Godby defensive end Jacob Pugh didn’t want to miss again, not since it had been the game plan all week.
Faced with stopping Rickards quarterback Charlie Kelly in space, the Florida State commit grabbed a hold of yellow jersey and didn’t let go.
Pugh’s sack on third-and-goal seconds before halftime was a crucial blow to the Raiders’ upset plans.
Godby parlayed its 21-6 halftime lead into a 38-22 victory, which gives the school yet another District 2-5A title and officially a playoff berth.
“We had to contain Charlie,” said Pugh, who had previously let the elusive Kelly slip away. “He’s a good athlete, basically he’s their team, so we had to keep him in check, keep him from getting outside.”
The Cougars (6-1) used four turnovers– three via interception– to keep the Raiders’ offense at bay and provide scoring chances of their own.
“Our defense was just magnificent,” Cougars coach Ronnie Cottrell said. “That was a huge play in this game. It would have made it a one touchdown game. Charlie is such a talented guy– you give him the ball anywhere on the field, he can score. Stopping them that close was huge.”
Not long before, Rickards drove and faced a fourth down at Godby’s 35– debatable territory for play call selection– and Raiders coach Quentin Lewis elected to punt and try to pin the Cougars. It turned into a fumbled punt and a 30-yard switch in field position.
Cougars tailback Kenny Young made the Raiders (6-1) pay with a 30-yard touchdown to build the two-score edge.
“We had three turnovers in the red zone, missed opportunities before the half, bad snap to give up field position,” Lewis said. “We had to play a perfect game and we didn’t tonight. I thought we moved the ball well and played well on defense, but after a while turnovers and things got to us.”
Godby quarterback J.T. Bradwell put his team up early with a two-yard keeper, which followed a 56-yard hookup with tight end Stephen Gabbard.
Kelly answered with an eight-yard touchdown of his own, but Santonio Wiggins blocked the extra point.
Revonte Robinson then scored the first of his two touchdowns for Godby on the ensuing drive.
He gained 78 of Godby’s 268 rushing yards on the evening, which aside from two long plays Gabbard and Young, was nearly always in short increments with Rickards’ defense buckled down.
“Picking up hard yards comes from practice, working in the weight room, and conditioning,” Robinson said. “We get worked hard and it’s preparation that starts before the game. I thank my coaches for putting me in a position to make plays.”
With the momentum significantly on Godby’s side exiting the locker room at break, Logan Roberts’ 30-yard field goal nearly sealed the win, until an ill-timed interception and 15-yard return for a score by Rickards’ Tusun Young pulled the game to 24-14.
“I thought it was a team game defensively and that’s how we won the game,” Cottrell said. “I made a foolish error in the third quarter, giving them a touchdown when I should have run the clock out. Poor coaching on my part, but the offense came right back, drove and score to answer. Defense came back with another turnover and we scored. It was just a big win.”
Robinson’s final touchdown and Jaylin Hayward’s two-yard touchdown a drive all but sealed the result.
Jalen Ashby returned a kickoff 99-yards for a touchdown and Rickards recovered an onside kick, but Godby’s Ladarian Smiley ended any miracle comeback thoughts with a final interception.
“They’re a very good team,” Lewis said.
“I thought we played them toe-to-toe. We have to minimize our mistakes. It’s hard for a team that hasn’t been used to winning to make an adjustment during the game.”
Kelly (21 for 38, 270 yards) and Rickards have a bye week before facing Wakulla for a spot in the playoffs and a potential rematch with Godby.
For the Cougars, it’s just a minor celebration on the road to what they hope will be a repeat state championship.
“It’s my third district title and I’m just thankful to be in this position,” Robinson said.
“My coaches are so great, calling plays. They’re so smart, I give it all to them and my offensive line in this moment.”