Essex scored a first-round playoff victory Friday night, defeating Luray 28-12 in what was perhaps Essex’s toughest game of the season. The top-seeded Trojans were heavily favored against the Luray squad, who arrived in Tappahannock sporting a 3-7 record and were seeded a lowly 16th in the Eastern bracket.
The Trojans scored their fewest points of the season Friday night. Previous to this game, their lowest total points scored, 39, were registered in two games, recent shutouts of Northern Neck District foes W&L and Rappahannock.
Friday night was also a relatively weak showing for the defense, which gave up the most points to an opponent in nearly two months, a Sept. 7 match-up with powerful King William, a game Essex won 41-26.
The Trojans struggled to get their high-powered offense rolling against Luray, as cold temperatures chilled Essex’s passing game. Luray came into the game with a nothing-to-lose attitude, playing an in-your-face, straight-ahead running game that found openings in the Trojan defensive line throughout the night.
“I think this game is a wake-up call,” said Trojan coach John Fulks. “We’re going to have to be much, much more prepared for what’s coming down here next Friday. We did not have a great week of practice and we almost fell prey to an upset. I am very thankful to have a game next week. We won two games in three days (shutting out W&L on Wednesday, Oct. 31 and then shutting out Rappahannock on Friday, Nov. 2). I think we were feeling some over confidence, and this game brought us back down to earth,” Fulks added.
Next week Essex, the top seed in the Division 2 Eastern bracket, entertains East Rockingham, the number 8 seed in the Eastern bracket. East Rockingham defeated W&L, 35-7, Friday night to advance to the second round. Luray lost at East Rockingham, 28-7, on September 28.
Friday night, DeAndre Baylor got things rolling as he scored Essex’s first touchdown on a five-yard run with little more than one minute left in the first quarter.
Quarterback Dominek Broaddus found Keith Bundy on a 50-yard pass play in the second quarter that put the Trojans at the Luray one-yard line. Leo Gaskins burst across shortly after with the second Trojan touchdown, and Dartanious Jones caught a Broaddus pass to add two more, giving Essex a 15-0 lead.
Luray took advantage of an Essex miscue moments later as Keaton Seal picked up a Trojan fumble and rolled to the Essex three-yard line. Luray’s Marcus Frye followed up when he caught a Brandon Cook pass for a touchdown. The Trojans blocked the extra point. Luray notched another turnover when Zack Mauch intercepted a Broaddus pass in the end zone in the waning seconds of the first half. The Trojans carried a 15-6 lead into halftime.
Early in the third quarter, Broaddus connected with Bundy for a 45-yard strike that gave Essex a 22-6 advantage early in the third quarter, but Luray came marching back, hammering Essex with a determined running game that culminated in a quarterback sneak by Luray’s Cook. Luray’s two-point conversion attempt failed, making it 22-12 with more than a full quarter of football to play.
Essex added its final touchdown with 3:16 left in the game as Rahiem Rolling rumbled in from 11 yards out. The kick failed, making the final 28-12.