Stone Bridge 29,
Stone Bridge Coach Mickey Thompson, at 6 feet 5, had no chance to avoid the ice water that flowed inside his jacket Friday when several Bulldogs upended a bucket above his head in the closing seconds of Stone Bridge's 29-21 win over visiting Edison in the Virginia AAA Northern Region Division 5 championship game.
It wasn't Thompson's first ice bath -- but it was, he said, perhaps the most memorable.
"This one, it's nice, because it's somewhat unexpected," Thompson said. It was his team's third regional title in four seasons, but the first two were earned in Class AA Division 4. "I thought that we'd be pretty good, but to walk out of our first season in this league with a district and a regional title is special," he said.
Fifteenth-ranked Stone Bridge will host the Central Region winner Saturday in a Virginia AAA Division 5 semifinal for the right to advance to the Dec. 10 final at the University of Richmond. The Bulldogs have never won a state title.
"I'm only a junior, so this is my first one, but we all know of the tradition around here," said defensive back Marcus Lewis. "We're just carrying the torch."
Stone Bridge (11-1) fell behind the 18th-ranked Eagles, 21-14, midway through the third quarter when senior fullback Keone Kyle fought his way into the end zone from three yards to give Edison its first lead of the game. Early in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs -- and senior tailback Shamar Knight-Justice -- responded.
Knight-Justice got the call on 12 of the Bulldogs' 17 plays on their ensuing drive, picking up a dramatic first down on fourth and two from the Edison 2-yard line. Edison's players thought that having kept him out of the end zone was enough, and after the play they rushed toward their team bench, their arms raised in celebration.
Then the first-down signal came, and the celebrating -- and the momentum -- switched sidelines immediately.
The Eagles had stopped Knight-Justice short of the goal line, but he'd needed only to get the ball inside the 1 for the first down. He had, and then scored from about six inches on the next play to send the home crowd into a frenzy.
"We wanted this so bad," said Knight-Justice, who finished with 128 yards on 24 carries, his second-best performance of the season. "We didn't get [a regional title] last year, and it felt like something was missing. But now this is right."
After Knight-Justice's touchdown pulled the Bulldogs to 21-20, Thompson initially called for kicker Hussein Shaban to make the extra-point attempt. But back-to-back encroachment calls against Edison's defense -- the second of them on a Stone Bridge play designed specifically to lure the Eagles into jumping early -- moved the ball back inside the 1-yard line. For the second time in as many tries, Knight-Justice went over the top of the pile and into the end zone for a 22-21 lead.
"We worked on that all week in practice," Thompson said of the call used to draw Edison offside. "And after they jumped on their own that first time, we figured it was the perfect time to use it. You know me: I wanted to go for two from the beginning, but no one else was too excited about that idea at first."
Edison (10-2) had three more offensive possessions, but its most promising drive turned disastrous when Lewis stepped in front of a Bulldogs receiver at Edison's 45-yard line for the interception and then weaved his way from the far left sideline to the right corner of the end zone with 1 minute 38 seconds to play.
"It's all a big blur to me now," Lewis said. "All I remember is that I thought the receiver was going deep, but he stopped, and I saw the quarterback let it go, and I just broke to it as fast as I could. It was amazing."