It wasn't a happy ending for the Woodland Bobcats Friday night, but after the emotion of Friday's 26-16 season-ending loss to Berry subsides, it will definitely go down as one of the happiest seasons Woodland has had in a long time.
The Bobcats fell behind 20-8 late in the third quarter and were never able to come up with a defensive stop when they needed it against a physical Berry offense.
The three-headed Berry running attack of Trent Smith, Deason Nichols and Johnathan Locke kept the ball moving almost all night for the Wildcats, who punted just once in the game.
Smith set the tone early with a 57-yard run on the first offensive play of the game for Berry. That set up the first touchdown of the contest, a 5-yard touchdown run by Locke that put Berry ahead 8-0.
Woodland recovered quickly, however, and answered with an 11-play, 76-yard drive that ended with Parker Woodham's 1-yard scoring dive to tie things up at 8-8.
A 6-yard touchdown run by Smith put Berry ahead 14-8 just before halftime, and Woodland would never get any closer than four points behind after that.
Both teams moved the ball with methodical efficiency on offense. In fact, Woodland never punted in the game. But the difference in the contest was Berry's ability to finish drives with touchdowns, while Woodland stalled out three separate times deep in Berry territory.
In the first half Woodland saw one possession die at the 23-yard line, and another at the 28-yard line. Then late in the game, trailing 26-16 and in desperate need of a score to keep its hopes alive, Woodland reached first-and-goal from the 10-yard line before ultimately turning it over on downs at the 14.
The deciding drive in the game turned out to be Berry's opening possession of the second half. The Wildcats opened with a 14-play drive that covered 61 yards and dissolved almost nine minutes off the third quarter clock.
Smith bowled his way into the end zone from 1-yard out with 3:02 left to play in the quarter to put Berry ahead 20-8.
Woodland answered once again, with Brock Edwards capping a 10-play drive with a 2-yard touchdown run on fourth down to cut the lead to 20-16 early in the fourth quarter.
But Berry got a long kickoff return and started the next drive at the Woodland 23-yard line. The Wildcats needed just three plays to cover that distance, and Smith once again provided the exclamation point with a 10-yard score to build the lead back to 10 points.
Smith finished with 131 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries, while Locke (13 carries, 83 yards) and Nichols (7 carries, 52 yards) rounded out the Berry running attack.
Woodland's big three was almost as impressive. Edwards led all rushers with 141 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Parker Woodham added 61 yards and a score on 19 tough carries. And Dalton Bolan ran for 29 yards on six carries.
The loss ends Woodland's program-reviving season with a record of 8-4. The Bobcats registered their first winning record and first postseason appearance since 2014 and ended a streak of five straight seasons in which they managed three or fewer wins each year. Both Edwards and Woodham finished with over 1,000 rushing yards apiece after Woodland had not had a single 1,000-yard rusher since 2012.
Handley 42, Montevallo 13
Tae Meadows rushed for 162 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries, and Evan Cofield threw three touchdown passes for Handley as the Tigers advanced to the third round of the playoffs for the first time since 2016 with a road win over Montevallo.
Handley will return home for round three where they will host Bibb County, which defeated Anniston 29-28 Friday night.
Clay Central 28, Andalusia 21
The Vols overcame a 21-14 deficit in the third quarter to rally to their 12th straight playoff win, at home against Andalusia Friday. Central will travel to Mobile next week to take on St. Paul's in round three.
Look for full coverage of all three of these playoff games and a preview of Handley's and Central's third round matchups in next week's print edition of the Randolph Leader.