By Maximillian C. Burgos
The football team traveled to Buena Vista, Virginia to face Southern Virginia University for its last game of the season on Saturday, Nov. 10. The Lions won 33-30 in a thrilling back and forth affair –– they scored in the final minute of the game to pull ahead and win.
Freshman quarterback Dave Jachera’s abilities were on full display the entire game. Jachera, who ran 69 yards, passed for 196 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, led the Lions down the field in the fourth quarter to help capture the lead and win the game.
Head coach Casey Goff was proud of his player’s performance.
“Dave did a hell of a job for us,” Goff said. “His decision making and playmaking were on full display. Really his best complete game this season.”
The game started as a shootout, but did not end that way. The only scoring that took place in the first quarter was a safety. Both teams struggled to find footing in the game by trading punts and struggling to gain any yardage on drives.
Junior punter Zach Warcola managed to pin Southern Virginia down at the three-yard line with a tactful booming 50-yard punt. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Southern Virginia’s running back was bottled up in the endzone after recovering his own fumble, putting two points on the board for the Lions.
The Lions scored again early in the second quarter. After a shanked punt from Southern Virginia, the Lions were set up in Southern Virginia territory to start the drive. Freshman running back Colin Tong gashed the defense with a 33-yard run to start the drive, putting the Lions in the red zone. Two plays later sophomore quarterback Andrew Donoghue threw a dart to junior wide receiver Vinny Guckin, which put the Lions out to 9-0 lead.
Southern Virginia answered with a 40-yard field goal on its next drive and would later score a touchdown with less than four minutes to go in the half, tying the score 9-9 after missing the extra point. The Lions again moved the ball later in the second quarter and by punting the ball back to Southern Virginia with 2:08 to go in the half.
Southern Virginia capitalized by gashing the Lions’ defense with a 56 yard rush for a touchdown. The Lions answered the score with a field goal, making the score 16-12 going into the half.
On a long 14-play 55-yard drive deep into the third quarter, the Lions clawed their way into the end zone. Freshman running back Mark Pacini and Jachera’s legs were both utilized on the drive into the Southern Virginia redzone. Donoghue also contributed on the drive with his legs and also connected on a pass to wide receiver Jack Clevenger. Jachera was the one to cap off the drive with a three-yard rush for a touchdown, reclaiming the lead for the Lions.
“We took advantage of what they were giving us,” Goff said. “The offensive coaches did a great job making adjustments and it showed.”
In the final quarter, Southern Virginia scored first, putting the score at 23-19. Two drives later, Jachera hooked up with Clevenger for a 90-yard touchdown pass. Clevenger ran away from the defense, stretching the score out to 26-23 and reclaiming the lead for the Lions.
“The plan was definitely to get into the endzone,” Goff said. “I was nervously confident. Our offense answered the call all day. When plays needed to be made, they made them. Really that was the case defensively as well. We didn’t have a great day on defense, but when a play needed to be made, they made it.”
Jachera completed five passes on the final drive for the Lions, finding senior running back Connor Owen and Clevenger multiple times on the drive. Jachera found Guckin to cap off the drive with a nine-yard touchdown, giving the ball to Southern Virginia with 37 seconds left on the clock. After the opposing team’s desperate hail mary attempts fell incomplete, the Lions celebrated the win.
Goff commented on what the win meant for the seniors on the team, especially the five that played football during all four of their years at the College.
“The win was great for the seniors,” said Goff. “It’s been a rough year and an even rougher four years for them. I’m just excited that their last memory in the blue and gold is a victory. And to win in that thrilling fashion just adds to it. Our kids never quit and I think that has been the case all year.”