DOVER — Just when it looked like splash plays might ruin Senior Night for Dover, the Eagles got one of their own at an opportune time.
The end result was a hard-fought, 28-20 victory against rival West York. With the win, the Eagles (6-3, 5-0 York-Adams League Division II) now have a shot at their first division crown since 2013. They will travel to Susquehannock (7-2, 5-0) for a division-deciding showdown with the Warriors.
“This is huge, this is huge,” Dover head coach Snelbaker said of Friday’s performance and the impending showdown. “We talked about this all season, and it’s big for us. I’m just looking forward to a big game next week.
“(Friday was) a rivalry game,” Snelbaker said. “And we expected it. We expected (West York) to come out and play hard and they did it. We made some adjustments at half time and got it done.”
Eagles get their break: Trailing by six at 20-14 early in the fourth quarter, the Eagles were in the midst of what looked like a game-tying scoring drive when faced with a fourth-and-three from the Bulldogs’ 28-yard line.
Quarterback Justin Johnson tried to find junior Derek Arevalo for the first down, but West York’s Justin Wetzel was able to break up the pass and create a turnover on downs.
On the very next play, Dover got the momentum-changing play it had seemingly needed all night; as West York was able to answer often.
West York’s Jamal Anderson received a pitch out right and began rushing down the sideline before a Dover player was able to pop the ball loose. Eagles’ senior Chase Heath recovered, giving Dover new life and a short field from the West York 37-yard line.
A penalty against the Bulldogs and two big rushing plays, one an 11-yarder from Arevalo and the other a 15-yard clip from Brandon Lawyer, gave the Eagles first-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
That’s when Lawyer put his head down and rammed in his third rushing touchdown of the night, giving Dover a 21-20 lead with 7:43 left to play.
“People have been telling me a lot that I have a lot of talent and I have a big reason to play. And that big reason to play is for kids with cancer, such as my little brother,” Arevalo said. “So what I do is I go out and play every down, and every play, I play my hardest for kids that can’t play.”
West York refused to go away quietly. Taking its next possession into Eagles’ territory before facing with a fourth-down situation of its own. The Eagles pass rush was able to create pressure on Bulldogs’ back-up quarterback Willie Martin, ultimately forcing Martin into an incompletion on fourth-and-17 from the Eagles’ 32.
Dover got the ball back with 4:19 left to play, clinging to a one-point lead and, in an effort to bleed the clock, turned to what had worked for them all night — the hard running of Arevalo.
Four carries and two first downs later, it seemed obvious what the Eagles were going to do the rest of the way. With the Bulldogs keying on Arevalo, Dover mixed it up and Johnson ran a quarterback keeper to give the Eagles another first down with a little over a minute remaining.
Again, not wanting to give Arevalo space, Johnson’s number was called on the next play. This keeper turned into a 27-yard touchdown run for Johnson and put Dover ahead at 28-20 with 1:06 left.
After allowing one first down on the subsequent West York drive, the Eagles defense made a stand to force a turnover on downs. A pair of kneel downs later, the Eagles were celebrating.
Bulldogs’ flashy scores: The two teams traded possession to start the game before the Eagles were able to pin the Bulldogs at their own 4-yard line. But on the next play, West York hit the first of its big splash plays.
Ay'Jaun Marshall took the ensuing handoff, burst through a big hole in the center the Dover defense and then raced down the field for a 96-yard touchdown. That put West York ahead early at 7-0.
Dover answered less than a minute later by utilizing a short field and driving 57 yards to tie the game. The drive was highlighted by a 37-yard run from Arevalo where he looked to be corralled in the backfield before breaking loose. It culminated with Lawyer’s first rushing score of the night from seven-yards out.
Thirty-six seconds later, the Bulldogs hit their second home run of the night when Anderson hit the same hole Marshall had found for a 52-yard score of his own to vault West York back in front at 14-7.
West York closed out the first quarter with a nice defensive stand of its own after the Eagles went on a 62-yard drive to the Bulldogs’ 20 before missing a 37-yard field goal attempt. The teams then traded a number of possessions in the second quarter to take the 14-7 West York lead into halftime.
“We talked about those plays all week, you’re not going to hold (Marshall) to zero,” Snelbaker said. “You’re not going to hold him to small things. We made an adjustment with him and the adjustment work. These kids make us (the coaches) look pretty good.”
The Bulldogs third major impact play came after Lawyer’s second touchdown of the night tied the game at 14-14 late in the third quarter.
After Lawyer’s score, Marshall took the kickoff 86 yards to the house to put West York back in front at 20-14.
Marshall finished with 176 yards rushing on 14 carries and one rushing touchdown. Entering the night with 907 yards on the season, Marshall’s 96-yard touchdown run put him over the 1,000 yard mark for the year. He now stands at 1,083 yards on 151 carries. He also added four receptions for 33 yards Friday.
Eagles pound it out: While West York used the big plays to do its damage, Dover was the opposite; utilizing a methodical, pounding rushing attack that featured Arevalo and Lawyer.
Arevalo piled up 191 yards on 29 carries, while Lawyer’s number was called eight times for 54 yards and the trio of drive-finishing touchdowns. Arevalo also added 46 yards on three receptions.
“I’m a junior, so I have one more year,” Arevalo said. “So I just wanted to give it to the seniors out there. Give them the luxury to go out with a win on the home field against our rival in their last year.”
On the night, the Eagles ran the ball 56 times to the Bulldogs 21 attempts. And Dover outgained West York 287-205, a margin that might have been a lot wider had Marshall and Anderson not broken free for big gains early.
Not a passing affair: Neither team did much through the air Friday. For Dover, Johnson completed six of 11 passes for 68 yards. For the Bulldogs, Corey Wise completed four of his nine attempts for 58 yards before exiting the game. His backup, Martin, was 3-of-6 for 43 yards.
More importantly for both teams, the game only featured one turnover.
Next up: While Friday’s win sets up a showdown for the division crown in Week 10, it also locks up another first for all players on this current Dover roster. After going 5-5 in 2014, followed by a pair of 4-6 seasons, these Eagles will experience their first winning season no matter the outcome vs. the Warriors.
However, that would provide little consolation for a club that has its sights set on much more than just being above .500.
“Next week, we just need to go out and play hard,” Arevalo said. “We can come out with the win as long as we go out, do our jobs, don’t turn over the ball and just execute each play.”
The Bulldogs end their 2017 campaign by hosting Gettysburg in Week 10.
— Reach Elijah Armold at firstname.lastname@example.org
West York 14 – 0 – 6 – 0 = 20
Dover 7 – 0 – 7 – 14 = 28
WY – Marshall 96 run (Lamanna kick), 6:35
D – Lawyer 7 run (Crone kick), 5:38
WY – Anderson 52 run (Lamanna kick), 6:35
D – Lawyer 5 run (Crone kick), 1:57
WY – Marshall 86 kick return (kick failed), 1:45
D – Lawyer 1 run (Crone kick), 7:43
D – Johnson 27 run (Crone kick), 1:06
First downs: D, 25; WY, 9
Rushes-Yards: D, 56-287; WY, 21-205
Passing Yards: D, 68; WY, 101
Completions-Attempts-INTs: D, 6-11-0; WY, 7-16-0
Penalties-Yards: D, 5-55; WY, 4-38
Punts-Average: D, 4-43.5; WY, 5-31.4
Fumbles-Lost: D, 2-0; WY, 1-1
Rushing: D, Lawyer 8-54, Arevalo 29-191, Johnson 17-36, Howell 2-6; WY, Marshall 14-176; Wise 2-(-15), Anderson 4-50, Martin 1-(-6).
Passing: D, Johnson 6-11-68-0TD; WY, Wise 4-9-58-0TD, Martin 3-6-43-0TD, Marshall 0-1-0-0TD.
Receiving: D, Arevalo 3-46, Hoffman 1-4, Bowman 1-1, Hinkle 1-17; WY, Marshall 4-33, Anderson 2-63, Lamanna 1-5.