For their final non-District game of the 2009 season, the Stone Bridge traveled to West Springfield High School in Fairfax County, to take on a Spartans squad that had already defeated Edison and barely lost, in overtime, to Oakton.
In three of the previous four meetings between Stone Bridge and West Springfield, the Bulldogs had been forced to either come from behind or hang on for lives in order to prevail. The 2009 game offered all of the above. The lead changed five time in this contest and, just when the Bulldog faithful started to think that their team would prevail, with a 10-point lead mid-way through the 4th quarter, the Spartans struck to cut the lead to 3. Stone Bridge emerged with the hard-fought win, thanks to a drive that consumed the final 6 minutes of the game. The 36-33 thriller gives Stone Bridge a 3-0 record as it heads into Liberty District play.
West Springfield employed an offensive strategy that was primarily pass-oriented, with enough of a ground game to keep the Bulldogs second-guessing. This strategy was apparent in the Spartans’ opening series, as they ran the ball just 3 times (6 yards) and passed 7 times, completing 6 for 49 yards.
The drive ended with an Eric Schauder 11-yard pass to TJ O’Connell for the score, and the Bulldogs trailed 7-0 following the conversion kick. Stone Bridge opponents have scored first in all three games this season (twice on their first possession); however, just as with the first two games, Stone Bridge responded.
After turning the ball over on downs, Stone Bridge got the ball back by recovering a Spartan fumble on the Bulldog 26 yard line. The Bulldogs executed an 8-play, 74-yard drive, which concluded with a 31-yard TD run by junior Adrian Thomas. Abdul Shaban’s kick knotted the score at 7-7, but the Bulldogs were not done. On the Spartans’ ensuing possession, Andre Best picked off QB Schauder’s pass and returned it 24 yards for the score to put Stone Bridge in the lead, just 13 seconds into the 2nd quarter.
The Spartans had the chance to tie the score late in the 2nd period. They scored following an 8-play, 75 yard drive, most of which was done on the ground, with alterate QB Matt Prokop at the helm. The drive was also aided by a pass interference call against the Bulldogs. Daniel Collins’ 3-yard run closed the score to 14-13, but the ensuing kick was wide. A 57-yard kickoff return by Marcus Harris gave the Bulldogs another scoring opportunity, but a last-second field goal attempt failed, and the teams ended the half with Stone Bridge holding on to a 1-point lead.
West Springfield regained the lead on its first possession of the second half – a 13-play, 80-yard drive that consumed 5:23.
Again, a Spartan drive was aided by Stone Bridge penalties, this time for defensive holding and a personal foul (both occurred on 3rd down plays, helping to prolong the drive). Once again, Daniel Collins scored, this time on a 4-yard run. The Spartans went for 2 points to go up by 7 points, but the pass was overthrown in the end zone and the score stood at 19-14 in favor of West Springfield. Stone Bridge turned the ball over on its next possession – its first lost fumble of the season – but the Spartans could not take advantage and punted the ball down to the Bulldogs’ 14-yard line.
Stone Bridge was 86 yards away from retaking the lead, and did so on just 5 plays, the last of which was a 69-yard jaunt by Marcus Harris. An Adrian Thomas run gave the Bulldogs the 2-point conversion and the score was now 22-19 Stone Bridge, with 00:11 left in the 3rd quarter. Up until this point, the game had been exciting, but the 4th quarter was the exclamation point.
QB Schauder led the Spartans on a drive that began in the waning seconds of the 3rd quarter and finished when Michael Baber scored on a 4-yard run with 10:03 left in the game. This time, the Spartans went for the point-after kick, and it was good, putting the Spartans up, again, at 26-22. The ensuing Stone Bridge possession was marred by an injury to a Bulldogs player, who had to leave the field in an ambulance. When play resumed, Kyle Gouveia was in the backfield as the QB and he capped a 63-yard drive with a tackle-breaking 49-yard TD run. Shaban’s kick made the score 29-26 in favor of Stone Bridge.
West Springfield could not sustain a drive on its next possession, so it punted the ball away to Spenser Rositano, standing at the Stone Bridge 25. Rositano took off running up the Stone Bridge sideline, all the way to the end zone for a 75-yard punt return. It is the longest punt return in Stone Bridge history (Khalil Conteh returned one 72 yards for a TD against Bishop O’Connell in 2004). The score, and succeeding kick, put Stone Bridge up by 10 points, the largest lead by either team for the evening.
But wait, the excitement was not yet over. West Springfield moved the ball 86 yards on its next possession, in only 6 plays, and in only 1:20. QB Schauder, in danger of being sacked, heaved a pass to an open Lee Gleason on the Stone Bridge 10; Gleason ran the ball in from there, and the ensuing conversion lick moved the Spartans to within 3, at 36-33, with plenty of time still left, and the Spartans with all of their time outs.
Following the kickoff, Stone Bridge took over on its own 21-yard line, with 6:10 remaining. Thanks to some tough running by Kyle Gouveia and Marcus Harris, West Springfield never got its hands back on the ball, and Gouveia took a knee inside the Spartans’ 20-yard line on the last play of the game.
Stone Bridge, now 3-0, begins its pursuit of a 5th consecutive Liberty District title on 25 September, when it hosts the Colonials of Thomas Jefferson. West Springfield, now 1-2, will travel to West Potomac.
<b>NOTES:</b> Marcus Harris gained 204 rushing yards on 25 carries. That gives him 418 yards for the season thus far, on 77 carries (5.4 yards per carry). He has scored 4 TDs.
Kyle Gouveia also ran for over 100 yards, with 109 on just 8 carries. He now has 148 yards for the season, but has a 9.3 yards-per-carry average and has scored twice. Adrian Thomas had his first carries of the 2009 season, and he was impressive, gaining 59 yards on 7 carries (8.4 yards per carry), scoring on a 31-yard run. He also picked up 2 points on the ground following a Bulldogs TD.
The Stone Bridge running game has picked up steam with each game. The Bulldogs gained 162 yards vs Westfield, then 225 against Heritage, and now 375 against West Springfield. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the passing game, which produced 131 yards vs Westfield, 100 vs Heritage, and only 34 against the Spartans.
Prepared by: Denis Eaton