Late run, stand gives Saints close win
Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 11, 2003
Just when things looked bleakest for Nansemond-Suffolk Academy (NSA), Ryan Johnson helped them back to the light.
Johnson gave the Saints a 12-0 lead on touchdown runs of four and five yards in the first half of NSA’s Homecoming Game Friday night, but Norfolk Academy (NA) had cut the lead in half with two minutes to go in the first half, and now seemingly had an insurmountable momentum.
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With five minutes left in the third quarter, the Bulldog offense, which hadn’t recorded a single passing yard in the first half, started to pick apart the Saints’ secondary. Just as Virginia Episcopal did in its Sept. 12 defeat of the Saints, NA turned to the pass to move the ball.
It worked. On four of the next five plays, Randall Crutchfield connected with Steve Goldburg to march 55 yards. The final pass was a 19-yard strike in the right corner of the endzone, and the score was tied.
The Saints failed to move the ball, and a failed fake punt gave the Bulldogs the ball on the Saint 19. The Saint defense knocked NA back 12 yards, but Crutchfield and Goldburg connected again for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter, and the Bulldogs had a 19-12 advantage.
Johnson returned the ensuing kickoff 24 yards to the NSA 44, but Adam Keeling was intercepted two plays later. This time, however, Crutchfield and Goldburg failed to connect, and the Saints got the ball back at their own 35 with nine minutes to play.
That was when the &uot;Johnson Show&uot; began. The senior carried on all of the team’s next 10 plays, moving them all the way down to the NA three. On first down, he hurtled through the line for the touchdown, cutting the lead to 19-18.
NSA called timeout to discuss things. Would they go for two and the possible lead, or play it safe and kick an extra point? As Keeling came to the line for the snap, the NSA stadium filled with shouts and cheers of encouragement from the crowd.
Keeling took the snap, and turned to his left. Johnson was right there to take the ball one last time, and he hurtled across the goal line for a 20-19 lead that caused the stadium to erupt.
&uot;I was kind of surprised when they called to go for two,&uot; Johnson said. &uot;Usually, the coaches kick the ball and let the defense tough it out, but this was a rare occasion, and it paid off for us.&uot;
Crutchfield misfired on three consecutive passes, and the Saints got the ball back at the Bulldog 40 with four minutes left. Johnson was stopped on a fourth and one, however, and NA had one chance left. Like the Saints’ 7-0 win over the Bulldogs last season, this one was coming down to a defensive stand.
A first down pass fell incomplete, but Crutchfield hit Goldburg at midfield with 2:22 on the clock. As the team was out of timeouts, he spiked the ball on first down, then hit Goldburg again at the NSA 36 at the 2:09 mark. Another pass netted three yards, but Jason Rock and Jonathan Ramirez broke through to sack Crutchfield on second down for a 10-yard loss. A third down pass slipped through Goldburg’s hands, and the Bulldogs had a fourth-and-13 on the NSA 43 with 1:31 to go.
Crutchfield faded back, and the NSA defensive line was unable to break through to him. Glancing around, he spotted Goldburg near the middle of the field, and lofted a throw near the 25-yard line. Goldburg positioned himself under the ball, but Rock and Jeff Cooper were right there, and knocked the ball away to secure the victory.
&uot;The defense held us up tonight,&uot; said Johnson, who finished the night with 146 yards. &uot;This is a big momentum swing for us.&uot; The Saints will visit Greenbrier Christian on Friday.
Lakeland fell 38-0 to visiting Western Branch, but the Cavaliers still had a victory of sorts to celebrate; their opening-day loss to Maury became a forfeit victory when it was discovered that the Commodores had used an ineligible player. Nansemond River also fell 38-0, to host Deep Creek.
Lakeland visits Hickory next week, while the Warriors head to Great Bridge.