Stone Bridge had all the momentum on its side in the closing minutes of the Virginia Division 5 state final against Lake Taylor Dec. 8 at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. After clawing back from a 20-0 deficit, the Bulldogs seemed poise to pull even.
Cameron Reynolds sacked Lake Taylor quarterback Delmo Williams to force a punt and get the Bulldogs the ball with a little more than three minutes left in regulation.
Trailing 20-14 and starting on their own 16-yard line, the Bulldogs marched down the field, with Ryan Burns, D’Ante Yarborough and Sterling Dailey combining for 64 rushing yards.
On the next play, Dailey received a handoff on third-and-two from the Titans’ 20 and was met by Lake Taylor’s Brandon Moore, who burst through the line. The collision forced the ball to squirt loose and Jamel Spellman scooped it up with 21 seconds left, effectively securing Lake Taylor’s first state title.
“It’s the exact game I thought it would be,” Stone Bridge coach Mickey Thompson said. “I thought we had it. We wanted to get a first down and then get four shots to win the game.”
Both teams flexed their defensive muscles early and the game was scoreless after one quarter. But midway through the second, the Titans broke through. Williams connected with Ja’Kale Pinkney for a 68-yard touchdown on third-and-22.
The Titans then forced a three-and-out and blocked a punt to regain possession at the Bulldog 25. A shovel pass to Nhyre Quinerly gave the Titans a 14-0 lead going into halftime.
Midway through the third quarter, the Bulldogs suffered another setback when Rassaun Goldring muffed a punt to give Lake Taylor the ball on the 11-yard line. Daquan Davis needed just one rush attempt to give the Titans their final touchdown of the game.
Trailing 20-0, the Bulldogs answered back on their next possession. Burns ran the ball three times for 63 yards, highlighted by a 53-yard run, to set himself up for a 4-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Stone Bridge was able to capitalize off a short Lake Taylor punt that gave them the ball at the Titans’ 31. Burns connected with Goldring on a 29-yard pass and then ran the ball in for a 1-yard touchdown on the subsequent play.
“When that play happened, I was instantly happy,” Goldring said. “I got back in the game, my emotions rose. My teammates saw me, they got happy.”
That touchdown would prove to be the Bulldogs’ last as Lake Taylor (15-0) held on for a 20-14 victory.
While Burns excelled on the ground, totaling 98 yards on 23 carries, he struggled through the air, completing just two of eight passes for 50 yards. Yarborough added 77 rushing yards while Dailey had 64 yards.
“It was one of those where they weren’t going to give up the big play unless you keep running at them over and over,” Thompson said.
Thompson added, “They took a lot of things away from us and that really confined what we could do and confined the big plays, actually.”
The Bulldogs finished the season at 14-1, boasting the Liberty District title and the Northern Region title. Stone Bridge – 2007 state champions – fell to 1-4 in state title games, including three losses in the last four years.
“We needed to win this game. There were no lower expectations,” Burns said. “Anything less is disappointment.”
Still, as many of the players go on to play in the college ranks, including defensive end Jonathan Allen (Alabama) and Burns (Stanford), they maintain that some of the lessons from Stone Bridge will stay with them.
“I’m just honored to play on this team,” Allen said. “When I first came here, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It was probably one of the best decisions of my life, coming to Stone Bridge.”
Lake Taylor 20, Stone Bridge 14
LT: Pinkney 68 pass from Williams (Poole kick)
LT: Nhyre 19 pass from Williams (Poole kick)
LT: Davis 11 run (kick failed)
SB: Burns 4 run (Smedley kick)
Burns 1 run (Smedley kick)
-Rushing: SB - Burns (23 for 98 yards, 2 TD), Yarborough (10 for 77), Dailey (19 for 64); LT - Moore (10 for 30), Davis (5 for 17, TD), Williams (9 for 13)
-Passing: SB - Burns (2 of 8 for 50 yards); LT - Williams (13 of 15 for 160 yards, 2 TD), Poole (1 of 1 for 38 yards)
-Receiving: SB - Goldring (1 for 29 yards), Dailey (1 for 21 yards); LT: Pinkney (4 for 118 yards, TD), Quinerly (4 for 36), Holmes (2 for 26)
-Photos by Dillon Harding