Chargers give historic effort in loss

Published 10:50 am Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Central High School varsity football team featured players collectively producing a historic performance in Friday’s game, and the Chargers were in command after the first half, but host William Campbell High School was able to come away with the win. The Generals mounted a second-half comeback and then took advantage of a Chargers miscue to win 41-36.

Describing how he felt about the game, Central Head Coach Will Thomas said, “A day late and a dollar short, kind of like I felt last week. I thought we played better. I thought we played better defensively. I thought we played better offensively. Just dumb luck sometimes, and I don’t know if it’s luck or just poor execution.”

He noted that some key injuries also limited his team’s overall effectiveness, particularly on defense.

The Chargers led 28-19 at halftime after a strong first half, which featured impressive play from junior running back Dontae Crowder and sophomore running back T’zion Wilkerson, who were both working their way into Central’s history books.

William Campbell grabbed the momentum in the second half, though, making it 28-27 via a touchdown and two-point conversion with 6:27 to go in the third quarter.

Following that, the Generals forced Central to punt and got the ball on their own 13-yard line. Then they scored on an 82-yard catch-and-run to go ahead 34-28 with 3:15 remaining in the quarter.

The Chargers fumbled the ball on the ensuing kickoff, and William Campbell recovered it at the 50. The Generals drove to the Central 16-yard line but turned the ball over on downs with a minute and 21 seconds left in the third.

Driving for the go-ahead score, the Chargers were moving the football well through their potent run game. However, the drive ended with a fumble that William Campbell returned approximately 70 yards for a touchdown to go up 41-28 with 8:14 remaining in the game.

“We pitched the ball probably 60 times tonight, and then on one of them, we fumble, they pick it up and run it all the way back,” Thomas said. “I don’t know if it’s dumb luck, or… we’ve got to do a better job coaching that up.”

In its final drive of the game, Central once again moved the ball well, benefiting from more strong runs by Wilkerson and Crowder and a key 20-yard catch by senior Darryl Jones. Crowder ended up scoring on a two-yard run, and Wilkerson ran the ball in for the two-point conversion to make the score 41-36 with 35.6 seconds to go.

The Chargers attempted an onside kick but were not able to gain possession of the ball.

Crowder finished the game with 31 carries for 214 yards, three touchdowns and one two-point conversion. Wilkerson ended up with 28 carries for 201 yards, two touchdowns and one two-point conversion.

In terms of having two 200-yard rushers in a single game, Thomas said, “We’ve never had that before, never had that before in school history.”

He praised Crowder and Wilkerson for running the ball and then took a moment to highlight those who helped pave the way for them.

“When you have two guys over 200 yards, the offensive line’s doing something,” he said, acknowledging, senior Hunter Rutledge, senior Jackson Parsons, junior Garrett Williams, senior Ethan Hoover, senior James Richardson, senior Jeffrey Goodwin and senior Ben Spencer

Central started with a low number of players this year and is now further limited by injuries.

“We lost our starting corner early,” Thomas said. “We had lost our starting safety from last week, so we are just on absolute fumes in the secondary. And we just don’t have anywhere else to go. I don’t know. I don’t have anybody else.”

The starting safety he referred to is senior John McGrath, a three-year starter who he said is out for the season after tearing his ACL last week. The starting corner Thomas cited is senior defensive back Khamell Roberts, who went out in the first quarter Friday.

“Khamell was having back problems, back spasms tonight, and he’s been our best defensive back,” the coach said.

Nevertheless, the Chargers still had some players pile up some standout numbers on defense. Junior Gee Ragsdale had nine total tackles, including one solo tackle and one tackle for loss, with one forced fumble, sophomore Tae Ragsdale recorded seven total tackles, one solo and two for loss, Parsons registered six total tackles, two solo and one for loss, sophomore Khalil Wood produced six total tackles and a fumble recovery, Spencer had six total tackles and Jones had three tackles, one fumble caused and one fumble recovery.

Next Friday at 7 p.m., Central (0-2) begins its James River District schedule, hosting Goochland High School (2-0).

“It doesn’t get any easier for the Chargers, I can tell you that,” Thomas said.

The Bulldogs defeated visiting Fork Union Military Academy 32-0 Friday and opened the season with a 45-14 win over visiting Thomas Jefferson High School on Aug. 25.

Speaking on what to expect from Goochland, Thomas said, “Same ol’ same ol’ — hard-core, well-coached, physical. I think they were ranked No. 2 in the state in 2A.”