By Daniel Whitehead
BUENA VISTA, Va.—The Southern Virginia University football team took advantage of three interceptions and two fumble recoveries to defeat the visiting Bluefield College Rams by a 44-18 score Saturday afternoon at Robert E. Williams Field in Buena Vista, Va.
Freshman Justin Gonzales recorded two picks with 54 return yards and Grant Darrington earned the other interception while Colter Evans and Jamal Coates each had fumble recoveries to lead the Knights, who improved to 5-2 with the victory.
"These young men are a blessing to coach," said Southern Virginia head coach DeLane Fitzgerald. "They show up every day wanting to get better. No matter what time of day we meet, they show up wanting to get better. One of our team mottos is that in victory there is enough glory for everyone. Offensively, Andy Jones had a great game and Michael Goering really stepped up. Steven Scott was impressive out there running the ball and Jamal Coates did a little bit of everything.
"Defensively, our guys were running to the football. Keaton Epps and Matthew Gregory had big games. As for Justin Gonzales, if you need to find him out on the field, just look for the football. On special teams, Davis Cragun once again pulled us through and Epps does a great job as our snapper getting the ball to where it needs to be."
On the third play of the Rams' opening possession, quarterback Joshua Erby fumbled the ball at their own 19-yard line, which was picked up by Evans at the Bluefield 20-yard line.
Working with a short field, Southern Virginia quarterback Andy Jones led the Knights on a five-play drive that ended with a five yard touchdown reception to Michael Goering to give Southern Virginia an early 7-0 lead at the 11:12 mark of the first quarter.
On the ensuing Bluefield possession, Darrington earned his interception after the ball was tipped by Gregory and landed in his arms to give the Knights another short field to work with at the Rams' 41-yard line. The Knights advanced to Bluefield's 14-yard line, where freshman Davis Cragun converted his first of three field goals on the day with a 31-yarder to lift Southern Virginia to a 10-lead.
Up 13-6 with only moments before halftime, Darrington blocked a Bluefield punt that was recovered by Sam Mellor at the Rams' 15-yard line with just 29 seconds before intermission. Jones quickly connected with receiver Dee Sanford on a 15-yard route for a score to put the Knights up 19-6.
Bluefield took the field with 25 seconds before the half and was quickly intercepted on their first play by Gonzales at their own 40-yard line that was returned to the 25-yard line. Jones connected with Goering for a two-yard pass before going back to him for a 23-yard touchdown reception with just two seconds before halftime to give the Knights a commanding 27-6 lead at the break.
After a 34-yard Cragun field goal, Steven Scott scored on two separate short-yard scampers in the fourth quarter to give Southern Virginia the final victory tally of 44-18.
The Knights finished with 260 total yards of offense and converted six of eight chances in the red zone to capitalize on their multiple short fields to work with following Bluefield turnovers. Scott earned 91 yards on the ground on 22 carries, while Jones finished 11-for-18 passing and three touchdown passes. Through the air, Sanford had 58 reception yards on five catches while Goering finished with 39 on four grabs.
Defensively, Matthew Gregory led the way with 11 tackles (7 solo, 4 assisted) with Zach Englert providing nine (3 solo, 6 assisted). Dakoda Winsor had eight total takedowns, while Colter Evans, Robert Crews and Robert Robbins each had seven tackles.
The Knights next compete Saturday, Nov. 2, on the road for a rubber match at The Apprentice School. Southern Virginia defeated the Shipbuilders last week at home by a 34-7 score. The game is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. in Newport News, Va.