By Liz Keller / Scrimmageplay.com contributor
A simple recipe for success: “Heat up an idea, take action, mix it up with desire and belief, then add a dash of persistence.”
Under the direction of coach Joe Fowler, the Goochland football program has perfected its own recipe for success, and it contains much of the above, with a lot of Wing-T for good measure.
On Friday night, the Bulldogs used that formula to cap their second straight unbeaten regular season with a win over Amelia.
Goochland got a test from the pesky visitors, but used its methodical ground game and a stingy second-half defense to pull away for the 42-28 victory.
With the win, the Bulldogs secured the top seed in the Region 2A playoffs.
“I’m thrilled our kids were able to get out here with a win. To go 10-0 is a special thing. We’ve been able to do it a few times here and it doesn’t get old,” said Fowler, who is in his 17th season at Goochland. “These kids work so hard in the offseason to prepare for nights like this.”
Despite being forced to punt on its opening drive — a rarity this season — Goochland used its opportunistic defense to come away with a fumble recovery on the kick. Chase Smith picked up the loose ball after it hit an Amelia player and recovered it at the 19 yard line.
Perry Snead-Johnson made his way in the end zone from three yards out and Zach Gordon converted the PAT to give the Bulldogs the early 7-0 lead.
It didn’t take long for the Raiders to answer, using an effective run game, primarily from Jacob McClung. The senior running back rushed three times for 31 yards on the drive before Jalen Brown took the direct snap and punched it in for a two-yard touchdown. The visitors were unable to complete the two-point conversion, and Goochland maintained a 7-6 advantage.
The Bulldogs used a six-play drive to extend the lead, relying on strong running from fullback Jasper Carter before breaking with tradition, as Snead-Johnson hauled in a 13-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Devin McCray.
Goochland appeared to take control early in the second quarter after a McCray touchdown on a keeper from one yard out.
However, the visitors wouldn’t go away, taking to the air on the ensuing drive and using three plays to score as Brown connected with Howard Divens for a 44-yard pass play. Ziayahn Jackson made his way up the middle for the conversion to cut the lead to 21-14 with 7:04 to play in the second quarter.
Goochland remained composed and marched down the field on the following drive, highlighted by Carter. The senior fullback followed his blockers and raced 18 yards to start the possession, and seven plays later found his way in the end zone from two yards out.
“They were trying to put a lot of people in the box, but our line did a great job of stopping that and blocking it to where we could still run the ball,” Carter said. “Our guys were just pushing their guys around. That’s all you’ve gotta do for four quarters, every game.”
The Raiders rode the arm of Brown to cut the lead to six (28-22) just before halftime. The junior hooked up with Divens again for a 9-yard TD before finding Colton Kay in the end zone for the conversion. Brown completed 8 of 11 first-half passes.
Goochland made some second-half adjustments on defense, forcing Amelia to go three-and-out on its first two drives of the third quarter. The Bulldogs also effectively shut down the visitors’ passing attack.
“We switched the defense to a three-man front so we had more defensive backs in the back and we tried a lot harder to keep the quarterback contained,” explained senior defensive end Ricky Mayfield. “[Brown] got a little bit of time, but our DBs did really well and they kept all the wide receivers to them so he had nowhere to throw.”
The Bulldogs stayed the course and let the offense grind it out the rest of the way, as Carter used a 38-yard TD jaunt up the middle to open the fourth quarter.
John King tacked on a 22-yard dash to the end zone to put the game out of reach with 4:06 to play.
Carter led all ball carriers with 173 yards on 26 carries, while King toted the ball 9 times for 76 yards.
“We played some teams the past four weeks than we were considerably better than and playing them didn’t necessarily make us better as a team,” Fowler said. “You know how that old saying goes, iron sharpens iron, well tonight we went up against a really good team that made us play better and have to execute.”
And it couldn’t have come at a better time, as the Bulldogs find themselves in a familiar spot, gearing up for the postseason. Goochland, which advanced to the state semifinals last year, last captured a state title in 2012.
“You don’t win games in November, you play games in November. You win games in the spring and summer and our kids put the work in in the spring and summer,” Fowler said. “Going into the playoffs we feel good about where we’re at. We’re 10-0, but Monday we’re 0-0 and so is everybody else.”
The Bulldogs are set to host a first-round playoff game on Friday.