Sterling, Va. — As a high school football player, these are the games you dream of: perfect weather for homecoming under the Friday Night Lights. There isn’t another feeling quite like it. That was the picturesque scene in front of the Dominion Titans as they hosted the Rock Ridge Phoenix on September 27 in Sterling.
On the field, you could feel the tension from both teams, the gravity of the moment. High school football has a weird way of doing that; tricking you into thinking that the only thing that matters for the rest of your life is whether you can perform when all the lights shine brightest.
Both teams have had rough starts to their season, and both viewed this as the game to turn their seasons around. Rock Ridge came into the game at 1-3, with a season-opening win against Freedom followed by three straight losses. Dominion was coming in hoping to notch its first win on the season, after losing their first four games to Potomac Falls, Briar Woods, Broad Run, and Woodgrove.
Offensively, Dominion had chances but was not able to convert inside their red zone, plagued by penalties and dropped passes. Rock Ridge’s pistol-wing offense showed some effectiveness, but ultimately the Phoenix failed to string together multiple positive plays in a row. This sort of back and forth stalemate continued until Dominion senior running back Trey Hayes busted out a 26-yard touchdown run with less than a minute left in the first quarter. At the end of the first quarter, the score landed at Dominion 7, Rock Ridge 0.
The second quarter is when things really started to open up. The Phoenix answered with a touchdown run by Rock Ridge senior Reese Fye, but that’s all the Phoenix offense would get in the second quarter. Dominion’s defense figured out the Phoenix game plan, which led to good field position and opportunities for the Dominion offense.
Hayes continued to have a monster game, busting out several long runs and adding two more rushing touchdowns in the second quarter alone. Hayes would finish with three rushing touchdowns and an interception on defense.
“[Credit] to my line and the play calls for putting me in the position to be athletic,” Hayes said.
Dominion senior lineman Jimmy Christ also had a big night for the Titans. Christ’s 6-foot-7, 295-pound frame makes him an absolute menace on both sides of the ball. His agility for his size is probably his most impressive attribute; he is quick enough to get around opposing linemen and strong enough to go through them.
The second half was a lot of the same story. Rock Ridge was continually stifled by Dominion’s defense, unable to gain momentum for the entirety of the second half. Dominion looked to be in position to run away with the game, but they were plagued by mental mistakes and too many penalties that made it hard for them to capitalize on the mistakes. At one point, Dominion saw themselves looking at a 1st-and-50 situation.
“We’re gonna run a lot,” first-year Dominion head coach Drake Woodard said. “But I have to watch the film and judge some of the penalties.”
Dominion’s defense would hold tight, as the game finished 20-7 in favor of the Titans. It was clear, however, that Woodard was not entirely satisfied with his team’s overall performance.
“We have to figure out how to get a consistent passing game,” Woodard said. “We could not string together two completions in a row, and we missed some wide open guys.”
Dominion will look to carry their success into next week as they host Jefferson, and Rock Ridge looks to bounce back next week at home against Stone Bridge.