It's almost unheard of for a high school football coach to ask his defense to give up a 73-yard touchdown. It's equally rare that every member of that defense would be eager to do so.
That was the case Friday night at Central-Woodstock, when Warren County Coach Heath Gilbert asked his defense to yield a touchdown to Central. Warren County was leading, 28-7, with just over a minute remaining, and Gilbert wanted to get senior running back H.B. Banjoman back on the field.
Banjoman had entered the game needing to rush for 334 yards to become the Virginia High School League's all-time 10-game rushing leader. But with Central on offense in the closing seconds and Banjoman 34 yards shy of the mark, it appeared his chances were slipping.
That's when Gilbert formulated his plan.
"I went to the defense first because they had played hard all game, and asking them to give up a 73-yard touchdown was asking a lot," Gilbert said. "But every one of them said they wanted to do it. Our middle linebacker [Brandon Weaver] said he was already thinking it. The whole team wanted that record to be a part of our program's history."
So the Wildcats' defense let Brandon Pence score from 73 yards, and moments later Banjoman had his chance. On his 38th carry -- the last of his high school career -- Banjoman got the remaining yards he needed as time expired to surpass the 2,592-yard record set by West Springfield's Damone Boone a decade ago.
Banjoman finished the season with 2,608 yards and 37 touchdowns on 292 attempts.
"That last play I knew I needed 12 yards to get it, and once I got past that mark I just really couldn't believe it," Banjoman said. "When I got tackled I just laid there soaking it in for a minute. Then my whole team ran out to congratulate me. They earned this record as much as I did. It says more about Warren County than just me as an individual."
The unorthodox way in which the record was attained left a sour taste in the mouths of Central's players and coaches. The teams did not shake hands at game's end, and police officers were hurried onto the field to quell the verbal exchanges between players and prevent matters from escalating.
"I knew there would be ramifications for doing what we did," Gilbert said. "We upset some people, maybe even some of our own fans. It was a kind of bush-league thing to do, I guess. But I thought he deserved the opportunity. He still needed 34 yards, and it was his job to try and get them, and it was still their job to try and stop him. I don't have any regrets. I figure with all the work that he and our offensive line had put in this season, it was the least I could do."