Purcellville, Va. — There are just a few ways to improve on a night when you throw for three touchdowns, amass 241 all-purpose yards and lead your team on a comeback against the No. 1 team in the region. But Dominion High School senior Vashon McCants found his exclamation point.
When Woodgrove High School set up for their potentially game-winning field goal with nine seconds left, McCants broke free around the right side of the Wolverines’ offensive line, dove in front of the kicker and blocked the attempt.
Dominion senior linebacker Billie Walker scooped up the blocked field goal attempt and rumbled 74 yards down the sideline to the end zone to ice the cake. The No. 4 Titans dispatched the No. 1 Wolverines – handing them their first and only loss of the season – paving their way to the VHSL 4A West region championship game with a 30-23 win on November 25 in Purcellville.
“The stars are aligned for us. That’s a great thing,” Dominion head coach Karl Buckwalter said. “I’ve been doing this since 1987, and this is a special group of kids. They just make plays. They refuse to lose. This is fun.”
After the Titans took a one-point lead as the third quarter ended, Dominion and Woodgrove exchanged possessions in the fourth before Wolverine senior kicker Cameron Gieseman connected on a 29-yard field goal, giving his team a two-point lead with just under three minutes to play.
McCants used his feet and his arm to maneuver the Titans’ offense down the field. Facing a 4th-and-5 from the Woodgrove 15-yard line, Dominion sent out junior kicker Ramon Blas for the go-ahead score.
Blas took three steps back, lined up his sight, took two steps to his left and nodded to his holder. The center delivered the ball, the holder stood it up and Blas squeaked the ball over the uprights.
“I am so happy. My voice is gone from screaming so loud. I can’t describe it,” Blas said. “We’re a family. We’re more than a team. We play for each other from the seniors down to the freshmen. We are a family.”
Leading the game-winning drive was one of about a dozen shining moments for McCants – who was named the Conference 21B offensive player of the year.
Down two scores as the second quarter wound down, McCants found junior receiver George Richardson for a 27-yard touchdown to give the Titans the momentum heading into the half.
“I had all the coaches leave the locker room at the half. I wanted to be with the kids by myself,” Buckwalter said. “I wanted to look at them and discuss how those next 24 minutes would define who they are.”
The first ten seconds of the second half helped that definition. Blas kicked off to start the second half, the Woodgrove return man fumbled the ball and Dominion recovered it inside the Wolverine 1-yard line. Three plays later, McCants connected with junior receiver Jadan Pierre to even out the score.
“Momentum-wise those two scores just boosted everything,” McCants said. “We want the football. I believe there’s no defense out here that can stop our offense. So us having the ball, we just felt like we were untouchable.”
The Woodgrove defense certainly put up a fight. Time and time again the Wolverines had McCants where they wanted him: facing a 3rd-and-long, scrambling out of the pocket, with two to three defenders nipping at his heels.
But time and time again, McCants danced through the backfield and found a way to move the Titans downfield.
“Woodgrove is a good team. They are who we thought they are. They’re a good team,” Buckwalter said. “And so is Dominion.”
McCants’ field goal block epitomized four years of hard work. Four years falling short of glory.
“Take the lyrics from that Drake song, ‘We started from the bottom, and now we’re here,’” Buckwalter said. “There are a lot of bad words in that song, but those are the only ones that matter.”
On Saturday, December 3, the Titans will have their shot at glory when No. 4 Dominion travels to No. 3 Salem High School to play for the VHSL 4A West region title.
“I’m lost for words,” McCants said. “We’re moving on.”
1Q 4:11 WG Mike Kovich to Russell Blackwell 31-yard TD pass (Gieseman PAT)
2Q 10:05 WG Chima Kpaduwa 15-yard TD run (Gieseman PAT)
2Q 0:24 D Vashon McCants to George Richardson 27-yard TD Pass (Blas PAT)
3Q 10:56 D Vashon McCants to Jadan Pierre 10-yard TD pass (Blas PAT)
3Q 6:34 WG Mike Kovich to Mason Gryniuk 5-yard TD pass (PAT failed)
3Q 0:00 D Vashon McCants to Billie Walker 8-yard TD pass (Blas PAT)
4Q 2:42 WG Cameron Gieseman 29-yard FG
4Q 0:55 D Ramon Blas 30-yard FG
4Q 0:00 D Billie Walker 74-yard blocked FG TD return