In the closing seconds of Stonewall Jackson’s 41-35 win over No. 14 Patriot, a hefty portion of the Raiders’ student section filed briskly down the bleachers and squeezed through an open gate to gain access to the playing surface.
But senior running back Javon Purvis and his teammates started turning their classmates away. Their reasoning behind the rebuke — storming the field is for upsets.
“We were telling them to get off the field, because this wasn’t an upset victory,” Purvis said. “We understood that Patriot was a good team with a record to show for it, but if you take away a couple mishaps and injuries, we’re right there at the top with them.”
A “couple injuries” doesn’t quite describe the Raiders’ plight. In a 36-22 loss to No. 8 Hylton on Sept. 6, six of Stonewall’s starters went down. Coach Mike Dougherty shuffled so many players up from his junior varsity squad that it was forced to cancel contests with Gar-Field and Patriot.
“It was a struggle,” said Purvis of the midseason stretch that saw the Raiders down to third-stringers at quarterback and tailback. “It really hurt us, and it ended up costing a couple games that we probably shouldn’t have lost.”
After the first quarter on Saturday, a Raiders win seemed anything but probable. The Pioneers jumped out to a 16-0 lead.
Patriot (6-2, 6-2 Cardinal District) was opportunistic on offense and kept senior quarterback Greg Stroman bottled up in the pocket. It was clear something needed to change.
So, coaches and players alike talked over what they saw from Patriot’s defensive front. The Raiders (4-4, 4-4) decided to stick to the zone read, but started taking the easy yardage.
“Our adjustment was — if they’re going to keep containing [Stroman] – then we’re going to run right up the middle,” Purvis said.
He ran for a while, racking up 205 yards on 24 carries by night’s end.
Purvis’ tread on the ground did wonders for the passing game and Stroman. The Virginia Tech recruit completed six of nine passes for 102 yards and three touchdowns.
“[Success on the ground] always opens up the passing game,” Stroman said. “When you can run the ball, it makes passing easy.”
At 4-4, Stonewall’s road to the postseason is a murky one. But Dougherty likes his team’s chances in a 6A playoff format that buoys more teams than it excludes.
“We’re really grinding week to week, and we feel like we have to win-out here, win these last two games,” Dougherty said.
“We don’t care what seed we are; we don’t care about any of that. We just want to be in the postseason.”