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Dukes Rally To Pick Up First Win

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Early on in its James River District opener at Randolph-Henry, the Cumberland High School football team probably felt it shouldn't have made the trip. It took only minutes for the Dukes to spot the Statesmen a three score lead.

Near their breaking point, however, the Dukes managed to shut down the Statesmen and rally to a 34-20 victory.

“It was a scary first quarter,” said David Sullivan, who recorded his first career victory as a head coach. “They may as well have put 20 on the board before we got off the bus. That's how quickly they scored.”

The Statesmen scored on their opening possession, after Cumberland (1-3, 1-0 JRD) fumbled the ball on the ensuing kickoff, and on a punt return for a touchdown. Midway through the first quarter, R-H was sitting on a 20-0 lead.

Maybe the speed at which Randolph-Henry (0-4, 0-1 JRD) scored kept Cumberland in the game, but Sullivan sensed that despite his team's three-score deficit the team was still in the game.

“I didn't see their heads dropping,” said Sullivan. “They picked each other up. We regrouped and everything was upbeat.”

Cumberland managed to cut R-H's lead to 20-14 by halftime. A long run by TJ Ford and a second touchdown by Justus Dowdy after the Dukes recovered a fumble made the gap manageable at the break.

Dowdy tied the game in the third quarter on a 24-yard run, and tied at 20, the Dukes took control of the game with two time consuming drives in the fourth quarter.

Ford scored on a 30-yard touchdown run, and put the game out of reach on a two-yard run on the Dukes' next drive.

“It was a good game,” said Sullivan. “Hard to watch at the beginning, but it was good to see our guys come together and pull themselves up off the mat.

“It was an emotional win, and a much needed one. Not only for the team, but the school and community as well.”

Ford led the Dukes with 115 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries, while Dowdy picked up 87 yards and scored twice on nine touches. He also led the defense with 11 total tackles and seven assists. Dione Booker had three catches for 67 yards. The Dukes totaled 332 yards of offense.

The three also combined for 160 yards of kick/punt return yards.

“We had most of our success on the ground. We had to soften them up on the edge, but once we did, it allowed us to open up the middle.

“We won, but we still have a lot to work on. We had three turnovers in their red zone in the second half. And you can't spot teams 20 points and expect to come back to get the win. Randolph-Henry has some good athletes, and their coaches do a good job, but I think we were able to overwhelm them by coming back the way we did.”

Cumberland will host Central of Lunenburg for homecoming on Friday night.

“Central may be the best team we've faced to date,” said Sullivan. “They have a unique offense that is hard to replicate in practice.”

Central runs a double-wing, but Sullivan said that the Chargers have added some new wrinkles.

“They can also spread you out, and they'll do it in the middle of the series. One play they'll be tight, and the next, they'll be spread.

“Coming off a win, we should be up for it, but you always have concerns over the distractions of homecoming. This group, I hope, is different. They seem to be more concerned about the football side of things.”