On the first day of football practice back in August, Douglass coach Willis Alexander started the process of finding a field goal kicker — not traditionally a position of strength for the Trojans.
“We said, ‘whoever thinks they can kick, come kick,'” Alexander recalled.
Dameko Doddles, who had never attempted a field goal before that day, ultimately won the job.
And on Friday night, he became a hero.
Doddles made a 22-yard field goal with 8 seconds left to give the Trojans a 24-21 win over Tulsa Washington at Moses Miller Stadium.
“Coach Alexander asked me if I could make it, and I wasn't sure, but I was gonna try,” Doddles said. “I just did what I do at practice every day, and it went through.”
Alexander admits he hesitated to send his new kicker into that situation. But after a pregame speech in which he told his players they needed to trust each other, Alexander decided he needed to trust them, too.
“There was a little hesitation for me,” Alexander said of calling on Doddles to kick the game-winner. “But the kids said, ‘Hey coach, this is what we work on.' They believed. As a coach, I have to learn how to trust them. When my players say they can get it done, I have to trust that they can get it done.”
Moments earlier, Alexander put his trust in sophomore quarterback Patrick McKaufman and senior receiver Isaiah Shaputis. Facing fourth-and-14 from the Tulsa Washington 35-yard line, the two connected when Shaputis made a one-handed grab of McKaufman's pass and broke a tackle for a 22-yard gain.
“It was fourth and I don't know how much, but I knew I had to step up and make a play. That's what my coach wanted me to do,” Shaputis said. “I worked hard to become the player I am now, and that was my chance to show what I can be.”
Shaputis had four catches for 55 yards and McKaufman finished 6-of-10 for 65 yards. He was 3-of-3 for 51 yards — all to Shaputis — on the game-winning drive.
“Isaiah has come a long way,” Alexander said. “He's been in our program and it's his time now. Sometimes, you've got to wait your turn, and when your time comes, it's your moment, and you've got to make the most of your moment. I'm happy for that young man.”
The Trojans had three impressive scoring drives in the second half, after totaling just 10 yards from scrimmage in the first half.
Deondre Clark, Douglass' 240-pound defensive end and LSU commit, showed that he's a force from the tailback spot, too. He had 71 yards and two touchdowns, including a 46-yard burst that showed his pure athletic ability. Brandon Gaddis added 98 yards on 19 carries.
Tulsa Washington quarterback Cordale Grundy was 15-of-25 for 256 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Hornets back from a 21-7 deficit with 7:38 to go. But he faced constant pressure from Douglass in the second half. In all, he was sacked five times.
“This is a huge win for us — I can't even express it. My heart is jumping out right now,” Shaputis said. “Coming back from last year with a loss, we redeemed ourselves. We're trying to get better every day, working for next week. We believed in each other — in our coaches and everybody else.”