A 30-yard pass by Thomas Dale High’s quarterback Courtenay Burrell soared through the air and was deflected twice by Matoaca defenders before landing in the hands of Knights’ running back D’Angelo Gray, who was standing in the end zone with no time left.
The catch set off a delirious celebration as Thomas Dale sank Matoaca 19-14.
“We had D-Lo [D’Angelo Gray] coming behind everyone on the play. They tipped it, and he was there,” Thomas Dale coach Kevin Tucker said. “When your star players want the ball in their hands at the end of the game, you put it in their hands and let them play.”
Thomas Dale was given an untimed down that was set up by a Matoaca penalty for running on the field near the conclusion of a 15-yard pass play that included four laterals. There were varying accounts, but ultimately, the flag gave Thomas Dale one more shot from the Matoaca 30, and they got a miracle.
“Our guys tipped it twice. We teach them not to tip it up in the air, but they did. It’s a tough way to lose, it’s heartbreaking,” Matoaca coach Jay Parker said.
Matoaca jumped out to an early lead and held it most of the game. Warriors quarterback Marcus Dreher ran scored from a yard out at the end of the first quarter. An Aidan Redmon extra point made it 7-0. Thomas Dale answered at the end of the first half, as Jasiah Williams, who was lined up at quarterback, scored from eight yards out. The score was tied at the half.
With 8:43 left in the third quarter, Dreher found Troy Lewis open over the middle, and he cut through the Knights defense for a 46-yard touchdown reception. The extra point made it 14-7.
Thomas Dale didn’t quit, as Williams hit Gray for a 28-yard pass for a score to make it 14-13. A two-point conversion attempt failed, and the Warriors maintained the lead until the Knights’ final drive.
Gray was spectacular for Thomas Dale, as he typically has been with Notre Dame signee Chris Tyree missing time with a high ankle sprain. Against Matoaca, Gray had 103 yards rushing and 130 yards receiving to go with two touchdowns. According to Tucker, Gray has also taken on a leadership role.
“We told him he wasn’t going to play defense tonight, and I thought he wanted to smack me,” Tucker said. “We told him we needed him to touch the ball 20-25 times tonight, and he did.”
Williams finished with 115 passing yards, 68 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Burrell was 3 for 5 passing for 70 yards and the game-winning toss.
Thomas Dale improved to 5-3 on the season. With games left against Granby and Dinwiddie, winning once would seem to lock up a post-season berth. Winning twice would likely assure them a first-round home game.
Matoaca fell to 5-3. They have games left with Petersburg and 8-0 Hopewell. One win could get the Warriors in, but in a jam-packed region 5B, it’s still a wide-open race.
Thomas Dale hosts Norfolk Granby.