When Ben Richardson practices kicking field goals on John Paul II’s campus, he does so without goal posts. The Golden Warriors’ practice field doesn’t have any.
The goal posts were looming large Friday evening at Hilton Head Prep, as were the blocked PAT and the field-goal attempt just minutes earlier than had come up short from nearly the same spot.
None of that mattered.
With the game on the line, Richardson stepped up and hammered a 22-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired, lifting the Golden Warriors to a wild 32-29 road win over the Dolphins in a SCISA Region 2-2A matchup.
Video by Brian Quinty
How the Golden Warriors were able to put the game on Richardson’s right foot was a wild ride.
After a defensive stand inside the 10 resulted in Richardson’s failed field-goal try to keep the Dolphins within one score, Stone McDonald threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Hopman and converted the 2-point try with 11 seconds remaining to forge a 29-29 tie.
But the ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, setting JPII up at the 35, and Sam Summa hit Rashad Battiste over the middle for a 59-yard gain down to the 6, where he was pushed out of bounds with three-tenths of a second remaining, giving Richardson a shot at redemption.
“My team, with 11 seconds left, got me down to the 6-yard line,” Richardson said. “It was my duty to make it for them.”
And make it, he did, with plenty of room to spare.
It set off a celebration that spilled onto the field from JPII’s sideline to mob Richardson and spoiled a valiant effort from a Hilton Head Prep team that was overwhelmed in a 51-14 loss to the Golden Warriors a year ago.
Video by Carlo Perruzza
It looked like more of the same might be in store this year when JPII took the opening kick and drove 80 yards in 14 plays, culminating with Melik Frost’s 12-yard touchdown run and 2-point conversion run for an 8-0 lead. But the Dolphins were able to play the field position game and get on the board when Tommy Stauffer spun out of a tackle and raced 29 yards for a score midway through the second quarter.
Frost capped another long drive with a 5-yard TD run with 1:17 left in the half, but McDonald led the Dolphins down the field for an impressive drive, breaking a 24-yard run to the 1 to set up his quarterback sneak for a score, and Prep ran a fake PAT for the 2-point conversion and a 15-14 halftime advantage.
JPII’s Zach Doe got going in the second half, finishing with 137 yards on 24 carries and bouncing outside for a go-ahead 11-yard TD with 7:46 left in the third quarter.
Again, though, Prep answered quickly, as Hopman took the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a score, and it was tied at 21 after the PAT was blocked.
Summa’s 40-yard TD strike to Jeremiah Young put the Golden Warriors back on top with 9:50 left, and after stopping the Dolphins on fourth down it appeared JPII would put it away with another run-heavy drive.
But Prep’s defense stiffened in the red zone and gave McDonald one more chance, and he engineered another up-tempo drive before stepping away from a blitzing Frost to throw a strike to Hopman with 11 seconds left.
The feel-good moment was short-lived for the Dolphins (1-3, 0-1), but the mettle they showed will serve them well the rest of the season.
“I think this just shows us we’re capable of a lot more,” said McDonald, who rushed for 114 yards and a TD on 12 carries and passed for 174 yards and a score. “We were in it the whole way. A couple plays and it’s a much different game. We’re excited. We’re a little hurt right now, but we’ll get back to work on Monday.”
On the other side, the Golden Warriors might not have expected such a fight after last season’s lopsided matchup, but they were grateful to get out of Sea Pines with their third straight win and a victory in their region opener.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been disappointed with a win, but we left a lot on the field tonight,” JPII coach Kevin Wald said. “They outhustled us. They outplayed us. We’re going to have to play way better against (Orangeburg Prep).”
Frost, who had a big night on both sides of the ball with 13 tackles, four tackles for loss, a sack, and 87 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries, summed it up well.
“It wasn’t pretty,” Frost said, “but a win is a win.”
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