Down a point to Spalding in the second overtime Friday night, Bullis Coach Pat Cilento could have called for an extra point and left his tired team to fight in a third overtime. But his Bulldogs were exhausted from two games in one week, some of them banged up, some of them sick. With a possible winless start looming, Cilento decided to end the game one way or the other.
The risk was calculated, with junior Dwayne Haskins Jr., one of the nation’s top quarterback prospects, factoring prominently in the equation. Cilento put the ball in his quarterback’s hands. Haskins Jr. rolled left, threw left and completed left to Damani Neal for a 29-28 double-overtime win.
“We were going for two [points] no matter what, we were spent,” Cilento said. “. . . you’re going to put it in one of your best players’ hands and let him make a play.”
Bullis’s season opener was postponed to Monday by weather. So the Bulldogs took the field in Severn on Friday with just three days’ rest from their gut-wrenching 16-14 loss to Mount St. Joseph. Fatigue didn’t slow the Bulldogs (1-1) early on Friday. They showed big-play prowess on offense and defense: Patrick Johnson II set up one touchdown with an interception, then scored another less than a minute later by returning a fumble 25 yards.
But after opening a 21-10 halftime lead, the Bulldogs’ legs went out from under them.
“Two games in five days against two great opponents, that’s what happened to us in the second half,” Cilento said. “We just died.”
Tired legs could not catch Spalding’s speedy quarterback Evan Fochtman, who exploded in the second half, seemingly carrying the ball on every play, then breaking off an 80-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter that set up the tying two-point conversion. Fochtman finished with 201 rushing yards.
After neither team scored on four downs in the first overtime, Spalding (2-1) struck first in the second. That left matters in Haskins’ hands. He hit Johnson for a 10-yard touchdown, then chimed in when his coach decided to go for two.
“At first we called it to the right side,” Haskins said. “I said ‘No coach, I think it’s going to hit better to the left side.’ Damani came up clutch, the line did a great job, and we won the game.”
Haskins is the reason Neal came to Bullis in the first place. The two met at a summer football camp, and seeing in him a potential receiving threat, persuaded him to join him in Potomac. Their connection grew from there, and extends to an uncommon chemistry between quarterback and receiver, one that yielded five straight completions, including a five-yard touchdown pass, on the Bulldogs’ first drive.
“The chemistry I have with Dwayne is something special,” Neal said.
With a season to salvage and two games’ worth of fatigue to overcome, Neal caught Haskins’ 18th completion and provided the last of his 214 yards passing, and it all added up to Bullis’s much-needed first win.