Home Again: Holmes’ catch, McCray’s pick help Goochland advance to region final

Playing wide receiver for Goochland’s football program is an exercise in self-sacrifice. It’s an exercise in patience. It’s an exercise in being ready for those rare moments when the Bulldogs air it out in the wing-T.


Dallas Holmes was ready Friday night, hauling in a 71-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Devin McCray that proved to be the dagger for the Bulldogs in a 42-20 victory over Amelia in the Class 2, Region A semifinals.


“I was emotional when he came over to the sideline and I kind of pulled him aside,” said Goochland coach Joe Fowler. “Dallas has been a three-year starter for us and we don’t throw the ball to the receivers much. Dallas has blocked his tail off for three years and to see him get such a big pass play in such a big game in such a big moment is very rewarding.”


The Bulldogs (12-0) will now host Poquoson in the Region A championship game with a spot in the state final four on the line.


Holmes followed up that touchdown catch with a spinning interception along the sideline that allowed the Bulldogs to melt the remaining clock, but the scoring catch and run is what did Amelia in. It was also one of several huge plays by McCray, who was thrilled to connect with Holmes on such a critical play.


“We’ve always connected on that play in practice, in scrimmages,” McCray said. “That’s our go-to play when we need a really big play, and we’ve built a really good chemistry over these weeks, he’s my favorite receiver right now.”


McCray helped spark a second half surge with a 104-yard interception return down to the Amelia one with 7:01 to play in the third quarter. The Raiders were able to move the ball all night, but with a potential tie game looming at the end of an Amelia drive midway through the second quarter, McCray came up big. Cole Nuckols made the initial play in the endzone on the intended receiver, colliding with him and then the ball then popped up and into McCray’s waiting hands. Then McCray took off, eventually finding the Goochland sideline.


“He’s just been quietly going about his work but when he took that thing back 100 and whatever yards, there was no question I was going to let him score the touchdown on the next play,” Fowler said.


McCray punched it in on a quarterback sneak for a 26-14 advantage. On the Bulldogs’ next possession, Goochland put together a signature clock melting drive, going 86 yards on 11 plays, with Carter, who finished with 85 yards on 17 touches, carrying the bulk of the load. McCray also got in on the act with a 10 yard pickup with Perry Snead-Johnson capping the drive with a 6-yard sweep for a touchdown. Carter tacked on the 2-point conversion and Goochland appeared to be comfortably ahead 34-14 with 8:28 to play.


Amelia though, just two weeks removed from taking on the Bulldogs in the regular season finale and falling 42-28, refused to go away and efficiently marched and scored on a Ziayahn Jackson touchdown catch that cut the lead to 34-20 with 5:14 to play. Goochland then appeared to stall after two unsuccessful run plays. Then McCray, who also rushed for two touchdowns and 93 yards, stepped back and with excellent protection, dropped the ball into a wide open Holmes on a seam pattern, effectively ending it.


“It was good to come out and refocus in the second half of the game,” Jasper Carter said.


Goochland’s defense, despite holding Amelia to just 20 points, gave up a lot of yards, struggling to slow down the balanced Raiders attack with Greg Archer and Jacob McClung churning out yards on the ground while Jalen Brown made them pay on several crucial passes on key third and fourth downs including two touchdown tosses to Jackson, one of which ended the first half and cut the Goochland lead to 20-13.


That unit made big plays though, with McCray and Holmes picking off passes and Jamal Carter pouncing on a second quarter fumble in the backfield that allowed Jasper Carter to score the Bulldogs’ second touchdown.


That, along with a renewed physicality on offense, was enough to turn the tide for Goochland and keep an unbeaten season alive ahead of next week’s clash with Poquoson.


“Coach Fowler always says ‘every man should be able to practice on Thanksgiving’ and that’s absolutely true,” McCray said. “Just making it this far, we deserve it. We go hard every single day and why should we take off on Thanksgiving?”


After that effort, they won’t have to, the Bulldogs have at least another week of work ahead of them.