BY HENRY SHULDINER, SPORTS EDITOR & VAL PEHRSON, STAFF WRITER
The afternoon of October 25, 2014 will go down in the history of DCIAA football as a game to remember. Wilson took on the Warriors of H.D. Woodson for their homecoming game on a balmy Saturday afternoon. Woodson entered the game with a record of seven wins and only one loss, undefeated within the DCIAA Stars division and ranked 16th in the area by The Washington Post. Wilson, on the other hand, entered the game with a record of .500 with four wins and four losses. In addition to their superior record, Woodson had a psychological advantage on the Tigers: H.D. Woodson had never lost to Wilson in a football game. Nonetheless, the Tigers did not let that worry them too much, and when they rushed out of the tunnel at 2:00 p.m., it was clear they were ready to play.
Woodson won the opening coin toss, and elected to receive the ball first. On the first drive of the game, the Tigers experienced a brief scare when linebacker and University of Virginia commit, senior Kareem McDonald, went down with an apparent shoulder injury. However, the Wilson defense held the Warriors offense and forced a turnover on downs. McDonald would return the next time that Woodson possessed the ball and finish the game.
The first quarter was a story of the defenses. Neither team was able to score, despite both offenses having good starting field positions throughout the quarter. Along with their inability to score, both teams turned the ball over within the first 15 minutes of the game; Woodson’s quarterback threw an interception to Wilson sophomore Sean Savoy. Later in the quarter, Wilson’s starting running back junior Abdul Adams coughed up the ball on a poorly timed hand-off. The defenses continued to dominate the game until midway through the second quarter when Tigers quarterback, sophomore Steve Williams, was intercepted by a Woodson defensive back. The Warriors drove the ball down the field, and were able to punch in for a touchdown on a seven yard pass completion. The Warriors netted the extra point and went into halftime leading 7-0.
The second half began the same way as the first, with a lot of defense. Neither team was able to score for the first 10 minutes of the second half. Finally, with five minutes remaining in the period, Woodson running back Marcel Foster increased the Warriors lead to 13 with a 20-yard scamper for a touchdown. Woodson missed the extra point, and gave the Tigers the ball back with 20 minutes left to tie the game.
On the ensuing Tigers drive, a sense of urgency was evident. The Tigers moved the ball well, getting down to HD’s 39 yard line. On the next play, Abdul Adams made up for his earlier turnover by powering through the Warrior’s defense for a 39-yard touchdown. Senior placekicker Liam Walsh made the extra point and Wilson was back in business.
The Tigers defense forced Woodson to punt on the next drive, and with just under a minute left to play in the third quarter, the Tigers offense retook the field. After two plays without much gain, the Tigers faced a third-and-10 with just 15 seconds left to play in the quarter. Williams faked a handoff and threw a deep post to wide receiver, junior Navon Prince, who caught the ball mid-stride and torched the Woodson defense for a game tying 85-yard touchdown catch-and-run as time expired. Wilson botched the extra point on a bad snap, but entered the fourth quarter confident nonetheless.
Once again, the fourth quarter was all about the defenses. Although the Warriors offense appeared to click at times, Wilson’s defense always managed to keep them in check. A pair of late game sacks and a crucial interception by senior Nate Jones with three minutes left to play helped accomplish this.
With time winding down, the Tigers offense retook the field. Williams drove his team down the field, and with under two minutes left to play the Tigers landed on Woodson’s 45 yard line. On a fourth and long, Williams threw a Hail Mary pass to Prince, in the hopes of repeating their earlier success. Prince got slowed down by Woodson’s secondary, and the pass fell incomplete. The Tigers were able to keep Woodson out of the endzone and, as the fourth quarter expired, both teams got ready for overtime.
Wilson won the coin toss for overtime, and elected to defend first. The rules for overtime in DCIAA are that each team gets one possession of the ball, and they start at the twenty yard line. Woodson quarterback Rashad Cooper threw a screen pass caught by Woodson wide receiver for a gain of 18 yards. On the next play, the Warriors would punch in for the touchdown. They elected to kick a field goal, which was successful.
The ball was placed on the 20 yard line again, except Wilson had possession now. The first two downs Wilson did not make much significant progress. On the third down, the Woodson line blitzed hard against Williams, who escaped the pocket and threw an incomplete pass. However, a Woodson linebacker was penalized for roughing the passer, and the Tigers were awarded 15 yards and a first down.
Now with the momentum, Williams knew he had to step up. On the following play, Williams hiked the ball, read the defense once, and suddenly took off for the corner of the endzone. He shook off a Woodson cornerback and charged in for the touchdown.
Head coach Mark Martin was now faced with a difficult decision. Should he elect to go for the extra point and settle for overtime or go for the two-point conversion, with the chance of winning the game right there and then, but also at the risk of losing if it failed? A confident decision by the coach to go for two would prove to be genius.
On the two-point conversion, Williams hiked the ball and fired a bullet to the corner, where Wilson cornerback Sean Savoy caught the ball, both feet in bounds, for the two points. Savoy was placed in the game because of his quickness and ability to run the arrow route, a brilliant decision by the coaching staff. “Coach always told me that big players make big plays,” Savoy said. “[He told Williams] just throw it over there and it’s another big play.”
The fans stormed the field after Savoy’s sensational catch, chanting, screaming, and rushing the team, which surrounded Savoy and Williams. There could not have been a better time for the Tigers to finally defeat the Warriors. “It has always been a goal of ours to beat Woodson,” said senior running back Larry Frazier. “Last year the team worked extremely hard preparing for HD so it was heartbreaking losing to them in the regular season, and even more crushing losing to them in the Turkey Bowl.”
This game marks a change in momentum for Wilson Football, which hopes to make another Turkey Bowl appearance. “If we play like how we played versus HD, then we can make it to the Turkey Bowl,” senior Tyler King said. “We just have to play up to our full potential.”
**Article appeared in the October 2014 issue of the Beacon