Woodland was outscored 18-0 in the second half, and the Bobcats lost a crucial region contest to Winterboro, 25-15, Friday in their final home game of the regular season.
Woodland entered the game needing a win to create a three-way tie for first place in the region and keep its hopes alive for a region championship. For two and a half quarters it looked like the Bobcats would do just that as they held a 15-7 halftime lead and put together a third-quarter drive deep into Winterboro territory.
But the tide began to turn after Woodland was stopped on a fourth-and-short play from the Winterboro 16-yard line on that drive. Winterboro turned the ensuing possession into a touchdown on a 55-yard pass play later in the quarter to cut the Woodland lead to 15-13.
That turn of events seemed to energize the Winterboro squad, and the visiting Bulldogs never relinquished the momentum after that.
“Momentum switched over to their side. That’s the game of football,” said Woodland head coach Blair Armstrong. “You watch it on Saturdays and Sundays, it’s the same thing. It’s hard to predict it until it happens, so I don’t know. I thought we played well in the second half, but not well enough to win.”
Throughout the five-game win streak that Woodland carried into Friday’s contest, the Bobcats were often the better second-half team, using their pounding run game to wear teams down and the pull away at the end.
But Winterboro stymied that formula with three second-half interceptions of Woodland quarterback Brock Edwards, two of which set up short fields for the Bulldogs and led to the decisive touchdowns.
That second half surge by Winterboro overshadowed a huge first half for Woodland’s Dalton Bolan.
Bolan had touchdown runs of 11 and 37 yards to help Woodland dig out of an early 7-0 hole. He tied the game on that 11-yarder with 4:50 left in the second quarter. That play capped a vintage Woodland drive that lasted 11 plays, spanned 63 yards and ate up almost six and a half minutes of game clock.
But Bolan wasn’t done with his dominance of the second quarter. He picked off Winterboro quarterback Christopher Travis on the Bulldogs’ next possession to give Woodland good field position with under three minutes to go. Four plays later he took an inside handoff and broke free down the sideline for a 37-yard touchdown that put Woodland up 15-7.
But that was all the points that Woodland would end up with, and Winterboro’s defense of Edwards was a big part of that. Edwards came into the game with 840 rushing yards through eight games and was averaging almost nine yards per carry.
Winterboro kept him mostly contained to the tune of 52 yards on 15 carries, a 3.5 yard-per-carry average.
“They’re real good on the edge, rushing. So they didn’t give him a lot of the room that he needed on the inside. They were falling off and coming around,” Armstrong said. “Their technique was good.”
That left the majority of the workload on Parker Woodham’s shoulders, and he was up to the task, finishing with 152 yards on 29 carries. But Woodland’s forte has been to pound the interior with Woodham in order to set up Edwards with big plays on the outside, and those big plays just never materialized for the Woodland quarterback.
Woodland fell behind early after Winterboro blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown in the first quarter.
“We didn’t play as well as we would have liked to play,” Armstrong said. “We gave up that cheap touchdown early on the blocked punt. But we’ll get better. We’ve done way more than anybody ever expected, and I think our kids are just really disappointed right now because they really thought they could beat them. And we played well enough to, at times, just not when it counted.”
The win gives Winterboro the region title, its first since 2011. Ragland finishes as the No. 2 seed, while Woodland drops to third with the loss.
That puts Woodland in a first-round playoff game on the road at Waterloo in the far northwest corner of the state on the other side of the Tennessee River. That game will take place Nov. 6.
Woodland will look to regain its mojo in its regular season finale against Horseshoe Bend Friday.