Generals Rally Past Knights
By THOMAS C. DOZIER, Correspondent
Oct 15, 2012, 11:23
Dinwiddie’s Wesley Reid (88) fights for extra yardage as Thomas Dale junior C.J. Reavis (11) tries for the tackle (photo by Nora Davis).
CHESTER – It is important in any election year to keep hope alive. Not only are those the famous words spoken by Martin Luther King Jr., the credo also has become the modus operandi for a pair of area football teams that played a brutal early-season schedule.
With that in mind, Dinwiddie and Thomas Dale – two Central District football squads possessing identical 2-3 overall records – came into a game on Friday with ambitions of charting a course toward a playoff berth.
Paced by a trio of players – Ronald Kearney, Darius Johnson and Sadarius Williams – the Generals implemented a strategic game plan. As a result, visiting Dinwiddie scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to overcome a 14-7 deficit and defeat Thomas Dale 21-14 in a pivotal game at Ed Karpus Field.
With the win, Dinwiddie not only improved to 3-1 in the district and 3-3 overall, but also spoiled the Knights’ homecoming and possibly eliminated the school from Chester’s chances of making the Group AAA Division 6 playoffs.
All the while, the Generals improved their standing in the Division 5 picture and set the stage for a crucial D-5 district game against Hopewell on Nov. 2.
“It was a huge win for us,” said Dinwiddie veteran coach Billy Mills. “It means the world to this team, especially since we had our backs against the wall.
“Plus, it is a real confidence builder. Keep in mind we have played some tough teams, and Thomas Dale is another tough team, but we are five or six plays away from winning each one of those games.”
Mills said Dinwiddie’s challenging non-district slate prepared the team for Friday’s road matchup.
“It is hard to be ready for a team as good as Thomas Dale,” Mills said. “I don’t think we get ready for this game without those tough games on our schedule.”
That early-season schedule consisted of five Division 6 schools, including D-6 powerhouses Varina, Highland Springs and Meadowbrook. No slouches themselves, the Knights won the 2009 D-6 state title.
Dinwiddie wasted little time marching down the field on the first drive of the game. But the Generals went atypical to their current style, the passing game, and rode the legs of Williams.
The 5-9, 195-pounder touched the ball on 10 of 12 plays and the drive was capped off by a one-yard plunge by Johnson. Erik Lopez added the point-after-attempt and the visitors led 7-0 after what proved to be the only score of the first quarter.
At the time, Thomas Dale was without the services of Virginia Tech commit D.J. Reid, who was forced to sit out the first quarter.
So the Knights countered Williams, who had 99 first-half yards on 13 carries, with Eric Fenney, a sophomore running back.
With 8:11 left before halftime, Fenney was rewarded for his yeoman effort with a five-yard touchdown run. Matt Mangano added the PAT to tie the game at 7-7. Fenney finished the first half with 60 yards on 16 carries.
The first half was marred by a double personal foul penalty following a beautiful 50-yard interception return by Thomas Dale defensive back Tequaron Booth. He was tackled on the Generals 40-yard line and then a melee ensued just moments before intermission.
After the dust cleared and the officials put together what transpired, the home team was assessed a double person foul penalty and two players – Fenney and Chris Bright – were ejected.
Thomas Dale used the fracas as motivation and took the lead with 1:25 left in the third quarter. Taking advantage of a short-field opportunity and a well-rested Reid, the Knights marched 35 yards on seven plays, including a 33-yard run by Reid following a holding penalty.
The 6-1, 215-pounder punched it in from one yard out and Mangano kicked the extra point to give Thomas Dale its first lead of the evening (14-7).
Dinwiddie then made things interesting as the visitors went 81 yards on 13 plays to tie the game on a four-yard pass play hookup from Kearney to Williams. The strike came on a fourth-down attempt following a Dinwiddie timeout.
“We were just fighting for a spot in the playoffs,” Williams said. “So to prepare this week we practiced hard and really got after it. If we had lost, we would still have to fight, but we worked hard all week and came out with the ‘W.’”
A little more than five minutes later, Williams, who had 10 touchdowns coming into the game, scored his second touchdown of the game, leaving it up to the defense to close out the victory.
“Our goal was to play as a team,” said Williams, a two-way player. “But on defense, we kept our focus on the dive play and then at the end of the game it was to get a stop.”
Thomas Dale got great field position after the ensuing kickoff but was unable to convert a first down. On fourth-and-two with 1:59 left, the Knights attempted a halfback option with Reid throwing from the left side, but the ball fell short and the Generals ran out the clock.
Johnson, who led the team with 12 tackles, said the defense rose to the occasion.
“The defensive line did its job up front so the linebackers were able to come in and make plays,” Johnson said. “At the end of the game, when they were going for the game-tying touchdown, we knew it was gut-check time and our guys responded.”
Johnson was rewarded for his stellar defensive play in the red zone. The result was a touchdown that opened the scoring.
“When we get down near the goal line we go to a jumbo package,” Johnson added. “And I am more than happy to come in and be a part of that and to get the touchdown is a great moment.”
Despite the loss, Thomas Dale third-year coach Kevin Tucker remains optimistic.
“I am just proud of the way they played and how hard they played,” Tucker said. “They went hard for the entire four quarters and we thought we had a chance at the end [to tie the game].”
Williams, who had 684 yards on 101 carries coming into the game, toted the ball 29 times for 169 yards to raise his season total to 853 yards on 130 carries (6.56 yards per attempt).
Kearney, a 5-11, 152-pounder, was 6-for-11 in the air for 49 yards and carried the ball 15 times for 80 yards.
However, the unique brush strokes came in how the first-year starter ran the offense with ease, especially in the second half, when he and Williams rotated the ball back-and-forth for 119 second-half yards.
“I was a little nervous when I first took over this offense because there is a lot of pressure,” Kearney explained. “But lately I have just started to relax and stay composed because my teammates need me to stay composed. As for the success of the running game, for me, it is just of matter of following my blockers and the offensive line did a great job tonight.”
Kearney noted it is nice to hand the ball to Williams 20-something times each game.
Rashaad Goodwyn had an interception in the second half for the Generals while Williams and Malik Wilkins made a couple key defensive stops.
Reid finished with 98 yards (20 carries), 82 coming in the second half to pace the Knights.
With the loss, Thomas Dale falls to 2-2, 2-4. The Knights play at Prince George on Friday while the Generals travel to Colonial Heights.
Dinwiddie 7 0 0 14 – 21
Thomas Dale 0 7 7 0 – 14
D – Johnson 1 run (Lopez kick) 8:09
TD – Fenney 5 run (Mangano kick) 8:11
TD – Reid 1 run (Mangano kick) 1:25
D – Williams 4 pass from Kearney (Lopez kick) 7:40
D – Williams 11 run (Lopez kick) 2:29
Dinwiddie: Williams 29-169, Kearney 15-80, Johnson 1-1.
Thomas Dale: Fenney 16-60, Reid 19-98, Holiday 3-6, Cooper 3-13, Ford 1-3.
Dinwiddie: Kearney 6-11-49-1
Thomas Dale: Holiday 3-6-42-1, Reid 0-1-0-0.
Dinwiddie: Williams 3-21, Reed 1-10, Wilson 1-9, Poarch 1-9.
Thomas Dale: Ford 2-26, Bright 1-16.