BECKLEY — The last seven weeks for Woodrow Wilson football have been a tough stretch with some heartbreaking losses.
Friday night, after leading the game from the opening kick, the Flying Eagles stared down another heartbreaking loss in the waning seconds against Class AAA No. 14 George Washington at Van Meter Stadium. Zach Weaver and the Woodrow defense was not going to let happen again.
On fourth-and-8 just inside the the red zone, Patriots All-State quarterback Grant Wells fired the ball on a out route just beyond the sticks. Weaver came flying in to knock the ball down and preserve a wild 38-35 win for Woodrow.
“They could have quit, but right there they learned how to win and it meant something to them,” Woodrow coach Street Sarrett said. “I know they were tired, but they played through it and got tough. There are tough kids here.”
The game plan for Woodrow Wilson was no secret. Possess the football and keep George Washington’s high powered offense off the field. But the key to that success for Woodrow came in a change in the offense for this week’s game.
“Last week our offense didn’t do anything and I have always been a guy that liked to run the wing-T,” Sarrett said. “I have been here for 20 years with coach [Pete] Culicerto and John H. Lilly and I learned a little wing-T stuff from them. Our middle school, Beckley-Stratton .. run the same offense and the kids knew it. We put it in on Monday and there you go.”
The Flying Eagles offense responded and pounded the Patriots from the initial snap. Seven plays covered 68 yards on the first drive, which was capped by Aiden Shehan’s 3-yard run for a 7-0 lead.
Woodrow then caught GW off guard when a pooch kick could not be handled. Woodrow Wilson recovered the loose ball and went back on the march. Logan Cook pushed the lead to 14-0 with a 13-yard run with 6:29 to play in the quarter and the home team was rolling.
Cook added a second score late in the second quarter to give the Flying Eagles a 21-7 lead at the break, but Sarrett knew the game was far from over.
“[Wells] is the best best quarterback in the state,” Sarrett said. “I knew our defense was going to have to play.”
In the second half, the Marshall commit heated up and the game turned into a wild west shootout with Wells slinging the ball all over the field and Woodrow sticking to its guns by pounding the Patriots defense.
The Patriots (4-5) opened with an eight-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Wells finding Alex Mazelon on a 20-yard touchdown. Woodrow came back with Micah Hancock, who hammered the Patriots outside. With the defense shifting to try and stop Hancock, Weaver blew by the defenders on the counter for 39-yard touchdown run.
Wells found Mazelon for a 7-yard touchdown, but a failed onside kick attempt gave Woodrow the ball just inside Patriots territory and they made the visitors pay. Hancock ripped off a 22-yard run and Weaver picked up 14 yards on a nice cutback run on third-and-10. Peyton Shehan capped the drive with a 1-yard plunge for a 35-21 lead after three quarters.
Throwing to what seemed like 10 receivers at times, Wells raced his team down the field and cut the lead to seven with just over 11 minutes to play. Another failed onside kick put Woodrow in good shape, but the Patriots defense held on downs inside its own 30. But in the final eight minutes, the Flying Eagles defense made two key stops. The first came on the next series.
Needing seven yards for a first down at its own 28, the Patriots gambled, and lost. Woodrow took over on downs, but could not punch it in for a touchdown. On fourth down, Sarrett turned to junior soccer sensation Joseph Wells.
“I told our kicker Joseph Wells there would come a day and time where a field goal was going to win the game,” Sarrett said.
Under heavy pressure from George Washington, Wells banged the ball through the uprights for a 10-point lead. The visitors were far from done.
Wells again orchestrated a drive that was capped by his 2-yard score to cut the lead to just three points. After two failed onside tries, the third try was the charm and the Patriots had a chance for a miracle come back.
Aided by a controversial pass interference call, the Patriots moved inside the red zone and the home team looked like it would suffer a crushing defeat. But in a season where the breaks have not gone its way at times, Woodrow made its own break with the huge defensive stop by Weaver.
Woodrow Wilson (3-6) closes out the regular season with a home game against Bluefield Friday.