* Manassas Park 14,
Only a handful of people were not stunned when Riverheads Coach Robert Casto eschewed a potential game-tying extra point kick and instead went for a two-point conversion with his team trailing host Manassas Park by one with 24.2 seconds to play.
Fortunately for the Cougars, Coach Jeff Lloyd and his 11 defenders were not among the surprised. Senior safety Price Ward slowed Riverheads quarterback Paul Bradley on an option run, and sophomore cornerback Zach Terrell then tackled Bradley two yards short of the end zone to preserve a 14-13 victory in a Virginia A Region B Division 1 semifinal on Friday night.
Senior Jay Burwick ended Riverheads' hopes when he recovered the ensuing onside kick.
The Cougars (10-1) advanced to play at William Campbell (11-0) on Friday night for the Region B Division 1 championship.
They did so by the narrowest margin. After Riverheads closed to 14-13 on Bradley's six-yard touchdown pass to John Hocker, the Gladiators called timeout.
Senior Clayton Faidley had not missed an extra point in eight tries over the past two weeks, but as Riverheads (9-2) broke its huddle on the sideline, Faidley remained behind.
"I decided to go for two seven years ago," Casto said. "That's when I became head coach, and that's how I've always done it. My kids knew that's what we'd do."
Afterward, Lloyd said he likely would have made the same decision if his team were playing on the road. He told his players to expect a two-point conversion during the timeout.
"I thought they might throw, so it kind of faked me out," Terrell said. "But when Price showed up their guy kind of hesitated, and then we just stopped him."
The Gladiators had outscored their opponents 266-26 in their final five regular season games. Against the Cougars, however, they were held to 205 yards rushing and 238 yards of total offense. They did not have a play longer than 18 yards.
"That was the best we've played" on defense, said defensive tackle Sam Wright, who finished with eight tackles. "We were really aggressive."
Manassas Park only had one big play of its own. But it was a 63-yard touchdown pass from Terrell to sophomore A.C. Fitchett on the third play from scrimmage. It also was the first play in which Fitchett had participated in more than a month.
Fitchett, out with a bruised right thigh, last played Oct. 4 against Strasburg, the Cougars' only loss of the season. On Friday, he took part in five plays; on three of them, he was a decoy and was limping slightly.
"It was great knowing our big receiver was back," Terrell said.
Terrell also had a 19-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter to give the Cougars a 12-7 lead. He then completed a two-point conversion pass to Burwick, who made a one-handed catch, for a 14-7 lead.
Burwick also provided the clinching points two Fridays ago, when he kicked an extra point in a 14-13 overtime victory over Brentsville.
"These kids are playmakers," Lloyd said. "When we ask them to make plays, they always do."