* Gar-Field 29, Woodbridge 18
Gar-Field opted for a "double tight" offensive formation Friday night at Woodbridge, but the term could just as easily have described the knot in the Indians' stomachs.
The prospect of losing the game and falling short of a Virginia AAA Northwestern Region Division 6 playoff bid that earlier in the season had seemed almost automatic was a distinct possibility with upstart Woodbridge, a team the Indians had beaten nine straight times, owning a four-point halftime lead and smelling a playoff berth of its own.
Gar-Field eventually rallied in the second half for a 29-18 win, giving the seniors a final shot at beating region semifinal opponent Hylton. But after rolling up almost as many penalty yards (75) as rushing yards in the first half against Woodbridge in falling behind 18-14, the reality was that Gar-Field was in trouble.
"We didn't want to go home," senior running back Rasheed McClaude said in reference to the coaches' warning at halftime that their season, and in some cases high school careers, were on the verge of ending. "That's the biggest message ever."
In the second half, the more the Indians (7-3, 4-2 Cardinal District) ran it up the gut the better they felt. McClaude carried 21 times the final two quarters, and the lone passing attempt was a 52-yard touchdown enabled by the Vikings' secondary committing to run support.
Winning "was kind of a sense of relief, but we knew what we were capable of doing," senior quarterback Elihu Smith said. "We know what it feels like to lose, and we don't like that feeling."
The sensation they did like was blowing the Vikings (5-5, 3-3) off the ball on their way to grinding out 11 first downs in the second half. Sophomore tackle Mark Logan made his first start, one of several shufflings along the line this season. The starting group Friday also included senior Mo Steward at center, junior Clint Sintim and senior Shane Thurston at tight end, seniors Flordell Kissee and George Frye at guard and junior Brian Miller at the other tackle.
"I told [McClaude], 'You've got to carry the mail; we're going to go as far as you can take us,' " Gar-Field Coach Jim Poythress said. "We made a point after a couple of slopfests we played in that we need to pound the football."
McClaude responded, finishing with 205 yards on 36 carries and the go-ahead touchdown.
"It was funny in the second half, because they knew it was coming but they weren't stopping it," Steward said of a particular play the Indians ran repeatedly. "They'd shift the line over and say, hey, it's going this way."
Woodbridge's .500 season came after going 12-28 the past four years. The Vikings had entirely new offensive and defensive lines this season. They won three of their last four games, including 12-6 in double overtime against Top 10 team Hylton last week, a third straight win after a 2-4 start.
Coach Keith King "told us he was proud of us with the turnaround this season, but we expected bigger things than that," Vikings senior defensive back Robert Thompson said. "We did come a long way, and it showed that Woodbridge is going to be something in the next few years."