Airing it out: Woodberry tops Fork Union for Prep League Championship

Photo: Ryan Yemen

Wet conditions, an injury to quarterback Will Wideman’s hand. None of that made Woodberry Forest think twice about changing its approach and none of that looked to have much of an effect either. Behind a strong game from the passing attack, the Tigers finished up their regular season with a 35-20 win over Fork Union.


“So much of the success that we’ve had this season has been based on the season that Will Wideman has had, coming in at quarterback after playing at safety and linebacker last year and just not missing a beat in the process,” said Woodberry coach Scott Braswell. “I can’t enough about the coaching staff around me that prepare these players and really, along with the players, that have made a new coach like myself enjoy an easy transition. They’ve just done such an amazing job, they’ve welcomed me in and I couldn’t be more appreciative.”


After the two teams traded interceptions early, the Tigers drew first blood with Wideman connecting with Dequece Carter for a 34-yard bomb with 3:27 left in the first quarter. On the next Woodberry possession, Jameel Wilson got the running game rolling to set up Carter’s second touchdown, a wild catch in the back of the left corner of the endzone for a 20-yard strike with 8:27 left in the 2nd quarter.


“We knew it would be rainy for this game so in practice we worked with wet footballs and it came through for us,” Carter said. “I remember going up for (my second) touchdown but I don’t remember how I came down with it. I just looked at my hands and it was there. It was just one those play, you just don’t know how it happens.”


Fork Union was able to put together a prolonged drive with Iosefa Pua’auli running the ball and quarterback Luke Wilson finding Logan Justice for a big gain to put the Blue Devils in the redzone. However, a 27-yard field goal on fourth and two from the Woodberry seven yard line sailed wide left. But Fork Union cashed in on its next possession with the Blue Devils running a 2-minute drill, converting on a fourth and short to set up a 37-yard TD pass from Wilson to Logan Justice with just 4.6 seconds until the break.


The second half opened with another big play from Carter as he hauled in a 61-yard touchdown pass that saw him shed a would-be tackler at the 15 yard line and then another at the goalline. That made it 21-7 for Woodberry with 9:49 left in the third.


Fork Union responded late in the third on a drive that was extended by a penalty for roughing the kicker on a punt at midfield and then pass interference in the endzone to set up first and goal from the 10 yard line. But a holding penalty and a fumble that was recovered by Woodberry’s Taylor Tucker to end the scoring threat.


“We thought talent wise we could play with them but once again, like our first game of the year, we get in the rain and our passing game suffered,” said Fork Union coach Mike Hooper. “Luke still a great job of spreading the ball around though and I don’t think we’ve had a quarterback like him play like this all season in quite some time.”


On the next play, the final one of the third quarter, Wilson broke off a 44-yard run into Fork Union territory. He would later score on a 6-yard touchdown run and put the Tigers up 28-7 with 10:27 left in the game. Four minutes later, Woodberry got a 96-yard touchdown from Khalid Thomas when he broke loose on a screen pass from Wideman to make it 35-7.


“The receivers were just making great catches, the o-line and jameel were giving me the time to find them, they all just did an amazing job around me,” Wideman said. “I just have so much confidence in these guys, I feel like I can just throw it up and they’ll go get it or break it up.”


The Blue Devils would get a lengthy drive ripe with penalties on the Tigers’ defense to set up a 5-yard Daniel Reynolds rushing touchdown to make it 35-14. Then an R.C. Walbrook 70-yard sprint to the endzone cut things to 35-20 in the final two minutes of play to wrap up the scoring.


For FUMA, Walbrook finished with 142 yards rushing on 19 carries while Logan Justice had 68 yards on two catches and Larry Elder had 63 yards on his seven receptions.


For Woodberry, Wideman finished 10-for-13 passing with 309 yards. Carter hauled in four catches for 128 yards. Thomas had four catches for 120 yards. Wilson had 10 carries for 112 yards.


Fork Union (3-7) ends its season, one that saw it improve its win total from its 2016 campaign.


“It’s been baby steps and that’s good but it’s time for some grown up steps now,” Hooper said. “We’ve got a good nucleus coming back and we’ll build from there.”


With Collegiate falling to St. Christopher’s in overtime earlier on Saturday, the Tigers, Cougars and Saints fell into a 3-way tie for the Prep League championship.


Woodberry (6-2) will travel to face Episcopal (4-5) on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the 118th annual edition of “The Game.”


“It’s always a fun week and hopefully we have a good week of practice,” Carter said. “We can’t wait and we’re excited about trying to get some revenge in Alexandria.”


The Tigers’ last trip to Epsicopal was in 2015 and resulted in an usual tie. Woodberry has won seven of the last nine games with the lone loss coming in 2014.