Northern Region champion Stone Bridge got everything it could handle from Central kingpin Hanover, but ultimately prevailed 28-21 in the Group AAA, D-5 semi-finals. This was the Bulldogs' closest game of the season, and the only one decided by fewer than 16 points.
Stone Bridge came out on fire, and, as expected, moved the ball very well against the Hawks early. A long run by Sterling Dailey set up his own 10-yard touchdown run to put the Bulldogs ahead 7-0. After a Hanover drive ended with a turnover on downs at the Bulldog 29 yard line, SB went 71 yards in just three plays. A pass from Ryan Burns to Jimmy Higgins did most of the damage there, but Dailey capped the drive with his second score, this one from two yards out. It was 14-0 at the end of the first.
Stone Bridge got the ball back, but the Hawks grabbed some momentum when they stopped the Bulldogs on downs at the Hanover 33. The Hawks then drove 67 yards for a touchdown that cut the lead to 14-7. The score came on a sharp Sam Rogers pass to Donte Haynesworth from seven yards out. The inspired Hanover defense kept the Bulldogs off the scoreboard the rest of the half, aided by Usman Mahmood's interception at the nine-yard line. It was just a one-score game at the break.
Hanover wasn't fooled by SB's "surprise" onside kick to open the second half. Given a short field, the Hawks tied the game up via the running and passing of Rogers, who took it in himself on a three-yard score to knot the game at 14 with 7:22 to go in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs came to life offensively at that point. Converting a fourth-down play along the way, Stone Bridge surged ahead on Christian Strahin's three-yard run to make it 21-14 at the end of the third. The Bulldogs got the ball back, converted another fourth down, and padded their lead when D'Ante Yarborough scored on a five-yard run.
Now trailing 28-14 with less than seven minutes to go in the game, Rogers led the Hawks on an 80-yard touchdown drive. The drive ended in unlikely fashion, with Rogers hitting Haynesworth for another touchdown on a scrambling, desperate, fourth-and-long play. That cut the lead to 28-21 with about four minutes to go.
The Bulldogs, who relied more on the 6-foot-6, 230-pound Burns' running down the stretch, managed to salt the game away. Hanover had SB in a fourth-and-seven situation, but a quick shift got the Hawks to jump offsides, leading to a much easier fourth-and-two. The Bulldogs picked it up, and with it, another berth in the Group AAA, Division 5 championship game. Stone Bridge is now 14-0 and will seek its second state championship next week when it takes on Lake Taylor, a 23-21 winner over North Stafford.
The Hawks complete a great season at 9-4, with a third regional championship in four seasons. Their four losses came by 3, 4, 1, and 7 points. Sam Rogers finished his career as a four-year starter with a performance worthy of his considerable legacy: 164 passing yards, two touchdown passes, 129 rushing yards, and one touchdown run (not to mention playing a great game at middle linebacker on defense).
Here's a link to some HIGHLIGHTS of this great game, over at the multimedia board!