“Obviously, I haven’t run that much during the season, but I was glad I got the opportunity to help my team in that way,” said Burns, who rushed for 79 yards and threw for 86. “We knew they had a great secondary, so once they figured out what we were doing early, we went at their weakness in the run game.”
At the outset, Hanover had no answer for Stone Bridge’s offense. On their first two drives, the second-ranked Bulldogs (14-0) marched downfield using just nine plays to take a 14-0 lead on two Sterling Dailey touchdowns.
Hawks quarterback Sam Rogers kept Hanover in contention, using his legs to avoid the heavy Stone Bridge pass rush and account for 267 total yards. After Hanover’s third third-down conversion of the first half, Rogers found Donte Haynesworth for a seven-yard touchdown that cut Stone Bridge’s halftime lead to 14-7.
On the opening drive of the second half, Rogers’s dual-threat ability again gave the Bulldogs trouble. Behind two conversions on third down and another on fourth down, Rogers evened the score at 14 on a four-yard run with 7:22 left in the third quarter.
Stone Bridge responded on the ensuing possession with six run plays for 34 yards from Burns, who showed that Hanover wasn’t the only team with a capable rusher under center .
“They kept daring us to run [with Burns], but at first, you kind of hesitate because we hadn’t really done it all year,” Bulldogs Coach Mickey Thompson said. “But once we saw those openings when we ran off tackle, we just kept doing it until they proved they could stop us.”
Christian Strahin and D’Ante Yarborough rushed for touchdowns on consecutive drives to extend the lead to 28-14. And though the Hawks threatened a rally after Rogers found Haynesworth in the end zone with 4:10 remaining, Burns erased Hanover’s hope with his first-down run in the final minute.
The Bulldogs, who won their lone championship in 2007, return to the state final for the fifth time, but for the first time since that 2007 season, they will not meet Phoebus in the final. Lake Taylor ousted the four-time defending champion Phantoms in the Eastern Region final and will make its first state final appearance since 1982.