On a night when everybody else on both teams was putting up huge numbers, George Murray went into Caravel’s last possession with just one catch for 4 yards.
But then the 6-foot-5 wide receiver made the two biggest plays of the game, catching a 47-yard pass with 8 seconds left, then grabbing a 4-yard touchdown pass two plays later. The score came with no time left on the clock as Caravel rallied for a heart-pounding, 43-42 victory over Indian River in a DIAA Division II Football Tournament semifinal on Friday night at Bob Peoples Stadium.
“The feeling is indescribable, to tell you the truth,” Murray said after being mobbed by his teammates. “But I know I’m really happy.”
Caravel (12-0) advanced to play the winner of today’s Hodgson-Archmere semifinal in the Division II championship game at 7:30 p.m. next Friday at Delaware State University’s Alumni Stadium. Indian River, the defending D-II state champion, finished 9-3.
The Indians appeared to be headed to the final again after Marquel Knight scored on a 6-yard run to give IR a 42-37 lead with 43 seconds left. But with Caravel facing third-and-3 from its own 45 with 12 seconds to go, quarterback Derrick Groomes lofted a long pass intended for Murray along the right sideline.
“I’m a wide receiver. My job is to catch the ball,” Murray said. “As soon as the ball went up, I told myself I have to have it. It’s either me, or it’s nobody.”
The senior made the catch, setting up a first-and-goal at the IR 8 with four seconds remaining. Groomes then rolled out to his right and threw to Murray in the back of the end zone. The big receiver made the catch, but was ruled out of bounds as the clock expired.
But the Indians were flagged for defensive holding, giving the Buccaneers one more chance. Groomes again went to Murray, right in the middle of the end zone, and he hauled it in to set off a wild celebration.
“I had faith in George Murray that he would go up and get it,” Groomes said. “I knew he had a height advantage on the corner, and I knew his jumping ability. I threw it to him hoping he would get it, and he did.”
“I thought we had a stop down there, and we gave them another chance,” Indian River coach Ray Steele said. “I think probably everybody knew who they were going to, and we just couldn’t stop it.”
The big play ended a huge night of offense for both teams. IR never attempted a pass, and only three Indians carried the ball in their no-huddle, hurry-up offense. Knight rushed 34 times for 235 yards, Aarron Moore carried 23 times for 99 yards and Jalen Griffin rushed six times for 21 yards.
“You just had the feeling the whole night that the team with the ball last was probably going to win,” Steele said. “I told them before the game, ‘Guys, as long as you leave everything on the field, you can walk away proud.’ They did that. They just came up a point short.”
Pierce Ripanti carried 22 times for 189 yards for Caravel, and Darnell Savage added 11 rushes for 141 yards. Groomes completed 7 of 13 passes for 105 yards, and scrambled for a huge 33-yard touchdown on fourth-and-25 midway through the fourth quarter.
It was a rematch of last year’s Division II championship game, won by Indian River 35-13. This one was even better.
“We knew Indian River was a hard team,” Groomes said. “We saw that last year. We knew we had to come out stronger in the second half, because the first half really wasn’t our half.”
The final play was all Caravel.