Dukes make history; beat Crabbers, 16-13

by Peter J. Teagle - Posted on Oct 31, 2018 - 02:40 PM

Photo: Gloucester High School quarterback-turned-kicker Isaiah Lester raises his fist in celebration as he runs off the field following his go-ahead field goal with 0.6 of a second to go. Lester’s kick would go on to be the game winner in Monday’s bout against the Hampton Crabbers, 16-13. The victory kept Gloucester’s post-season hopes alive and was the first win over Hampton since the Dukes moved up to 5A in 1988. Photo by Peter J. Teagle

Gloucester High School quarterback-turned-kicker Isaiah Lester raises his fist in celebration as he runs off the field following his go-ahead field goal with 0.6 of a second to go. Lester’s kick would go on to be the game winner in Monday’s bout against the Hampton Crabbers, 16-13. The victory kept Gloucester’s post-season hopes alive and was the first win over Hampton since the Dukes moved up to 5A in 1988. Photo by Peter J. Teagle

Photo: Senior running back Parker Jowers powers up the middle in the first half to set up the Dukes’ first score on a quarterback sneak by Isaiah Lester. Jowers would contribute several big runs for first downs on a night that saw four different running backs carry the rock for Gloucester. Photo by Peter J. Teagle

Senior running back Parker Jowers powers up the middle in the first half to set up the Dukes’ first score on a quarterback sneak by Isaiah Lester. Jowers would contribute several big runs for first downs on a night that saw four different running backs carry the rock for Gloucester. Photo by Peter J. Teagle

 The Gloucester Dukes football team made history this week, defeating the Hampton Crabbers for the first time in program history thanks to a clutch field goal with less than a second on the clock to win, 16-13.

Gloucester had faced off against this team 30 times since moving up to 5A in 1988 and was winless in the matchup entering Monday night’s contest.

Going into the game an old-school defensive slugfest seemed the likeliest outcome, and the two teams certainly delivered. Despite an opening three minutes that saw a frantic scoring drive for each team, both defenses eventually settled in.

On the Dukes’ opening drive, a catch by receiver Tyler Carteret set up a huge run for Joren Brown that flipped the field. The Dukes’ feature back has been hamstrung all season with a nagging leg injury but powered through the pain to break off a run up the middle that put the Dukes in striking distance.

Running back Parker Jowers took it down to the goal line before Isaiah Lester pounded the ball in for the touchdown on a quarterback sneak.

After a missed extra point by the Dukes, Hampton ran the ball with great effect, eventually answering with a touchdown of its own. However, defensive end Charlie Poulson shot the gap on the ensuing extra point and blocked the kick, resulting in a 6-6 tie that would hold until the second quarter.

Following several ineffective possessions by both offenses, Hampton again rushed for a touchdown, as its wildcat quarterback exploded up the right sideline and won a footrace to the end zone.

Tempers flared on Hampton’s following possession, as a Hampton receiver and a Gloucester cornerback engaged in some extracurricular activities after the play and had to be separated. Gloucester’s sideline was vocal on their collective opinion that the Hampton player instigated the scuffle but offsetting flags were thrown on both teams. Another flag flew when a Dukes’ defensive lineman directed verbal abuse at a referee on the subsequent play.

When play eventually resumed, the Crabbers found themselves stymied by the Dukes defense as Charlie Poulson sacked the quarterback, one of two sacks for the lineman on the day. Hampton turned the ball over on downs when Thomas “Tomcat” Conroy came up to make a play on fourth down from his defensive end spot.

The Dukes let Joren Brown shoulder the offensive load on the drive until the senior’s leg injury was reaggravated and he had to be helped off the field.

With time ticking down in the half the Dukes would go to the air, with Lester finding Carteret for a crucial fourth-down conversion near the red zone. The receiver caught one more pass before Lester spiked the ball to set up a final crack at the end zone with 5.3 seconds remaining.

Lester evaded pressure, rolling right then left before firing a dart to Tyrus Wilson for a touchdown as time expired. The teams went into the half tied, 13-13.

Coming out of the half both defenses remained stout, shutting down any semblance of offensive rhythm. As the third quarter elapsed Hampton received the first of two favorable calls that swung momentum the Crabbers’ way.

Backed up well behind the sticks, the Hampton quarterback threw a ball up deep over the middle where his receiver pushed off a Dukes’ defender and caught the ball. Gloucester players, coaches, and fans erupted, demanding an offensive pass interference penalty that would not come.

The Dukes defense remained stout, however, and turned the Crabbers away on a later fourth-down attempt.

With Brown out, Gloucester would ride their “Italian Stallion,” as Allesandro Brovelli carried the ball downfield for the Dukes. The transfer broke off three runs for first downs before the Hampton defense was able to corral the back and get to fourth down.

Referees again came into play as Lester scrambled and appeared to pick up a first down. As the Gloucester quarterback went to the ground his right knee appeared to be down prior to the ball coming out but the men in stripes signaled a fumble.

The fumble was called so late in the play that Dukes players were celebrating the first down and changing personnel for their next offensive play when possession was awarded to Hampton. The Gloucester sideline was incensed and fans rained trash talk on the officials.

As the fourth quarter continued, the Gloucester defense again stepped up, with Tyrus Wilson picking off Hampton on a deep post rout and defensive ends Poulson and Conroy making big tackles for losses.

Gloucester took over inside its own 20-yard line with two timeouts and roughly four minutes remaining in a tie game. This time it was Malakyi Cooke who served as the Dukes’ workhorse, as the junior back took advantage of clutch blocks from Jordan Roane and Jaiden Kirkwood for three big runs for first downs.

Parker Jowers served as the thunder to Cooke’s lightning, pounding the ball inside to bring the Dukes within field goal range. Setup runs by Brovelli and a Gloucester timeout left the Dukes with the ball squarely on the 20-yard line with only seconds remaining.

Despite losing their starting kicker to a broken wrist and torn ACL earlier in the season, Scalf elected to kick, sending quarterback Isaiah Lester out to attempt the game-winning field goal.

Hampton called its final timeout to ice Lester. The subsequent snap wobbled into the hands of Tyrus Wilson who righted it as best he could for Lester. The signal-caller-turned-kicker snuck the ball over the crossbar with 0.6 second remaining and a squib kick on the ensuing kickoff would write history for the Dukes.

Dating back to preseason, Gloucester head coach John Scalf had shopped this matchup as the year the Dukes would beat the Crabbers. Before the first scrimmage he had even called beating Mike Smith, the third-winningest coach in the history of high school football, a “bucket list item” for him and his staff.

After the game Scalf was beside himself with excitement, saying of his team’s effort “it took a lot of hard work and these guys put it in this week … I had no doubt.”

Lester added that he “just tried to keep everyone’s heads up” in the second half and that the outcome was “amazing, just to look up and see everyone in the stands hyped was absolutely incredible.”

This win was crucial in the effort to secure a second-straight playoff appearance for the Dukes. They will still need to beat Kecoughtan next week to guarantee a playoff spot, but Scalf believes this win means the program is trending upward.

“This is another step in the right direction as we try to leave that culture behind us that we had been living,” he said.

The Dukes will celebrate Senior Night against Kecoughtan at home Friday, with a 7 o’clock kickoff.