It took six games for Robinson and the rest of the Wildcats to figure things out, but the Wildcats have now won their last three games after beating Hiram 28-23 Friday night at Woodland High to improve to 3-6 on the season.
“We fought, scratched and clawed, and found a way to win,” Woodland head coach Vince DiLorenzo said. “I’ve learned a lot of things this year, but I’m proud of the coaches who keep coaching and proud of the players who keep playing.”
Robinson struggled with the transition from playing primarily wide receiver to becoming a winning quarterback. He seemed to figure the position out on Friday as he used his athletic ability to rush for 159 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries against Hiram.
“It took me a minute to figure out what was going on,” Robinson said. “Now, I’m starting to get it and it’s starting to become second nature to me.”
“Mason needed some time, plus we were playing six of the best teams in the region,” DiLorenzo said of the 0-6 start to the season. “[Robinson] has become so much of a leader in practice, in the weight room, on the field that I’m just so proud that he stuck with it when times got tough. The team needed him.”
The Wildcats fell into an early deficit when Hiram scored 14 unanswered points. The Hornets’ first touchdown came on a 63-yard touchdown pass on their first possession facing a third-and-7.
Woodland gave up another long pass play in the first quarter that led to Hiram’s second touchdown of the game.
“I’m a little upset that we did give up some long plays, but we didn’t give up and our guys made a lot of great plays, too,” DiLorenzo said.
The Wildcats responded midway through the third quarter when senior running back Quadre Allen ran six yards off right tackle to put Woodland on the board. Robinson ran for 40 of the 60 yards on the drive, while Mackenzie Borge had an important 11-yard run on a third-and-9 to keep the drive alive in Woodland territory.
The score put Woodland down just seven points heading into halftime.
Woodland’s defense stepped up in the second half. On Hiram’s first possession of the second half, junior linebacker Khalil Morris tipped a Hiram pass, which was corralled by Jarvis James for an interception.
Robinson wasted no time taking advantage of the turnover by running 77 yards on a quarterback keeper to tie the game on Woodland’s first play in the half.
“I just saw Isaiah [Ross] blowing through there as the F-back and I just followed him the whole way and got as much yards as I could,” Robinson said.
Hiram found its offensive rhythm the next possession and drove 51 yards, settling for a field goal to make the score 17-14 in favor of the Hornets. Ross made two tackles during the final three downs and made four tackles on the drive to hold Hiram to a field goal. He finished with 11 tackles on the game.
Woodland received a break on the next drive when, after being forced to punt, the Hiram punt returner had the ball go through his hands, creating a fumble. The ball bounced off several players trying to recover the ball and was pushed back nearly 40 yards until eventually winding up in Morris’ hands at the 1-yard line. Allen punched it in from there to give Woodland its first lead at 21-17.
Two sacks during Hiram’s next possession by Damek Lewis and Jermel Lewis gave the Wildcats the ball back entering the fourth quarter. The sack was one of nine tackles Jermel Lewis had in the game.
Woodland would score five plays later when Robinson connected with Borge for a 25-yard touchdown completion to extend the team’s lead to 28-17. Borge caught the ball and was immediately hit at around the 10-yard line. He bounced off the tackle and ran the remaining yards for the score.
“That play he made, the last touchdown we had, I had called something else, but he read the open receiver and, really, that wasn’t where I wanted him to throw,” DiLorenzo said of the touchdown pass. “He knew it was open and he made a great throw. Mackenzie made a great catch, but that’s Mason understanding the play and making the right call. I’m so proud of him.”
Hiram responded on its next possession with an 11-play, 65-yard drive for a touchdown to bring the lead to 28-23 after failing on the two-point conversion attempt. Once again, Woodland gave up two long passing plays of 30 and 23 yards to allow the score. The 23-yard completion was on third-and-5.
The Wildcats’ offense would then go three-and-out, giving Hiram a chance to win with nearly 3:30 remaining in the game. However, Woodland’s defense came up with the biggest stop of the night to force Hiram into a three-and-out and a punt.
“The defense has been playing great all year and we haven’t give them much help and we’ve even able to give them help that last couple of weeks,” DiLorenzo said. “They just keep playing hard and they just keep getting better. The defense is so much better than anytime I’ve been here.”
Woodland’s offense did not get a first down in its next possession. However, with less than one minute remaining in the game, Hiram was unable to find the end zone and actually was stopped at the Wildcats’ 8-yard line to preserve the victory.
“I had confidence in them and I knew they were going to come out and play as hard as they can and whatever happened was going to happen,” DiLorenzo said. “I knew these guys were going to do the very best they could and I’m proud of them.”Morris was the leading tackler with 15. Allen ran for 48 yards on 15 carries, including his two touchdowns.
The Wildcats will now look to finish the season strong as they welcome 5-4 Rome in the final game of the season.