HICKORY FLAT -- Closing out a season that had been a little lean in the win column, Friday night nearly ended with another tale of the one that got away for the Woodland Wildcats. Senior signal caller R.J. Williams, however, made sure that was not the case.
After the Wildcats squandered away a 13-point, second-quarter lead and trailed midway through the third, Williams orchestrated a pair of long scoring drives over the final 15 minutes of play to lead Woodland to a season-ending, 39-27 victory over the homestanding Sequoyah Chiefs.
"He started the year fantastic and had his ups and downs during the season, but he ended it on a great note," Wildcats head coach Vince DiLorenzo said of Williams, who finished with 141 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries and completed 13-of-25 attempts for 170 yards and two scores. "I'm real pleased [with the win]. Sequoyah has a real good football team. It was punch and counter-punch all night, and Sequoyah never quit.
"It's nice to end the year with a win."
Down 27-26 following a 19-yard touchdown run by Chiefs' junior standout Blake Ingleton with 6:36 remaining in the third, the 'Cats went three-and-out on the ensuing series. The defense, however, responded to force Sequoyah into a short series of its own and put the ball back into Williams' hands on the 50 a little more than 3 minutes later.
And that's when the senior quarterback went to work, as he complemented a few short runs with a 12-yard completion to senior Xavier Niblett and an 8-yard hookup with Deo Adams to set up a 2-yard touchdown run by senior Shelby Townsend on the first play of the fourth quarter. Capping the scoring drive, Will Broome banged home the extra point for a 33-27 advantage.
Just as they had done all night, Sequoyah continued to battle back, quickly moving to midfield with a 19-yard blast by Ingleton. But after the Woodland defense dropped Chiefs' back Stuart Glassic for a 5-yard loss and limited a completion from Lex Lauletta to Obie Myers to just two yards on third-and-long to force a punt, Williams and the offense took back over on their own 37.
Looking to put the game away, the 'Cats began marching upfield with a 7-yard pass to Niblett and five carries for 16 yards to the Chiefs' 40. Despite the strong start, the drive was in jeopardy after Williams threw an incompletion and was then dropped for a 10-yard loss by Sequoyah's Mitchell Smith. Facing an improbable third-and-20, Williams went back to the air, unleashing a 35-yard pass to Adams, who leaped to make the catch, had the ball popped out by a Sequoyah defender, and finally hauled in the reception as he hit the ground. Four plays later, Williams found Adams for a 4-yard scoring strike with 3:53 left to play.
"That catch Deo Adams made, that was the game-winner," DiLorenzo said of the 35-yarder that kept the Wildcats' 13-play, 63-yard scoring drive alive. "He's another one that's had his ups and downs this year. He hurt his ankle, but came out [Friday], after not practicing all week, and played a game he'll always remember."
Breathing a little hope back into his team, Ingleton bowled through several Woodland defenders on the third play of the ensuing possession for a 31-yard gain to the Wildcats' 28, only to watch 'Cats junior defensive back Jacob Chastain seal the Chiefs' fate by intercepting Lauletta one play later.
The win snapped a four-game losing skid and closed out Woodland's 2011 campaign with a 4-6 mark, though DiLorenzo said there was more to the Wildcats' season than their final record.
"This team was different from 4-6," said DiLorenzo, whose squad suffered three losses by eight points or less. "Our fans know that this team was exciting to watch all year, and it was always a show and always close. The people that came out to watch us got their money's worth. We hate it that we didn't make the playoffs and hate it that we didn't do better, but we have nothing to hang our heads about."
Just as he ended the evening, Williams began the night strong, leading Woodland into the end zone on each of its first two possessions.
Following a defensive stand to start the game, Williams highlighted a nine-play, 76-yard scoring drive with a 29-yard completion to sophomore Qua Stocks on the second play of the series. Seven plays later, Townsend, who carried the ball 16 times for 51 yards, banged his way across the goal line from two yards out for his first of two scores.
Sequoyah answered right back, scoring on a 42-yard touchdown run by Ingleton, but trailed 7-6 after missing the extra point.
Continuing the scoring surge, the Wildcats needed just six plays to push their lead back to seven, 13-6, on a 30-yard run by Williams, and extended their edge to 19-6 early in the second quarter on a 28-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Mason Robinson to Josh Young. Robinson, who had entered the game following an injury to Williams, took two snaps under center, breaking off a 17-yard run on the first snap, and finding Young for the score on the second.
Although momentum was on its side -- even more so after blocking a 21-yard field goal attempt by Sequoyah midway through the second quarter -- Woodland's next two possessions ended with an interception and a quick punt. That allowed the Chiefs to battle back to claim their first lead of the night with a 14-yard touchdown run by Glassic, before Lauletta hit Glassic on a 17-yard scoring strike just before intermission.
The Region 7-AAAA rivals then traded scores to open the second half, as Williams found Adams from 34 yards out and Ingleton followed up a 44-yard Lauletta to Glassic completion with a 19-yard touchdown run for a 27-26 Sequoyah lead.
But it was all Williams and the Wildcats from there, as Woodland possessed the ball for 13:10 minutes of the final 18:36 of play.
Highlighted by his pair of touchdown grabs, Adams registered a game-high seven catches for 103 yards, while Niblett caught four balls for 37 yards, and Stocks (one catch) and Young (two catches) had 29 yards each.
Each cracking the century mark for Sequoyah, Ingleton rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries and Myers had 104 yards on eight touches. Glassic finished with 90 total yards and two scores.
WOODLAND 39, SEQUOYAH 27
WHS 13 6 7 13 -- 39
SHS 6 14 7 0 -- 27
W: Shelby Townsend 2 run (Will Broome kick)
S: Blake Ingleton 42 run (kick failed)
W: R.J. Williams 30 run (kick failed)
W: Mason Robinson 28 pass Josh Young (kick blocked)
S: Stuart Glassic 14 run (James Harris kick)
S: Lex Lauletta 17 pass Glassic (Harris kick)
W: Williams 34 pass Deo Adams (Broome kick)
S: Ingleton 19 run (Harris kick)
W: Townsend 2 run (Broome kick)
W: Williams 3 pass Adams (run failed)
75 Plays 46
24 First Downs 13
46/230 Rush Att/Yds 30/262
14/26 Att/Comp 5/12
198 Pass Yds 83
428 Total Yds 345
2/1 Fumbles/Lost 1/1
1 Interceptions 2
3/27.0 Punts 3/25.0
Rushing -- S: Blake Ingleton 11-144, Obie Myers 8-104, Stuart Glassic 7-29, Lex Lauletta 4-(-15); W: R.J. Williams 23-141, Shelby Townsend 16-51, Mason Robinson 3-23, Josh Young 4-15.
Passing -- S: Lauletta 5-12-83-1-2; W: Williams 13-25-170-2-1, Robinson 1-1-28-1-0.
Receiving -- S: Glassic 2-61, Frank Ibar 1-16, Coleman VanDyke 1-4, Myers 1-2; W: Deo Adams 7-103, Xavier Niblett 4-37, Young 2-29, Qua Stocks 1-29.