Robert Woodyard touched the football five times on offense Thursday night at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, scoring three times, in leading Williamson to a close 26-23 Class 4A, Region 1 victory over previously unbeaten St. Michael.
Woodyard, an Alabama commit as a linebacker, showed his value on the other side of the ball against the Cardinals, catching a 10-yard scoring pass in the first period, scoring on a 50-yard, tackle-breaking run in the second quarter and on a 10-yard run around left end in the third quarter. The two other plays were a run for no yards and what would have been a touchdown pass that was caught out of the end zone the play prior to the first-quarter scoring catch.
The victory evens No. 9-ranked Williamson’s record at 2-2 overall. The Lions are 1-0 on Region 1 play. St. Michael, ranked No. 10 this week, the school’s first-ever ranking in football, is now 2-1 overall and 1-1 in region action. Williamson plays W.S. Neal at Ladd-Peebles Stadium next Friday while the Cardinals travels to Escambia County for their first Friday night game of the year. Both are Region 1 matchups.
“Very tough,” Williamson head coach Melvin Pete Jr. said after the win. “I think I told you guys that I thought I was in the SEC when I first took the job and it is. We’re proud right now but we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
As to Woodyard’s performance and the balance of using him on offense and defense, Pete said, “Honestly, we have to keep a gauge on how many plays we use him,” he said.
Pete said his team relies on its defensive play and the defense came up with turnovers and stops in the red zone. An interception by Tyrek Gaines on the game’s first play from scrimmage set the Lions up at the St. Michael 11 and led to the Woodyard TD catch from quarterback Daniel Miller on fourth down with Woodyard making a good catch of a low pass. The point-after try failed.
St. Michael bounced back late in the first period with a 15-yard scoring pass on third and 13 to William Ford. The point-after kick put St. Michael in front 7-6. Early in the second period Ford caught a 13-yard scoring pass from Murphy and a great pass and catch in the corner of the end zone. The Cardinals went for two but did not convert.
With 5:54 left in the first half, Woodyard broke away on his 50-yard scoring run. The two-point try failed, leaving St. Michael ahead 13-12. A Williamson interception gave the Lions a scoring opportunity in the waning moments of the half but Tyler Cella intercepted a Williamson pass in the end zone on the final play of the second period.
Woodyard’s 10-yard scoring run made it 18-13 and St. Michael added a 22-yard field goal to make the score 18-16 in favor of the Lions, who made it 26-16 with 8:09 left to play when Miller scored on a 2-yard run up the middle and added a two-point conversion run.
The Cardinals scored on a bizarre play when a Williamson punt out of its own end zone went straight up in the air and was caught by St. Michael’s Justin Helper for a touchdown. The point-after made it 26-23. The Cardinals hoped to stop Williamson and get the ball back with a chance to tie or win the game, but Jahkobe Shaw, who Pete called the “heart” of the team, reeled off a 17-yard run on a third-and-17 play to give the Lions a first down, allowing him to simply run out the remaining time on the clock. Shaw rushed for 186 yards on the night.
St. Michael’s Philip Rivers, who lost for the first time as a head coach, said after the game, “It was a heck of a ball game, it really was, we just made too many mistakes. We made some mistakes last week, but we only had one turnover.
“… We didn’t play well enough to win. That’s all I know. … They’re a good bunch; they won the region last year. … We’re 2-1. We said before the game this game wasn’t the end all, be all. We’ve got a long journey ahead. This would have been good to get it, but this is our first experience together losing. … We’ll learn and we’ll see how we bounce back next week, but we’ve got a long way to go.”
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