Tavarus Sample had already caught three touchdown passes. So when Dover was down to its last chance, the Senators’ star receiver was going to be covered.
That left running back Raekwon Bouges sprinting open down the middle of the field, and quarterback Nick Spadafino hit him for a 38-yard gain to the St. Mark’s 5. Two plays later, Marcellus Pack rumbled in from the 1 with 34 seconds left to give Dover a thrilling, 28-24 victory over St. Mark’s in the opening round of the DIAA Division I Football Tournament on Friday night.
“Raekwon is pretty fast, so I knew he was going to burn his guy,” Spadafino said. “He was open. I just put it out there for him, and he did the rest.”
The third-seeded Senators (9-2) will meet No. 2 Salesianum in the semifinals at 7:30 next Saturday at Baynard Stadium. The sixth-seeded Spartans led most of the way but finished their season at 7-4.
Dover was facing fourth-and-10 at the St. Mark’s 43 when Spadafino lofted a bomb right down the middle. Bouges made a beautiful, over-the-shoulder catch to set up the winning touchdown.
“I don’t know how I caught it,” Bouges said. “I just had to get it.”
The Spartans were concentrating their coverage on Sample, because Spadafino had already connected with him seven times for 164 yards and three touchdowns.
“Most teams double-team [Sample], so we knew they would put a lot more people on him,” Dover coach Dante Jones said. “We knew the middle of the field would be open.”
The Spartans drove 67 yards on the first possession of the game, with Zach Whitehead’s 20-yard touchdown run making it 6-0. The Senators answered with Spadafino’s 66-yard bomb to Sample to take a 7-6 lead with 9:47 left in the second quarter.
“It’s nice to have as many athletes as I get to throw to, and the line that blocks for me,” Spadafino said. “It makes my job a lot easier. All my job is is to put the ball in those guys’ hands and let them make the plays.”
A personal-foul penalty on Dover kept St. Mark’s final drive of the first half alive, and Whitehead hit Connor Eastep with a 10-yard touchdown pass to put the Spartans up 14-7 at the half.
Markquise Normand bolted 30 yards up the middle on a fake punt, then caught an 18-yard scoring pass from Whitehead on the next play to push the St. Mark’s lead to 21-7 with 7:38 left in the third quarter.
Dover came right back with – you guessed it – Spadafino to Sample for a 48-yard score. But the Spartans appeared to salt it away with a long fourth-quarter drive, capped by Jeff Richards’ 39-yard field goal for a 24-14 lead with 7:23 to play.
That didn’t deter Spadafino and Sample, as they hooked up for a 25-yard TD to pull the Senators within 24-21 with 4:58 left. Dover got the ball back with 2:32 remaining, but was facing fourth-and-10 when Spadafino and Bouges found some magic.
Jones was happy with the win, but upset by key penalties and mistakes.
“St. Mark’s is a great team, but we gave them a lot of help. A lot of help,” Jones said. “We’ve got to clean it up. The small things, we’ve got to fix them and we’ve got to fix them quick.”