For an instant, Edison was the team celebrating yesterday afternoon in Ashburn. The Eagles had kept Stone Bridge senior running back Shamar Knight-Justice out of the end zone on fourth and two from the 2-yard line early in the fourth quarter, and with a seven-point lead they bounded toward the sideline with their arms raised.
Then the first-down signal came, and the celebrating -- and the momentum -- switched sidelines immediately.
Though the Eagles had stopped Knight-Justice short of the goal line, he needed to get the ball inside the 1 for the first down. He did and then scored from about six inches on the following play to send the home crowd into a frenzy. A crafty two-point conversion and an interception return for a touchdown in the game's final nine minutes capped 15th-ranked Stone Bridge's come-from-behind 29-21 victory over No. 18 Edison in the Virginia AAA Northern Region Division 5 championship game.
It is the third regional title in four seasons for the Bulldogs (11-1), who won their two previous titles at the AA Division 4 level.
"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 one last year, and it felt like something was missing. But now this is right."
After Knight-Justice's touchdown pulled the Bulldogs within 21-20, Coach Mickey Thompson initially called for the extra-point attempt by kicker Hussein Shaban. But back-to-back encroachment calls on Edison's defense -- the second of which was a play designed specifically to lure the Eagles into jumping early -- moved the ball 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 best drive turned disastrous when Bulldogs junior Marcus Lewis stepped in front of a 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."