Bobcat turned Bulldog Fowler coaches another winner
Less than an hour and a half before the scheduled kickoff of the Group A Division 2 football championship last weekend, a newsman from the Richmond area arrived at the Salem Stadium pressbox with ominous news.
“I just passed Goochland’s bus stopped by the side of I-81,” he said, referring to the team that was supposed to be playing undefeated Essex shortly.
“Their players were out of the bus standing by the road.”
What was it about getting to the Roanoke Valley for playoff football this year? Christiansburg’s troops got hung up in nightmare traffic en route to a postseason date at Hidden Valley and made it just in time.
Goochland too was beneficiary of just-on-time delivery, deftly executing a roadside bus swap and making it to the stadium in plenty of time for warmups.
Looking back on it, Essex may have preferred that the mighty Bulldogs hadn’t arrived at all. Goochland was up 27 points in the second quarter on the way to a 41-14 thrashing.
It was the third trip to the final and second title in seven years for Goochland and Coach Joe Fowler, who grew up a Radford Bobcat.
The Bulldogs were in the final each of the past two seasons, losing a 21-16 heartbreaker to Gretna and another born Bobcat, Coach Kevin Saunders, in the 2011 title tilt.
As Goochland was lining up to shake hands with the shaken Essex Trojans, Fowler’s voice rose above the racket.
“Remember how you felt here last year,” he said. “Treat those guys over there with respect.”
Class all the way, just as Fowler’s high school coach Norman Lineburg would have wanted it. Or, for that matter, another retired coaching great, Giles’ Steve Ragsdale. Goochland won its first state crown by beating the then defending state champ Spartans in a memorable 28-14 final in 2006. It was Ragsdale’s last ballgame on the sideline.
Fowler has all kinds of ties to this area, but he’s a Central Virginian now.
“This is the last job I will ever have,” he said. “They will bury me in Goochland County. My wife and I are very happy there. It’s a great place to raise kids. It’s a great place for kids to go to school. It reminds me of Radford.
“Radford would be the only place I’d ever want to move but I’m staying in Goochland.”
Why move when you can find football talent like the Bulldogs have? Jordan Jefferson and Mitchell Brice combined for 212 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the final against Essex. They weren’t the only good looking athletes Goochland brought. This may have been the largest contingent any Group A program ever dressed for a final. Players were stretched from end to end of the sideline box, two deep.
“We pulled up a bunch of young kids at the end of the season because we didn’t have enough depth to go against us in practice,” Fowler said. “Those players we pulled up from the JV did an amazing job for five weeks of repping out our opponents’ offense and making us better.”
That kind of depth would have been the envy of any program from that classification in Timesland. The Bulldogs ended the season with 48 regular varsity players.
“Success breeds success and everybody wants to be part of a winner,” Fowler said. “Hopefully this will increase the drive of the young kids in Goochland to get in the weight room, to study hard, and have some success on the football field.”
Sounds like all this bunch needs is a better bus.
-Ray Cox covers recreational, high school and college sports in the New River Valley. If you have information you’d like featured, email email@example.com or call 381-1672.
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