By Owen Gotimer
Sterling (September 19, 2016) – Having outscored their three previous opponents by a combined score of 120-29, the Woodgrove High School football team faced a new challenge on September 16 when they travelled to Dominion High School. The Wolverines trailed at the half, but a refined defensive game plan and a trick play in the second half swung the momentum towards Woodgrove as the Wolverines ran away with the win over the Titans, 24-14.
“The defense just stepped it up. In the first half, we were not disciplined,” Woodgrove senior quarterback Mike Kovich said. “We made some halftime adjusts, stayed outside and just did our job.”
While the Wolverines’ defense controlled the athletic Titans’ offense early in the second half, Woodgrove still found themselves down 14-10 midway through the third quarter. But Woodgrove head coach Mike Skinner had something up his sleeve as Kovich took the snap before throwing a screen pass to senior receiver AJ Organ who then dropped back and threw a 69-yard touchdown pass to a wide open senior receiver Russell Blackwell to give the Wolverines the lead.
“Their corners are really athletic and really aggressive,” Kovich said. “They came down on all of our short passes, so when we saw that we thought, might as well try it.”
Woodgrove’s next three drives consisted of them systematically moving the ball up the field like a well-oiled machine. Kovich connected with senior receiver Mason Gryniuk for a 28-yard reception and a 6-yard touchdown. Senior running back Chima Kpaduwa continued to punish the Titans’ defensive line – who played extremely well up front for Dominion. Senior running back Michael Stephens also got in on the action, carrying the ball on consecutive plays for a combined 22 yards during the Wolverines’ final scoring drive.
“The game plan was to just keep pushing them and pushing them and pushing them and to just shove the ball down their throats and it worked,” Kovich said.
Dominion had a similar game plan, but their strategy focused around super senior Vashon McCants. One of the most athletic backs in Loudoun, McCants – who regularly plays running back and defensive back for the Titans – lined up at quarterback for Dominion for the final three quarters and gave them the spark they had been looking for.
“We packed the box because he’s a running back. He got outside on us so we had to spread it out,” Skinner said. “But the thing that killed us was that he could throw the ball. Most running backs who play quarterback don’t throw, but he could, so we had to account for their receivers too.”
Skinner and his Wolverines learned about McCants’ arm the hard way when he dropped back and threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Jayson Robinson early in the second quarter.
Then, as the clock wound down in the first half, McCants scrambled to his right then back to his left before connecting with junior receiver George Richardson for a 6-yard touchdown pass to give Dominion a 14-10 halftime lead.
McCants continued to be successful in the second half, but Woodgrove made some changes that limited the mobility of Dominion’s quarterback.
“[McCants] is tough. He made a lot of plays,” Skinner said. “We just made an adjustment on defense. We spread the front out to slow it down a little bit.”
Woodgrove’s defensive line put a lot more pressure on McCants in the second half forcing a fumble and four punts in the third and fourth quarters.
“They have some tough players,” Skinner said. “If they don’t all play both ways, we’re probably in trouble.”
Dominion has its hands full next week as it hosts Loudoun Valley High School on September 23 while Woodgrove hosts Millbrook High School.
“We have to stay healthy and get better,” Skinner said. “We’re a good football team, but we just have to stay healthy and get better.”
2Q 11:04 WG Mike Kovich 24-yard TD run (Gieseman PAT)
2Q 8:02 D Vashon McCants to Jayson Robinson 55-yard TD pass (Blas PAT)
2Q 1:52 WG Cameron Gieseman 20-yard FG
2Q 0:21 D Vashon McCants to George Richardson 6-yard TD pass (Blas PAT)
3Q 5:53 WG AJ Organ to Russell Blackwell 69-yard TD pass (Gieseman PAT)
4Q 10:23 WG Mike Kovich to Mason Gryniuk 6-yard TD pass (Gieseman PAT)