A 191-yard rushing performance by junior running back Marcus Harris usually would lead to a Stone Bridge victory, but during the Virginia Division 5 AAA State Finals at the University of Virginia's Scott Stadium on Dec. 12, Harris' performance couldn't push the Bulldogs past Phoebus High School.
Stone Bridge found itself in an early 7-0 hole after quarterback Brian Rody's first pass of the game was intercepted at the 7:32 mark of the first quarter, leading to the Phantoms’ first touchdown drive.
A safety in the second quarter stretched the deficit to nine, and a 99-yard kick return by Phoebus' Colby Goodwin at the start of the second half proved to be the difference maker.
"It was a few plays that put us in a hole," Stone Bridge head coach Mickey Thompson said. "You take away those plays and it's a completely different game."
Stone Bridge finally broke Phoebus' 15-point scoring streak with a 1-yard Marcus Harris touchdown run and a field goal late in the third quarter, but was unable to muster another touchdown in the game.
The Hampton-based school went on to win 15-10 and capture its second straight Division 5 AAA title and fifth this decade.
Despite the loss, Harris' 47 rushing attempts shattered the Virginia High School League playoff record of 35 carries set in 2007 by Woodbridge's De'Antwan Williams.
"We're a team that's based around Marcus Harris rushing the ball," Thompson said.
The massive workload isn't foreign to Harris, in fact Thompson had planned 50 carries for the junior. Harris didn't hesitate to accept the responsibility.
"I was prepared because he told me [I would get 50 carries] before other games and he wasn't lying," he said. "I was a little nervous about carrying my team, but it felt good to do it."
While the Stone Bridge defense allowed two touchdowns in the game, Thompson said the defense played a good enough game to earn a victory.
"I thought we played lights-out defense all day," Thompson said. "But we couldn't put enough points of the board."
The Bulldogs limited Phoebus to only 87 yards of offense in the game, but the turnovers and points on special teams were too much for the offense to overcome.
"They were on their heels for much of the game," Thompson said. "We just couldn't convert on some plays."
The match also was a re-match of a re-match. In 2007, the Bulldogs defeated the Phantoms in the semi-finals en route to a State Championship that year. In 2008, the fates were reversed, with Phoebus taking the state title after felling Stone Bridge in the semi-finals.
For the Bulldog's seniors, the year represents a season that defied expectations. After losing 20 players to graduation after the 2008 season, some expected the Bulldogs to experience a re-building year.
"Everyone said we were going to have a down year, but that didn't happen," senior linebacker Connor Calderwood said. "We're not overachievers, this is what we were supposed to do."
Stone Bridge fought to a 9-1 season with the only loss to Madison.