After starting the season 1-3, Radford won its tenth straight game Sunday afternoon, as they downed host Lebanon 28-21 in the state semifinals of the Group A, Division 2 football playoffs. It marked the seventh playoff game that the Pioneers, members of Clinch Mountain District, had lost to a team from the Three Rivers District.
“I told our kids we wouldn’t lose again after we got back on the bus following our 20-14 loss to defending Group A state champion Gretna,” said an excited Radford head coach Matthew Saunders, who just won its tenth straight game. “We played a tough non-district schedule with Pulaski County (19-7, loss), George Wythe (21-19, loss) and Gretna (20-14, loss) to prepare us for this.”
Lebanon (8-5) would strike first in this one. After picking off a Dontae Carter pass at the 30-yard line and returning it to the Cats’ 17-yard line, the Pioneers would score on a 1-yard plunge by Andrew Jessee and T. Adams PAT would make it 7-0 with 9:42 left in the first quarter.
Following a series of fumbles by both teams, in which neither could capitalize on. Radford’s Sam Mumpower would drop a Pioneer drive when he recovered a fumble at the Radford 13-yard line and return it to the 23-yard line. Several plays later, a diving, stretched-out Brian Thompson would haul in a 30-yard scoring strike from Carter and Michael Goodman’s PAT would tie the game at 7-7 with 25 seconds left in the opening quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Lebanon would cough up the ball at their own 25-yard line and an alert Julian Minter would pounce on the ball to set up the Cats next drive as the quarter ended. A 1-yard dive by Carter on the second play of the second quarter and Goodman’s PAT would give Radford a 14-7 lead with 11:19 on the clock.
Lebanon would tie the game on a 6-yard scoring strike from Jessee to Bob Jones.
The PAT by T. Adams would make 14-14 with 3:47 remaining in the second quarter.
Radford would score right before the half, when Kevin Adkins scored from 3-yards out and Goodman’s PAT made it 21-14, Radford, at the half.
The Bobcats would increase their lead in the third quarter.
This time Carter would bully his way in from a yard-out and Goodman’s PAT would make it 28-14 with 2:24 left in the third quarter.
Lebanon would score, what later proved to be its final touchdown of the game, when Jessee scored his third touchdown of afternoon, this one being a 2-yard scamper and T. Adams PAT would make it 28-21, Radford, with 11:54 left in the fourth quarter.
Neither team would score the rest of the way, as Radford claimed the 28-21 victory to punch their ticket to next Saturday’s state championship game in Salem.
Radford tallied 239 yards of offense, in which 177 yards came via airmail. Dontae Carter complete 13-of-21 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown. Grant Mitchell ran for 55 yards and Carter rushed for 14 yards, including two touchdowns.
Brian Thompson hauled in five passes for 81 yards, while Mitchell had four catches for 58 yards.
Radford was penalized nine times for 79 yards, compared to just 34 yards and four penalties for Lebanon.
Lebanon compiled 280 yards of total offense, with 150 yards coming through the air.
Andrew Jessee completed 14-of-24 passes for 150 yards. Dylan Smith led the ground game with 79 yards and Jessee added 14 yards and scored three times.
The Bobcats (11-3) will tackle Essex (13-0) Saturday for the Group A, Division 2 championship.
The game will be at Salem’s Municipal Stadium starting at 4 p.m.
Essex comes into Saturday game after knocking off defending Group A, Division 2 Gretna 8-0 this past Saturday.
In that game, Essex’s Cedric Thorne took a sweep to the left and found the pylon from 11 yards out with 10 seconds left to cap off the 12-play, 73-yard drive with 10 seconds left in the game and Lyndon Garner scored on the two-point conversion to make 8-0.
For the game, Essex had just 167 yards of offense, compared to 231 for Gretna. Essex’s James Hence led the ground game with 100 yards on 28 carries.