Stone Bridge senior linebacker Mikail Kamara said he saw the golden opportunity before him when North Stafford was backed up near its end zone in the middle of the second quarter and was about to punt.
So, he shot through the gap in the Wolverines’ line, put a hand on the punt by North Stafford Jamil Boyd, and moments later, junior linebacker Jeremiah Covington-Griggs jumped on the loose ball in the end zone to turn a fairly close game at 16-7 into a 23-7 halftime lead for the Bulldogs.
Alas, Stone Bridge (12-1) did what it has done most of the season—dominate on both sides of the ball in the second half—to finish off a 44-15 rout of North Stafford to set up a Class 5 state title matchup with Maury next Saturday at Hampton University.
“I saw it [easily] and was able to jump in and get a hand on it and then my boy Jeremiah swooped in for the touchdown,” Kamara said. “It was amazing [to make that play] because I saw [the way everyone responded] in the stands and on the sideline. Everyone was ready for us to win this thing.”
Indeed, a beaming Stone Bridge coach Mickey Thompson raved about the play afterward, although it was hard to tell whether he was happier about that play, or the play of the Bulldogs’ defense, which notched five sacks and made things difficult for a very athletic pair of North Stafford skill players, quarterback Jamir Boyd and top receiver Javon Swinton.
“Without a doubt, it [the blocked punt] was the turning point because it made it a two-score game at that point and that helped us play a little freer. That was definitely the turning point because it was then we knew we had a handle on the game,” Thompson said. “It was also good because we were just trying to survive on offense, honestly, with a couple of our important players out with injuries.”
Stone Bridge’s defense notched five sacks of Boyd, who unsurprisingly still managed to get good yardage totals, amassing 230 yards on 16 of 20 passing with one interception. However, most of the yardage came on three big passes, a 74-yard hookup with Swinton on a busted defensive play for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter that accounted for North Stafford’s final touchdown, an 18-yard fade to Swinton for the Wolverines’ first touchdown, and a 28-yard pass to Holt Egan that set up the first scoring pass.
Thompson raved about the schemes his defensive coordinator, Billy Rice, used on defense to prevent Boyd from getting time to use his athleticism (outside of a couple big plays) and keeping a handle on Swinton, whose own athleticism caused him to get open for two huge passes, but otherwise Swinton was not as prolific as he may have been in other games for North Stafford (9-5). Swinton also dropped a well-thrown pass by Boyd at one point.
“The thing is you can’t give them big plays and let their quarterback run around,” Thompson said. “He’s [Boyd] the guy that scrambles around and makes big plays with his feet, and we were able to keep pressure on him all day.”
And how. Stone Bridge limited the Wolverines to minus-1 yard net rushing, including the five sacks of Boyd. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs’ running backs, led by Jared Cole, who carried 16 times for 118 yards and three touchdowns, were masterful, racking up 278 yards on the ground.
“Cole’s the guy who really makes things happen for us when we get him the ball. To be honest, I don’t think we gave him the ball as much as we did last week, but he definitely makes things happen for us.”
Cole also returned punts and kickoffs well for Stone Bridge. The Bulldogs’ worst starting field position was their own 17 and that only happened once. Of Stone Bridge’s four second-half possessions, three of which resulted in touchdowns, the Bulldogs’ worst field position was their own 31.
North Stafford struggled early in the game, fumbling on their first play from scrimmage en route to recording three turnovers overall. The Wolverines also yielded 50 yards in penalties. Still, North Stafford trailed just 8-0 early, then pulled within 8-7 after taking advantage of the only offensive mistake Stone Bridge made when it fumbled early in the first quarter before the Wolverines took advantage with an impressive 5-play, 76-yard drive that culminated in an 18-yard scoring pass to Swinton.
NORTH STAFFORD (9-5) 7 0 0 8 – 15
STONE BRIDGE (12-1) 8 15 14 7—44
SB—Cole 33 run (Cole run), 10:43
NS—Swinton 18 pass from Boyd (Warren kick), 4:55
SB—Cole 3 run (Cole run). 11:53
SB—Covington-Griggs recovers blocked punt in end zone (Dastjerdi kick), 7:40
SB—Cole 6 run (Dasjerdi kick), 10:43
SB—Moore 8 run (Araujo kick), :51
NS—Swinton 74 pass from Boyd (Boyd run), 7:51
SB—Mason 1 run (Tran kick), :48
Rushing—North Stafford, White 6-17, Boyd 10-(minus 18); Stone Bridge, Cole 16-118, Mason 17-102, Moore 7-32, Wiles 5-15, Thomas 1-3.
Passing—North Stafford, Boyd 16-20-1-230; Stone Bridge, Wiles 6-16-1-82.
Receiving—North Stafford, Brown 5-39, Egan 4-43, Swinton 2-92, White 2-32, Ferguson 1-12; Stone Bridge, Cobbs 2-29, Mason 2-9, Dunkelberger 1-40, Cole 1-3.