The Essex Trojans took the next step in the state playoffs Friday night, defeating East Rockingham, 29-24, in Tappahannock.
The Trojans’ Keith Bundy was the big-play man. He hauled in three touchdown passes and even scored a couple of points for East Rockingham late in the game in order to protect the Trojans’ victory.
“East Rockingham has a great team,” said Essex Coach John Fulks. For the first time all season the Trojans went into halftime losing and Fulks’ words to his team were simple. “They were a little down on themselves, and I told them they needed to lift themselves back up and play our game,” he added. Essex did just that, holding the Eagles to only two points, which were scored for them intentionally by Essex.
There are now eight teams left in the Division 2 playoffs. Next up for the Trojans is Central Woodstock who beat Strasburg, 25-22, on Friday. The winner of the Essex/Central Woodstock contest will play the winner of the Goochland/King William game in the Division 2 state semi-final.
East Rockingham scored the game’s first touchdown with a solid, up-the-middle running game that relied on its big front line. The Trojan four-man defensive front took a pounding in the first half and the Eagles ground out three rushing touchdowns to earn a 22-14 halftime lead. Speedster Sharif Price, who scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion, led the Eagles.
But a second-half adjustment in the Trojan defense and a critical pair of fumble recoveries turned the game in Essex’s favor. With East Rockingham driving, Essex recovered a fumble at the Eagles’ 44-yard line. Rahiem Rolling burst loose to score a touchdown and momentum shifted after Essex quarterback Dominek Broaddus found D.J. Ashlock on the conversion to tie it up at 22 about mid-way through the third quarter.
In the next series, Essex stalled a East Rockingham drive and took over on downs, only to have the Eagles return the favor after the Trojans had pushed to the Eagle five-yard line early in the fourth quarter. With East Rockingham again driving, Essex recovered a fumble and this time cashed in as Broaddus found Bundy for their third touchdown of the day. The kick by Jason Compton made it 29-22 with little more than nine minutes remaining in the game.
Essex stalled two Eagle drives with interceptions but nearly beat themselves with penalties that put them in a fourth down and 16 situation deep in their own territory with little time left. Rather than rely on his rarely used punting game to kick to East Rockingham’s dangerous speedster Sharif Price, Coach John Fulks opted to have Keith Bundy take the hike and scamper straight into the end zone to give the Eagles two points with 17 seconds left. East Rockingham returned the ensuing kick off to midfield and put up two desperation passes before time expired.