ASTON — To say Octorara's Alex Gooden had himself a game would be an understatement.
In the Braves' 37-28 win over Sun Valley, the senior quarterback/defensive back was a terror on both sides of the ball. Offensively he completed seven of 11 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for 104 yards on 13 carries.
Defensively, he was just as good. From his spot in the defensive backfield, Gooden intercepted two passes.
It was just the kind of game that Octorara (1-5, 1-2) coach Jed King knew that Gooden was capable of.
"Alex is the strongest kid on the team and he works just as hard in the weight room as any kid,' said King. "I told him to stop trying to run around people, that he was a strong kid, and he could run them over. Tonight, he did that. He wasn't juking, he wasn't cutting and he's hard to tackle when he goes straight ahead. He threw the ball great tonight, he made plays with his legs, and on defense. He's the heart and soul of this team.'
Gooden, whose running style is more akin to a bruising fullback, admitted that he thinks he's a natural runner, but only made the move to quarterback out of necessity.
"I grew up as a running back, but in eighth grade we didn't have a quarterback for the Middle School team, so I moved over there,' said Gooden. "Running back is my natural position, so playing that way kind of carried over to quarterback.'
The Braves controlled the majority of the game using a mix of Gooden, Jorey Hill (94 yards), and Malik Norris (92) on the ground, while also using Gooden's arm to keep the Vanguards (2-4, 0-3) off-balance.
Corey Cooper's 1-yard scoring run kick started the Braves' offense before Gooden had the play of the night. Gooden broke through Sun Valley's defense, turning away a few potential tacklers in the process, as he sprinted 61 yards for a score and a 14-0 lead.
"We studied the film all week and our offensive line put in the time which helped us find a couple of holes in their defense that we could take advantage of,' Gooden said.
Gooden's run, while tough to stomach for the Vanguards, may have provided a wake-up call. T.J. Mancini pushed his way into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown
With just 19 seconds remaining in the first half, Octorara kicker Nathan Reynolds booted a 36-yard field goal to extend the Braves' lead to 17-7.
"I'm happy,' said King. "We made a lot of mistakes, but we were able to drive the ball consistently and the kids played hard. Now they are finally realizing that they can play this game and when they play with confidence they put themselves in position to win.'
The second half would prove to be a bit of a shootout as the Vanguards opened up their passing attack and Octorara refused to let the potential of its first win slip away.
After the Braves used a 24-yard scoring pass from Gooden to Derrick McHenry and a 57-yard touchdown run by Norris to seemingly put the game away, Sun Valley battled back.
Mancini hit Mike Villano with a 32-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 30-13, but it was the ensuing kickoff that gave the Vanguards life. Sun Valley's Brandon Williams pounced on the onside kick to give Sun Valley the ball right back.
"We played well at the end, but we need to do that at the beginning of the game,' said Mancini, who completed 14 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns. "We hurt ourselves and we lost that game. We need to learn from our mistakes and be able to move on.'
Mancini hit Villano for another touchdown and all of a sudden, it was a ballgame.
"They were playing back and we were able to take advantage of what they were doing,' said Mancini.
The Braves were determined to not let the game slip away and used their punishing rushing attack to power their way down the field for another Cooper touchdown and a commanding 38-21 lead with 42 seconds to play in the game.
Sun Valley had one last drive in it and capitalized as Mancini found Williams for a 25-yard touchdown reception. After the ensuing two-point conversion and onside kick attempt both failed, only then could Octorara breathe deeply and enjoy its first win.