Slam the Door: Western closes out Goochland late for critical road win

Photo by Bart Isley

After forcing a punt in the fourth quarter, Western Albemarle wanted to make sure they slammed the door on Goochland, and closing out games actually hasn’t been the Warriors’ strength. 


“That’s the first time I can remember at Western being able to drive the ball at the end of the game and kill the clock — we just haven’t been able to do that,” said Western coach Ed Redmond.


Western managed to do that Friday in a 17-7 victory over the Bulldogs, milking the clock on a 12-play drive that ended in an Embry Pulich field goal with 2:20 to play. After a Joey Burch interception to ice the game, Western won its fourth-straight game and its second-straight victory on the road. 


The Warriors’ defense that forced six turnovers was the difference-maker in the win. The Warriors clamped down on a Goochland offense led by C.J. Towles, an explosive athlete, at quarterback. Western held Goochland to just 148 yards of total offense and just 4-for-13 on third downs.


“We really preached all week, just rally to the football and play together as a team, and even in those times where we looked like we were going to go down, we pulled together and got it done,” said Western linebacker Ross Bassett. 


The game was deadlocked at 7-7 at halftime after a 29-yard touchdown by Western’s Kaden Morrow late in the first quarter and a 13-yard Derek-Anthony Pierce touchdown catch from Towles with 23 seconds before halftime. The defensive struggle and field position battle continued for much of the third quarter before s fumbled snap with 38 seconds left in the third on a punt attempt allowed Western’s Carson Tujague to scoop and score, putting the Warriors up 14-7. That set the stage for the defense to make a stop and the Warriors came up big, forcing a punt after a single Goochland first down. 


“We preach do your job, it’s not a real tricky defense, we just line them up and it’s not really the Xs and Os but it’s the guys executing the scheme,” Redmond said. “Our defense has been playing really well. It’s hard to teach that chemistry they have, they’re just really together.”


That set up the decisive drive, with a combination of Kaden Morrow, Kyle Keyton and Dakota Howell pounding away at the Goochland defense. The Warriors drove from their own 22 down to the Goochland 15, That’s where Pulich punched in the field goal, extending the Western lead to 10 points while backing the Bulldogs into a corner. 


“We had a lot of guys down this week and we just preached that next man up mentality and everybody came out gritty,” Bassett said.


Morrow led the Warriors’ offense with another strong night, checking in with 121 yards on 16 carries at a clip of 7.6 yards per carry. But it came down to the offensive line play in the fourth quarter.


“They really stepped it up,” Redmond said. “Credit to our fullbacks and two hard runners that finished off the game, but it was the guys up front that were just getting good push. It was a good way to win the game because usually we’re just trying to hold on.”


With little time left and needing a pair of scores, the Bulldogs had to take to the air. On third and 10, Burch closed the door with the pick. That string of turnovers proved as decisive as that clock melting Western drive in the fourth, a tactic Goochland has made a habit of utilizing on opponents over the years. 


“First guy I ever worked for, we had team goals and he talked about you’ve got to win the turnover margin and you’ve got to win on special teams and we didn’t do a good job of that tonight,” said Goochland coach Alex Fruth. “It comes back to bite you and the sad reality is our defense played their tail off, we’ve got to be able to help them out a little more on offense.”


Joshua Williams finished with 10 tackles on the night for the Warriors while Grant Karzewski had a sack and a half on the night. They spearheaded a stifling defensive effort that got an interception each from Tujague and Nate Simon.  


“Coach says rally to the football and I did that, it’s a huge win for sure,” Karzewski said. “We made sure we filled our gaps and rallied to the ball and it worked out.”


Western Albemarle (4-0, 2-0 JD) will try and pick up a fifth-straight win against Wilson Memorial at home Friday while the Bulldogs (2-2, 0-1 JD) travel to Fluvanna County.