By Brad Fauber - firstname.lastname@example.org
QUICKSBURG -- Central was playing more than just a football game on Friday night against Stonewall Jackson.
The game was about more than the country rivalry, about more than simple bragging rights. The Falcons were playing for a teammate in need of an emotional lift, something to smile about as he battles through a trying time.
Central junior offensive lineman Josh Gum received just that.
With his grandfather slowly losing his battle with cancer, Gum wanted to leave everything he had out on the field, determined to give his grandfather a performance to remember. His teammates rallied around him, and the Falcons overcame an early 14-point deficit to roll to a 36-24 road win over the Generals.
Gum's grandfather was in attendance Friday night, and was awarded the game ball, which was hand delivered by Gum down on the field.
"This is what it's all about," an emotional Gum said after the game. "You've got your emotion, you mix it with your gameplan -- we got the win. That was the main point here."
Fueled by Gum's emotion, the Falcons' offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage all night long, opening hole after hole for running back Daniel Molina.
Molina had a career night, finishing with 176 yards on 29 carries and three rushing scores. The junior also added a huge 96-yard kickoff return touchdown in the fourth quarter.
"It was for [Gum's] grandfather," Molina said. "Josh is my best friend and I've known him forever, so I've definitely known his grandfather forever. I just thought of him all night."
Stonewall Jackson (0-2) came out strong after a lackluster performance last week at Strasburg, putting the first points on the board when senior Juan Luna sent a 47-yard field goal through the uprights on the Generals' opening drive.
Central (2-0) responded with an 80-yard touchdown drive, capped by a three-yard run by Molina, to give the Falcons a 6-3 lead.
Stonewall Jackson lost the ball on a fumble by senior Jared Getz at Central's 1-yard line on the ensuing possession, but Luna picked off a pass on a trick play by Central several plays later to regain possession.
Generals senior Derrick Smith took an option toss for a 20-yard score, one play later, to give Stonewall Jackson a 10-6 lead with 9:35 to play in the second quarter.
"The kids played hard," Generals coach Dick Krol said. "I have nothing but admiration for the kids. They really turned around this week."
Getz made up for his fumble when he picked off a pass from Central quarterback Hayden Bauserman (6 for 13, 68 yards) and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown just one play after Smith's touchdown run, giving the Generals a 17-6 lead.
"I saw the tight end coming out and I didn't think anybody had him, so I kind of took it as my responsibility," Getz said. "I saw the ball coming and I was behind him so I knew he didn't know I was there."
Central answered another long touchdown drive, this one 75 yards, and scored on a 5-yard run by Molina. A two-point conversion made it 17-14 Stonewall Jackson with 1:41 left before halftime.
The Falcons scored on another 80-yard drive, also capped by a Molina run, to regain the lead early in the third quarter. Stonewall Jackson answered early in the fourth quarter on a 15-yard touchdown run by Getz (16 carries, 53 yards) to take a 24-21 lead with 11:08 to play.
But Molina struck again, this time on special teams, as the junior gathered the ensuing kickoff at the 4-yard line and raced untouched to the end zone to give Central a 27-24 lead.
"That probably took the wind out of their sails a little bit," said Falcons coach Mike Yew. "We were fortunate, and Daniel's a playmaker. He made a play, obviously."
A Stonewall Jackson safety later in the game made the score 29-24 in favor of Central, and Bauserman connected with junior Zach Herbaugh for a 16-yard touchdown pass with 3:47 remaining to essentially put the game away.
Central's offensive line dominated an undersized Stonewall Jackson defensive front for much of the night, and the Falcons had just two plays go for negative yardage aside from a pair of kneel-downs to end the game.
Gum said as the game wore on, the drive to win for his grandfather just grew and grew.
"I told Coach Yew, I said 'Get on my back, I've got emotion going and I'm on adrenaline. I want you to get on my back, that's what I'm here for,'" Gum said.