Goshen gets some help; wins Region 2 crown

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 4, 2001

Sports Writer

PLEASANT HOME – Goshen head football coach Joe Thornton had a cloud of doubters surrounding his team heading into the 2001 season.

After graduation took its toll on the Eagle program and an 0-2 start, repeat success from 2000 appeared slim.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

But Thornton and the Eagles turned the doubters into believers from then on, reeling off seven wins in its final eight games, including an 18-7 win over Pleasant Home Friday in its regular-season finale.

And with Straughn’s 14-6 victory over Red Level Friday, the Eagles earned the Class 2-A Region 3 Championship and will host Excel in the first round of the 2-A playoffs on Nov. 9, something that nobody but Thornton and the Eagles thought possible.

"I’m kind of numb right now. We’ve been through so much this year," Thornton said. "And those kids keep fighting and keep finding ways to make things happen and keep finding ways to win. I told them, it had to be our destiny. I mean, we just keep winning and keep winning and it had to be our destiny to be region champs because they’ve fought too hard. Everything they got, they earned every ounce of it."

The Eagles final test of the regular-season was a tough task at Class 1A playoff qualifier Pleasant Home. PHS flexed its muscle in the first half, controlling the clock for nearly 18 minutes and getting 173 yards rushing from Author Coleman, but found itself trailing 18-7 heading into intermission. The Eagles entered Goshen territory five times in the first half, but could come away with just seven points.

"They have a great offensive line, probably one of the better offensive lines we’ve played. We knew going into the game that they were going to be able to knock us off the ball some because we’re not as big, not as physical as they are," said Thornton.

Goshen struck first after its defense stopped Brent Carter at the one-yard line on fourth and goal early in the second quarter. The Goshen offense wasted no time turning the defensive stand into points as running back Quez Burden took a hand-off, bowled over a PHS defender, and out ran three more Eagles on his way to a 99-yard touchdown run and a 6-0 advantage. Averick Rogers’ extra point was wide right, keeping the score at 6-0 with 11:35 remaining in the half.

Burden finished the night with 179 yards on nine carries -the Eagles managed only 281 total yards in the game – and eclipsed the 1,000 yards for the season.

"Quez is a special kid," Thornton said. "He’s played quarterback, he’s played linebacker, he’s played fullback, he’s played tailback. He’s made All-County at every position he’s played so I mean he’s a special kid. He’s got a heart as big as this field and the kids feed off of him. He’s going to do some special things in his life, not just on the field, but in his life too."

The only score of the night for PHS came after a blocked punt, setting up the Eagle offense at the Goshen 37. Coleman turned the special teams miscue into a 37-yard TD to give PHS a 7-6 lead after the extra point with 4:53 left in the second quarter.

Goshen rode the arm of Rogers on the ensuing possession. Rogers completed all three of his pass attempts on the drive, including a 24-yard TD pass to Damien Pelton to cap a four-play, 65 yard drive. Rodgers was a perfect 8-of-8 in the first half for 86 yards.

The Eagles added to the lead on the ensuing kickoff, as Amos Wilcoxson forced a Coleman fumble and Lecorey Teague recovered in the endzone for an 18-7 lead.

Goshen controlled the clock in the second half, holding the ball for 17 minutes to preserve the win. The Goshen offense netted only 104 total yards in the second half, all rushing, but the Eagle defense kept the PHS offense in check, holding the Eagles to 93 yards.

Coleman carried the ball 32 times for 238 yards and caught two passes for 21 yards during the game. PHS totaled 289 yards in the contest.

"Our kids are four-quarter kids, they’re going to play hard for four quarters and I don’t know if we get tired or not. They just keep playing hard and we keep plugging and plugging. They kept making plays and we were able to control the clock and run it out in the second half."

The win came on a disappointing note for Goshen, who may have lost a key lineman for the playoffs.

"I was hoping we would come out of this thing injury free, but we’re pretty banged up. I think we may have lost Matt Qualls for the season. His MCL is probably torn and he’s one of our big mainstays on the line so somebody is going to have to step up."

And that’s something that has happened all year long.