The same play that nagged at Gar-Field junior running back Shakeem Copeland all off-season, after he was stuffed on fourth down to end a six-overtime game against Woodbridge last year, this time helped yield a night against the Vikings that will evoke only pleasant memories.
Playing Friday night at their archrivals, the Indians called the same play on fourth and short early in the second half that they ran on their final play against the Vikings last season.
This time, Copeland popped through the middle for a 31-yard touchdown that proved to be the difference in a 14-10 victory in the teams’ Virginia AAA Cardinal District opener.
Neither Copeland nor Gar-Field Coach Tom Gryder cared to divulge the name of the go-to short-yardage run call, but suffice to say they were a lot happier with the result this season than last.
“I saw the smile on his face when he came on the sideline after scoring,” Gryder said.
Copeland fumbled twice but finished with 106 yards on 26 carries for the Indians (4-1, 1-0), who have won four straight after a season-opening loss to Battlefield.
“We came through with the win, and that’s really what matters,” Copeland said. “Teams make mistakes, but it’s how you get over those mistakes, and we did what we had to do.”
One of those Gar-Field miscues came seconds into the game. Woodbridge recovered the opening kickoff when the ball appeared to be trickling out of bounds. “Don’t touch it!” one Gar-Field return man warned another. The ball stayed live, and Vikings junior Evrett Edwards pounced on it at the 10-yard line to set up his team’s first score, a six-yard jump pass from junior Logan Farrar to senior Edris Wahezi.
Gar-Field scored on its next possession. On a fake reverse, senior Ryan Mason connected with wide-open senior Martel Plummer for a 39-yard pickup and later found senior David Bailey for a 19-yard touchdown.
Later in the first quarter, Woodbridge sophomore lineman Da’shawn Hand notched one of his three fumble recoveries, and this one set up a 27-yard field goal by senior Gavin Grubbs after a motion penalty negated a touchdown run.
Hand’s third fumble recovery came around midfield with four minutes left, but Woodbridge could not move the ball. The Vikings managed only one first down in the second half and scored just 10 points despite starting six possessions on Gar-Field’s half of the field, at the 10, 16, 31, 38, 32 and 44. Another possession ended inside the Indians’ 10-yard line.
Woodbridge (1-3, 0-1) had won seven of the previous nine games in the series in a Prince William County rivalry that began in 1965. The teams combined for 225 penalty yards.
“I have to make sure everybody’s together,” said Vikings Coach Kevin Smith, whose team overcame a 0-3 start last season to reach the playoffs. “This is a time where a lot of teams would divide. We just got to make sure we stay together. We’ve been through it before.”
Gar-Field plays No. 9 Hylton next week.