The hundreds of fans who watched Stonewall Jackson junior quarterback Greg Stroman find sideline-hugging senior Dezmon Hopkins for a game-winning five-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds left Friday night witnessed a clutch play that provided a 42-38 upset for the unbeaten home team over No. 13 Battlefield.
Stonewall Coach Mike Dougherty, now seasoned to his resourceful quarterback’s creative productivity, has another name for the touchdown pass that produced the Raiders’ most significant victory since their 2004 Virginia AAA Division 6 Northwest Region runner-up season.
“That was another ‘Night at the Improv With Greg Stroman,’ ” Dougherty said. “He does so many things that are not called. . . . He just bought some time for Dezmon to sneak close to that sideline and just floated it right over the [defender’s] head.”
Stroman had a hand in all but 22 of the Raiders’ offensive yards, but he was not the only standout. Hopkins returned the opening kickoff of the second half 96 yards for a score and 28-13 lead, and senior Markell Bates later did likewise with an 89-yard kickoff scamper after Battlefield had momentarily surged ahead 31-28 after senior quarterback Ryan Swingle (16 of 22 for 237 yards) threw touchdown passes to junior Cameron Skaff and senior Nick Newman and junior Connor Feehan kicked a 30-yard field goal with about eight minutes left.
“We have athletes and playmakers, and they really won this game for us,” Dougherty said. “You have to kick it to somebody, and we have four or five of them out there that we feel can do that.”
Battlefield mounted a 72-yard drive, capped by a Swingle keeper, with 1:57 to play, to go up 38-35. That left plenty of time for Stroman, who directed a 57-yard touchdown drive, ending with the floater to Hopkins in the left side of the end zone with 10 ticks left.
“He has a big window that I can throw it to,” said Stroman, who feigned run to momentarily freeze the defenders. “A playmaker like that, you’ve just got to get it to him.”
To gird against a disappointing loss to a team that had outscored the Raiders 145-24 the past four years, Dougherty in the days leading up to the game tried to bill it as just another outing in a 10-game schedule. Nothing more. But it was more.
When a team that has not posted a winning season since 2004 heads to the locker room at halftime to a standing ovation, comes back to beat a team that’s won the region title the past three years and gets swarmed on the field by classmates afterward, it’s not just another game.
“Hey! Look at that scoreboard!” senior lineman Brandon Robeson shouted to no one in particular during the back-slapping “love ya, man” postgame fracas.
“I just love the fact that our kids kept fighting and ended up on top,” said Dougherty, whose team earlier this month lost its top running back, senior C.J. Burnes, to a season-ending knee injury. “The 5-0 [record] is big, but the fact at how they overcame some adversity there will hopefully propel us to playing post-Thanksgiving. That’s definitely our goal.
“I hope we see [Battlefield] again,” Dougherty added, referring to the region playoffs, “and I hope we don’t see them again. Because they’re tough.”
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