Maury lineman Paul Hutson lifts Keandre Lambert in celebration (Photo: Lance Hinton/recruit757)
Maury rides a fast start and a clock choking finish to win their first title in football since 1939
by Jim McGrath, recruit757
HAMPTON – And in the end, they were perfect. Maury High, a team that had not won a football championship since 1939, jumped to a 28-0 first-half lead and held off Stone Bridge to capture the Class 5 championship with a 28-21 victory.
Amazingly, and in a painful stroke of irony for Coach Mickey Thompson and the Bulldogs, it was the Commodores who held the ball for the final 10:53 of the game, driving from their 20 to the Stone Bridge 1 before taking a knee on the game’s last two plays.
And Maury coach Dyrri McCain knew exactly who to thank for the final drive.
“Our O-line delivered,” said McCain, who led the Commodores to a 15-0 record, just one season after his team was whitewashed by Highland Springs 71-28 in a state semifinal. “They’re essentially a bunch of no-names, but they brought it home today.”
Maury bolts to a lead
While the road to redemption was long, it didn’t take much time for McCain’s team to make its opening statement on Saturday. After receiving the opening kickoff, Maury quickly drove 64 yards on six plays, with Penn State commit KeAndre Lambert laying out for an EJ Gibson pass which covered 33 yards and served as the game’s opening points.
“He’s been making me look good all year,” said Lambert about the style points awarded for his diving grab underneath a Bulldog defender. “I wanted to make him (Gibson) look good.” The drive took only 1:48 to complete.
“We got the ball to our play makers,” added Gibson, speaking of the early outburst.
Stone Bridge’s opening drive never gained traction. On their third play, Billy Wiles’ pass was snared out of midair by lineman Shaq McKesson, who rumbled 13 yards to the Bulldog 12. Three plays later, Gibson scrambled into the end zone from eight yards out, and Luca Weber’s extra point gave the Commodores 15-0 lead, with just over four minutes of game played.
Maury would score again, but took a page out of Stone Bridge’s playbook to do so. The Bulldogs are known for conducting long, clock-eating drives, but it was the Commodores who cobbled together a 16-play, 75-yard drive that took up over seven minutes as the first quarter segued into the second. It ended when Khamran Laborn took an inside pitch from Lambert and hustled into the end zone for a TD. The two-point pass failed, but Maury found itself leading 21-0 early in the second period.
The Maury defense responded and stuffed Jared Cole on a fourth-and-two run from the Bulldog 43. From there, the Commodore offense struck quickly and Gibson found Lambert for a 38-yard score. Suddenly, with just over four minutes left in the first half, the question of a second-half running clock seemed more likely than a Stone Bridge comeback.
However, the Bulldogs finally got their offense in gear, with Wiles lobbing a screen pass to Cole, who then outran the Maury defense to the end zone for a 55-yard score.
Stone Bridge tried an onside kick, which was unsuccessful, but after a 14-yard pass to Lambert on the first play, Maury was stopped on four straight plays and turned the ball over on downs with 1:42 left in the half.
It was more time than Stone Bridge needed. Starting from their 33, Wiles locked with DJ Cobbs for a 37-yard gain, and then found Wade Dunkelberger for a 30-yard touchdown. Within three minutes of game clock time, the Dogs went from shutout victim to cardiac kids, and the 28-14 margin held until intermission.
By deferring to open the game, Stone Bridge drew the second half kickoff. However, they didn’t capitalize until the second drive when Wiles hit Mikail Kamara (13 yards) and Marshall Mattison (17) with first-down passes, before the run game ground out the final 10 yards with Zakias Moore pounding the rock in from the 1. Araujo’s extra point closed the lead to 28-21 and a convincing Maury win was now in jeopardy.
McCain drew on his team’s inner strength at that point.
“Most people have no idea what these guys have been through,” said McCain, himself a former Maury standout. “All that hurt, and all that tired. I’d ask these guys to do five sprints, and then I’d ask for three more. You have no idea what I put these guys through.”
Varina honed the Commodores’ edge
Some of their mettle was also developed in the state semifinal, a 17-14 squeaker over Varina.
Lessons were learned, and fixed.
“When we watched the film, we saw that our tempo wasn’t as fast (as usual),” said running back CJ Beasley (16 carries, 89 yards). We worked on it.”
As the fourth quarter commenced, a game-tying Bulldog drive was thwarted and Stone Bridge faced a fourth-and-17 situation on their 43. Although they lined up for a play, in typical Mickey Thompson fashion, the plan was to pooch kick. Cole delivered a low rider that sailed to the 15, the bounced to the 5 and started rolling, slower and slower.
It appeared that the ball would stop at the one-foot line and put the Maury offense on the goal line and in danger of allowing a safety. But two final orbits allowed the ball to sneak over the goal line, giving the Commodores a touch back and possession at their own 20. Ten minutes and 52 seconds remained in the game.
Almost….10:51 left. Maury 28, Stone Bridge 21 pic.twitter.com/53DBtqItm2
— recruit757 (@Recruit757) December 14, 2019
Stone Bridge would never get the ball back. For the next 19 plays, the Commodores played keep away. They combined runs with inside the line, short passes as the clock rolled its way to zero.
The Bulldogs had a chance to get the ball back, but drew a penalty for roughing the punter after Maury’s first set of downs. That penalty gave Maury 15 yards and an automatic first down.
And on the final two plays, Gibson and company were able to line up in the victory formation and cheer as their quarterback took a knee.
Afterwards, McCain spoke of the larger picture which the accomplishment marked.
“I told my players, this (win) is bigger than you,” said McCain, who heard from alumni with graduation years dating back half a century. “This might be the greatest team in Maury history, but I’m glad that it was this group that won it.
FINAL: Maury 28, Stone Bridge 21
– Jim McGrath
Maury (15-0) 15, 13, 0, 0 — 28
Stone Bridge (12-2) 0, 14, 7, 0 — 21
M – KeAndre Lambert 33 pass from EJ Gibson (Lambert run)
M – Gibson 8 run (Luca Weber kick)
M – Khamran Laborn 2 run (pass failed)
M – Lambert 38 pass from Gibson (Weber kick)
SB – Jared Cole 55 pass from Billy Wiles (Jason Araujo kick)
SB – Wade Dunkelberger 30 pass from Wiles (Dylan Dastejerdi kick)
SB – Zakias Moore 1 run (Araujo kick)
1st Downs 22, 17
Rushes-Yards 36-190, 34-125
Passing Yards 218, 223
Comp-Att.-Int. 21-27-0, 13-20-1
Pen-yds. 9-71, 5-45
Punts 2-32.5, 1-57.0
Fumb-Lost 0-0, 1-0