The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Stone Bridge does it again, winning a second straight Class 5 championship on the final play

Stone Bridge wide receiver Zeke Wimbush made the crucial catch to clinch another state championship for his team. (Amber Searls/For The Washington Post)
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NORFOLK — Jacob Thomas sat at the 30-yard line, his arms draped over his knees, just laughing.

All around the senior quarterback, joyous Stone Bridge teammates celebrated a miraculous 27-21 win over Maury in the Class 5 championship by hugging, screaming or sobbing. But Thomas stayed planted on the turf at Old Dominion, chuckling at the insanity.

The source of all this commotion was a 38-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to junior wide receiver Zeke Wimbush that will be talked about at the Loudoun County school for decades. After trailing for most of the evening, the Bulldogs pieced together a last-minute drive to try to avoid overtime. On the final play of regulation, Wimbush ran a deep out route, and Thomas sent a hopeful heave in the junior’s direction.

Wimbush stepped in front of two defenders and made the catch at the 5-yard line before lunging into the end zone to lift the Bulldogs into Virginia football lore.

“I knew I had to get into that end zone or else my teammates would’ve never let me stop hearing it,” Wimbush said. “I wanted to make the play and send these [seniors] off right.”

He got up from the blue and white turf of the end zone and ripped off his helmet.

This was the second season in a row that ended with the Bulldogs winning a state championship with last-second magic. In the spring, Thomas was on the receiving end of the game-winner, catching an overtime Hail Mary to hand Stone Bridge its second state title. Seven months later, he threw the pass to make it three and send the program into delighted disbelief again.

“We run that play probably once a game, and it goes for either a touchdown or big yardage,” Thomas said. “It’s our go-to in situations like that.”

In Virginia high school football, playing 24 games in 10 months is the cost of being a contender

The Bulldogs had never been in a situation exactly like this one, though. After tying the score at 21 with 4:27 remaining, the pressure shifted to their defense. They got a stop around midfield with 1:11 left, and the Stone Bridge offense took over at its own 10. A few quick passes put the Bulldogs on the 38-yard line with five seconds remaining. From there, the team knew how to pull off the unthinkable.

“I don’t know what to say,” longtime Bulldogs coach Mickey Thompson said afterward. “An unbelievable football game.”

Under Thompson, the No. 2 Bulldogs (15-0) have become revered in Northern Virginia, but past playoff experience has taught them all about the terrors that lie beyond the D.C. suburbs. Before Saturday, the Bulldogs had eight runner-up finishes in 10 championship appearances.

Last season was different, and the momentum of that win wasn’t too hard to maintain over a uniquely short offseason. The Bulldogs, out to make it two straight, pounded local opponents throughout the fall before beating Richmond contender Highland Springs in the semifinal and the Commodores (7-2), a Norfolk power, on Saturday.

“After all the things we’ve been through the last 20 years,” Thompson said. “All the ups and downs in this game, it’s almost like now is the time for our guys to get some of the benefits at the end.”

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