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Green Hornets win Shenandoah crown

Daily Staff Report - sports@nvdaily.com

FISHERSVILLE -- Wilson Memorial captured its first outright district football championship in 34 years with a 42-14 win over Stonewall Jackson on Friday night.

Wilson (9-1, 7-0) shared a Southern Valley District title with Robert E. Lee two years ago, but Friday's win gave the Green Hornets the Shenandoah District title all to themselves.

"It's huge for our program and our community," Wilson coach Jeremiah Major said. "We understand district championships don't mean what they used to. Our guys understand that because I've been preaching it all week, but it's a great honor."

With the district championship out of the way, Wilson has bigger goals for which to aim. The playoffs in Group A, Division 2 West Section begin next weekend. The Hornets will play at home for at least the first two rounds of the playoffs and maybe more depending on where they are seeded. Wilson, ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press Group A state poll, entered the week seeded second in the West Section.

Beating Stonewall Jackson (2-8, 2-5) didn't hurt them in the battle for power points, but a lot depends on how other teams around the state did this weekend. Major said he was pretty confident that his team would keep the No. 2 seed.

"We've just got to continue to get better each and every week," Major said. "We have to understand it's do or die."

Malik Rucks finished with 142 yards and two touchdowns, while Savant Swift added 138 yards and a pair of scores. Swift's older brother and former Wilson standout, Connery Swift, was on the sidelines for the game. The older Swift, who is playing for University of Virginia-Wise, had a bye week this weekend and made the long trip back to Fishersville for the game.

"He's always been there giving me motivational stuff," Savant Swift said. "He's always been there for me. It gave me an extra boost tonight."

Sophomore running back Juh-Kwquan McCauley sat out the game. Major said he "tweaked his ankle" last week and the coach didn't want to take any chances heading into the postseason.

Stonewall Jackson got on the scoreboard first on a 60-yard run by Jacob Armell, but it was all Wilson for the rest of the first half.

Rucks rushed for 130 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the first half, putting him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Rucks first score came on an 80-yard run on Wilson's third offensive play and he added a 46-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

The Hornets also added touchdowns on a 10-yard carry by Swift and a 31-yard pass from Brandon Gochenour to Thai Wright. The PAT failed on the touchdown pass, but Wilson got it back after Rucks' second score when Gochenour hit Rucks for a two-point conversion.

Gochenour finished the game 4-of-7 passing for 55 yards and two touchdowns plus a first-half interception.

"He threw one pick and I think he knew as soon as he turned it loose it was going to be," Major said, "but he's getting poised back there and comfortable. He throws the ball really well. He throws a nice ball."

Meanwhile, Wilson's defense stepped up after the opening touchdown by the Generals. Wilson held Stonewall to just two yards the rest of the first half, forcing three punts and a fumble, which was recovered by Noah Perkins.

The Hornets also recovered an onside kick after Gochenour's touchdown pass. Wilson's Cameron Eavey fell on the ball and Rucks scored on the next play.

Wilson scored two more touchdowns in the third quarter, including Gochenour's second touchdown pass of the game. The sophomore quarterback hit Mack Cullen for a 10-yard scoring strike. Cullen was Wilson's starting quarterback until a thumb injury. He saw his first action Friday night since the injury, playing wide receiver for the Hornets.

"It felt good [to play again]," Cullen said. "Brandon did a good job. I've always been big on helping the team in any way I can."

Cullen said he gets his cast off in two weeks and he and the coaching staff will decide at that time if he will see any action at quarterback in the playoffs.

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