Woodard's late dash lifts West Lafayette
September 9, 2012West Lafayette Jr.-Sr. High School
PHOTOS! PHOTOS! PHOTOS! CHECK THEM OUT! West Lafayette’s Maurice Woodard rushed for 165 yards, the last 44 coming on a hard-fought, twisting gallop that resulted in the winning touchdown with 6.3 seconds left, as the Red Devils beat Benton Central 28-21 at Straley Field Saturday.
Lightning and heavy rain Friday night pushed the game back to its unusual 10 a.m. start time Saturday morning. Both teams struggled through the first half, but perked up with three fourth-quarter touchdowns in a dramatic finish.
“I teach a class the first hour of the morning and some kids aren’t quite awake for that,” West Lafayette coach Marshall Overley said. “It’s tough for high school kids to come out here and turn it on at 10 o’clock in the morning. You have to give it up to Benton Central, though, because they just kept coming and coming.”
West Lafayette, ranked No. 8 in Class A, scored two third-quarter touchdowns, including a 57-yard Woodard touchdown run, to take a 21-6 lead into the fourth quarter. The Bison, riding the arm of Brandon Rooze, fought back.
On its first possession of the fourth quarter, Benton Central drove to the West Side 25 but defensive back Ian McLuckey intercepted Rooze on the Red Devil 18. The Bison’s Nick Fischbach recovered a West Lafayette fumble on the next play, however, giving Benton Central the ball right back on the 9.
Rooze finished the drive two plays later on a touchdown pass to Jacob Stucky with 8:24 left in the game, trimming the deficit to 21-13.
After West Lafayette failed to get a first down, Benton Central took over again at the West Side 49 with 6:34 left. The Bison drove down the field on 10 plays, with Garrett Gray converting a fourth-and-1 at the Red Devils 30 along the way, to set up the tying score.
Rooze connected with Stucky in the end zone again, this time from eight yards out, with 1:58 left in the game. Rooze then found Garrett Gray for the two-point conversion to knot the score at 21-21. The Benton Central quarterback was 14 of 20 for 118 yards in the second half.
“It’s heartbreaking because we fought back so hard,” Rooze said. “But we showed a lot of heart so I can’t be upset. It’s going to give us some motivation next week because this one was so close.”
West Lafayette began its final drive on its own 21, but found itself on the Benton Central 44 with about 15 seconds left in the game with a third-and-15. Woodard took a draw, shook off a couple of tacklers at the line of scrimmage and broke to the right sideline, but instead of going out of bounds, he fought off a couple of other tacklers and broke into the open field and crossed the goal line with time running out.
“I thought we needed a play made so I was first looking to get the first down, then I was able to make it outside,” Woodard said. “At one point I thought about stepping out of bounds because I knew if Brody (Forbes) got a chance to kick he would make it. Then I saw an opening and thought, ‘Let’s try to finish this while we can.’”
Overley said he was impressed not only with the effort, but how many things Woodard had to think about during the scoring play.
“You’re talking about someone who wants the ball and wants to be a leader,” Overley said. “There were so many parts of that run that were impressive. It was a hard run, but he used his speed as well and fought people off. I’m interested in looking at the film to see just how many tackles he broke.”
Benton Central coach Doug Nelson said it was a disappointing end to an otherwise impressive comeback by Benton Central. Nelson said, though, that his team learned lessons it can take with them the rest of the season.
“I’m so proud of each and every player the way we fought back,” Nelson said. “I can’t ask for anything more from them. We had some poor tackling at the end, but I don’t think they outschemed us. I can’t say enough about our team. I think we’re really close and we’re going to be fine.”
West Lafayette took a 7-0 lead when quarterback Parker Ronchetto connected with Ben Griggs on a 15-yard touchdown with 37.5 left before halftime. Benton Central answered in the third quarter on Rooze’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Trevor Featherston at the 6:38 mark. The Bison, though, missed the extra point.
Woodard scored on a 57-yard run on the second play of West Lafayette’s next possession and Ronchetto found Griggs again on a 33-yard scoring pass with 2:35 left in the third quarter for a 21-6 edge.
“It’s always tough playing in the morning but that shouldn’t be an excuse,” said West Side lineman John Duvall, who helped the Red Devils slow down Benton Central’s running game while opening up holes for Woodard. “We know what it takes to win and what it takes to get the ball downfield. We believe in our team and we believe we can win in any situation.”