Thomas Dale has practiced a wildcat package for the past few weeks, with sophomore DeAngelo Gray taking the direct snap.
Boy, did it pay off on Friday.
The Knights lost junior quarterback Courtenay Burrell midway through the fourth quarter. Low on quarterbacks due to injury, they turned to Gray, a running back, in the wildcat.
Gray scored a game-tying touchdown in regulation and a game-winning touchdown in double overtime as No. 9 Thomas Dale outlasted No. 5 Hopewell 49-42 in a thriller at the Blue Devils’ Merner Field.
Hopewell, the defending Class 3 state champion, fell to 6-1, while Thomas Dale improved to 6-2.
“Give the credit to our boys for not quitting, having the next-guy-up mentality and being ready to roll,” Thomas Dale coach Kevin Tucker said. “Like I said, I’m so proud of them. They never quit, and when one guy went down the next guy stepped up.”
Gray finished with 10 carries for 83 yards and three touchdowns. He also took a recovered fumble 90 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter and had three catches for another 19 yards.
Junior running back Chris Tyree added 25 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown for Thomas Dale.
With 6:29 to play in the game and Hopewell up 35-28, Burrell went down on a play on which he threw an interception to Hopewell senior Daquon Blow.
He was down for several moments. He was taken off the field on a stretcher and gave a thumbs-up as he was wheeled away.
That forced Gray into the wildcat. He said he was a bit nervous when the call was made.
“But then, I got the ball, started running, getting hits, I felt comfortable in the package,” he said.
Gray scampered 42 yards for a score with 1:17 to play to tie the game at 35.
Hopewell had a chance at a game-winning field goal with 2 seconds to play, but the snap was mishandled and the game went to overtime.
Both teams scored to make it 42-42 and force a second overtime period.
At that point, Gray secured a 1-yard touchdown run to make it 49-42. On the ensuing possession, down to a fourth down, Hopewell took a shot at the end zone. But the pass fell incomplete, and the Knights were victorious.
“Very proud is what I’m feeling right now,” Tucker said.
“Our kids never quit tonight. Hopewell came out, man, they gave us a fit. They’re a well-coached team. And those guys get after it.”
Thomas Dale 14 14 0 7 7 7 — 49
Hopewell 14 14 0 7 7 0 — 42
HOPE—Briggs 9 run (Haden kick)
TD—Burrell 1 run (Rice kick)
TD—Gray 90 fumble recovery (Rice kick)
HOPE—Briggs 46 run (Haden kick)