive 39-yard TD run by Cordell Mattox.
“There could have been five us in a line that could have fit there because there was a perfect block by the linemen,” Mattox explained. “As soon as I saw the hole, I just cut right back in and then open field.”
Goochland built on its lead after picking up a lost fumble later in the second quarter. Burton burst up the middle and dragged defenders with him as he completed the 61-yard jaunt to the end zone. The 5-9, 200-pounder who also had a solid night on defense, rushed for a game-high 177 yards on seven carries.
However, Strasburg (8-4) battled back, moving the ball effectively on its next drive with the duo of Austin Miller and Josh Pritchett. Pritchett made his way in the end zone from four yards out to trim Goochland’s lead to two touchdowns.
In the second half, Goochland’s defense continued to fuel its offense, as Mattox picked off Ethan Duckworth’s pass in the middle of another methodical Rams’ drive.
Again, the Bulldogs were rewarded with another big play from Burton. The brusing back broke off a 63-yard run before Tanner Bradshaw punched it in from the 2-yard line as Goochland continued to pull away.
Bradshaw, a 6-2, 245-pound quarterback, bulled his way up the middle for the bulk of his yardage on the ground. He finished with 39 yards rushing on six carries and was 4 of 6 passing for 51 yards.
“Our offense stepped up tonight but it was all because of our defense,” Mattox said. “As soon as we slowed them down a little bit, we got momentum to carry our offense through and get some scores.”
The Rams tacked on a fourth-quarter score as Duckworth hauled in a 7-yard TD pass from Miller. Miller was the workhorse on the night, rushing 25 times for 118 yards. Pritchett added 93 rushing yards on 17 carries.
“Those kids battled until the last whistle,” Fowler said. My hat’s off to them and their coaches for preparing them. They did a lot of things we hadn’t seen on film that surprised us a little bit. [Pritchett and Miller] are just warriors — they have got to be some tired young men.”
Goochland took to the air late, providing the icing on the cake with a 44-yard pass play from the multi-talented Mattox to Dallas Holmes to complete the scoring.
The Bulldogs will face a formidable opponent in No. 3 seed Clarke County, which advanced to the state finals last season and earned a spot in the semifinals with a win over Buffalo Gap. Game time is set for 7 p.m.