Essex coach John Fulks speaks with his players following the 41-14 loss.
One of Virginia’s top ranked high school football teams had their hopes for a state championship end in Salem. Winning a total of 14 games in a row this season, an improvement from last year winning only four games, the Essex Trojans lost their first game and a heartbreaker to the Goochland Bulldogs 41-14 in the Group A Division 2 State Championship.
On Dec. 7, Essex fans and spectators filled the stadium seats and carried signs promoting their hometown Trojans from Tappahannock. Some were dressed in the school colors and others painted their faces the color purple to show the trending public support of Trojan pride.
But what the Trojans or their fans may not have expected was an overpowering Goochland team that flexed their muscles and challenged the state’s top ranked team going into the playoffs. Last season, Goochland fell in the state championship.
Essex had been widely known for its dynamic offense led by state record setter and sophomore quarterback Dominek Broaddus, athletic playmakers and the biggest group of linemen combined in the Northern Neck District.
Goochland’s objective going into the game was to limit the Essex offense from stepping on the field and forcing their defense to make plays.
“Our biggest worry was that they were such a quick strike offense that they could score 27 points in four plays,” said Goochland coach Joe Fowler. “They are just so athletic and fast. We just wanted to slow them down by running the football and keeping them on the sidelines.”
Goochland gave Essex a number of opportunities to score performing onside kicks, but their aggressive defense forced the Trojans into making bad plays and not sustaining drives. Essex had not been used to this feeling all season.
“I saw them on film and I knew they were going to be the biggest test for us up front…and I thought physically they shoved us around in the trenches,” said Essex coach John Fulks.
Before the first half could end, some of the Essex players were emotionally lost for what they were witnessing. They had never been on this side of action all season long. They had been the team wooing spectators.
After an early interception in the game by Broaddus, he returned to make a big play to give his team a spark before the half. With one final play before the half, Broaddus connected with receiver Alonzo Tompkins for a 30-yard touchdown pass to close the Goochland lead. At halftime, the Bulldogs were up after a missed kick 27-6.
The Trojans were beat up after the first half. Some were limping to the sidelines or walking with their heads down. Others talked to themselves and to others to be a source of encouragement, but it was a noticeably different team in Salem as compared to earlier games.
In the second half, Goochland continued to pour on the pressure by scoring and limiting the offense from taking the field. As the clock continued to wind down, the inevitable feeling of not gaining the state title soon sank in for the Trojans. Goochland had only 31 yards in the air, but had a total of 381 rushing yards on 56 carries. Essex was held to their lowest point total on the year after recording only 190 yards of offense.
Some players handled the moment with disgust and others tried to play through the agony of their first loss.
Broaddus threw for 130 yards and connected with Tompkins three times for 43 yards, Sterling Hammond once for 50 yards, Tyrell Ware once for two yards, Rahiem Rolling once for 19 yards and Keith Bundy twice for 16 yards.
To close the game, running back Leo Gaskins ran the ball in from one yard to score the final touchdown to end the game. Broaddus scored the two-point conversion.
“I don’t fault our kids’ effort, but we ran into a very good team and we had not seen a team up to their caliber all season,” Fulks said. “I told the kids not to hang their heads. To go 4-6 and 14-1 and turn it around it’s a great season.”
“They put up incredible numbers offensively and I know our quarterback Dominek Broaddus was taking it really hard, but he has no reason to hang his head coming up from the JV and breaking the state records in many categories,” Fulks added. “If you can’t use this as a learning experience, I don’t know what you can.”