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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Titans’ ground game ends Foxes’ season

According to head coach Jeff Smith, King George had its best week of practice this season heading into Friday’s 4A–North first-round playoff game against Dominion.

With eight wins under their belt and 23 seniors ready to leave their mark on the program, Smith and the Foxes seemed primed for big things against the visiting Titans.

But after Dominion’s physical running game marched 80 yards in 10 plays and scored on its first possession, King George knew it faced a major challenge against the bigger Titans.

Paced by the hard running of 210-pound junior Chad Smith, who rumbled for three touchdowns and 157 yards, Dominion powered its way to a 35–13 victory and ended the Foxes’ season.

“They outdid us,” King George running back Jordi Estes said. “They’re the biggest team we’ve faced all year, but that’s not what did it. They just outplayed us.”

Estes gained 120 hard-earned yards and scored the Foxes’ first touchdown on a 5-yard scamper in his final game. But in the end, Dominion’s size and talent were just too much to overcome.

“We had seen on film how big and physical they were,” Jeff Smith said. “But the film didn’t do them justice. Those are some big boys who know how to play to the whistle. I can see them going far [in the playoffs].”

The Titans (7–4) will get a chance to continue their season when they travel to Salem next week for round two of the 4A–North tournament.

Against the Foxes, the visitors from Sterling showcased a hard-nosed running game that was largely responsible for their ability to gain control early and keep the Foxes from coming back.

Chad Smith scored twice within a five-minute span of the first quarter to give Dominion the upper hand.

After pounding his way into the end zone from 12 yards out on the Titans’ first possession, he tacked on another 7-yard scoring run after Donnie Gasser intercepted a pass by King George’s Corey Henderson at the Foxes’ 32.

His third touchdown run came with seven minutes left in the third quarter and put Dominion comfortably ahead, 28–7.

“It’s taken a long time to get here,” Chad Smith said. “Two years of hard work paid off tonight, but we’ve still got football to play. This game is a real springboard for us.”

Down 14–7 after Estes’ touchdown, King George tried a little trickery right before halftime to tie the score, but it backfired.

After the Foxes lined up in their “Colorado” spread alignment, Henderson threw a pass down the middle of the field, hoping to catch Dominion off guard. But the Titans intercepted the ball at the 42 and then made the most of the opportunity.

With five seconds left until the intermission, Gasser connected with wide receiver Luke Thompson, who got behind the Foxes’ Markiece Johnson and made a diving catch in the end zone.

“We ran [the Colorado play] against Culpeper and against Grafton, and it worked,” Jeff Smith said. “But Dominion called timeout and then made a good play on it.”

Despite a 21–7 deficit at the half, the Foxes showed their ability to move the football in the first two quarters using a mix of their spread and wing-T sets. At times, they appeared to have the bigger Titans on their heels with their quickness.

But Smith and Gasser made sure that the second half belonged to Dominion, which had recorded four shutouts entering Friday night’s game.

After James Wilcox intercepted another pass by Henderson at the King George 16, the Titans padded their margin with two more touchdowns by Smith and Thompson.

Smith’s run covered 15 yards after the interception, and then Thompson added icing to the cake with a 9-yard burst into the end zone and Dominion led, 35–7.

“Those guys are big-time players who make big-time plays,” said Titans coach Karl Buckwalter, a former coach at Colonial Forge. “But our whole group did a great job tonight.”

King George closed its season on a losing note, but their coach said he was proud of what the Foxes (8–3) accomplished this year.

“It was a tough way to end the season,” Jeff Smith said. “We’re losing 23 seniors and 15 of them have been with me since I started. But they gave it everything. That’s all I could ask of them.”