The message Hylton Coach Lou Sorrentino had for his players at halftime last night of the Virginia AAA Northwestern Region Division 6 semifinal was one very few Hylton teams of recent vintage have heard: "Earn it."
That the No. 2 Bulldogs did, gritting out a 12-7 home win over Woodbridge, thanks to a fourth-quarter touchdown. But the Vikings might feel the victory was somewhat of a giveaway, considering they coughed up three fumbles and threw three interceptions, yet still had a chance to win in the final minutes.
"You never know until you're put in that situation" how your team will respond in a tight game, said Sorrentino, whose Bulldogs won every game by at least 24 points this season. "A lot of things have come easy for us. I really liked the mettle of our kids. They didn't get rattled and kept playing hard."
Hylton (11-0), which trailed 7-0 in the second quarter and 7-6 entering the fourth, scored the go-ahead touchdown shortly after junior linebacker Omoniyi Bakare recovered a fumble at the Woodbridge 16-yard line.
With about nine minutes left, Hylton senior running back Courtney Anderson dived over from the one on third and goal for his second touchdown of the game and 22nd of the season.
The Vikings' last two possessions ended with interceptions by senior Marshall Dill and junior Rondell Kelley. It was Kelley's second pickoff of the night. This one came around the 10-yard line with 1:38 left after senior defensive back Darren James deflected the deep ball.
"I was anticipating the quarterback [senior Alex Brown] to run a boot," said Kelley, who returned a tipped ball for a touchdown against Woodbridge three weeks ago. "He usually does a little rollout, but I saw he had nobody in the flat so I figured I'd just drop back and I saw the ball in the air. As coach says, 'Run to the ball.' "
Or, in Woodbridge's case last night, hold on to the ball.
"There's going to be turnovers in games," Vikings Coach Keith King said. "It's a cold night. Your skin's a little dry . . . the ball's going to slip out. Those things happen. That's part of the game." Hylton also had fumbles but lost only one.
Woodbridge (8-3), which lost to Hylton in the region semis for the second straight year, mounted a 72-yard scoring drive in the first half, sustained by a 28-yard dump pass to senior tight end John Maksanty on third and long and capped by a four-yard touchdown run by freshman DeAntwan Williams. Williams gained 52 yards on the possession but later committed two of the fumbles, both recovered by senior defensive end Rakeem Stewart.
Woodbridge stopped Anderson on a two-point conversion run after his first touchdown, and the Vikings' defense later stuffed Hylton at the 1-yard line to prevent a touchdown right before the half.