Damian Goldsberry could get used to this – and chances are he’s going to get plenty of chances to do so.
The Empire sophomore announced his arrival in high school Friday with a 201-yard, seven-touchdown performance – in one half – as the Bulldogs trounced outmanned Grandfield, 54-0, for a homecoming victory at Rick Johnson Memorial Field.
Goldsberry scored on the third play from scrimmage and then ended the game with an interception return for a touchdown as the buzzer sounded to in the first half.
Between those two touchdowns, the Empire recipe consisted of a dash of Goldsberry here, a smidge of Goldsberry there, and a heaping helping of a slicing and dicing Goldsberry everywhere.
By the time he’d finished, Goldsberry had taken more than half of his touches to “the house” and had set the table for Empire’s third 45-point-rule victory of the season. The Bulldogs are now 3-1 and will travel to Wilson next week.
“Goldsberry looked good tonight,” third-year Empire head coach Brant Hayes said. “He played a lot of defense for us last year. He’s getting his chance on offense this year, and he’s starting to get it. He’s starting to understand. He’s part of a good sophomore group that includes (quarterback Gabe) Diaz. We have some skill players who are coming.”
The youth movement was on display Friday. Freshman Easton Beck started behind center for Diaz, who was nursing a sore ankle. Either Beck or Goldsberry accounted for every Empire touchdown. Goldsberry rushed for five scores and caught one touchdown pass. Beck threw another touchdown pass to senior McRay Weber.
Goldsberry averaged 18 yards per carry and scored on runs of 33, 26, 13, 40, and 48 yards. He caught one pass for a 37-yard touchdown.
“I’ve never had a game like that, unless it was in junior high,” Goldsberry said. “I didn’t know they were going to come to me that often, but they did. I see a gap and I take it.”
Beck made good on his opportunity to start in Diaz’s spot. The freshman connected on five of nine pass attempts for 82 yards and two touchdowns. He did not throw an interception.
Empire dominated the first quarter and put the game out of reach early. The Bulldogs held Grandfield to zero net yards and gained 153 of their own. Goldsberry took the third snap of the game 33 yards down the right boundary and made his first visit to the end zone with less than a minute gone in the game. Beck ran for the two-point conversion to give Empire an early 8-0 lead.
Less than six minutes later, Beck thew to Goldsberry in the right flat. Goldsberry raced down the boundary untouched for a 37-yard touchdown. Beck ran for another two-point conversion to give Empire a 16-0 lead at the 5:42 mark of the first quarter.
On the Bulldogs’ next series, Beck thew to Weber on a post route for a 24-yard touchdown and give Empire a 22-0 lead at the end of the period.
Empire didn’t slow down in the second quarter. Goldsberry capped the Bulldogs’ first drive of the second period by catching a pitch out from Beck on an option right and racing 26 yards to the end zone. Beck passed to Weber for the two-point conversion, and Empire lead 30-0 with 11:08 left in the half.
Grandfield stalled on its next drive and lost six yards on fourth-and-36 to give Empire the ball deep in the red zone. Goldsberry scored on a 13-yard run with 7:44 left in the half.
Beck and Goldsberry worked the option game on the Bulldogs’ next series. After Beck threw to Weber for a 12-yard gain on first down, he pitched the ball to Goldsberry on an option right. Goldsberry made one guy miss and raced 40 yards to the end zone to give Empire a 42-0 lead at the 5:50 mark.
Sophomore William McMahan recovered an onside kick for Empire, and Goldsberry ran 48 yards down the right side one play later and stopped for his next to the last visit to the end zone.
With the final seconds ticking down, Grandfield elected to snap the ball on fourth down. Goldsberry intercepted a desperation heave and returned it about 55 yards, weaving in and out of traffic, to close the scoring.
Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. Sept. 24 at Wilson High School as the Empire Bulldogs looking to improve the record to 4-1 on the season.