Woodruff Pushes Griffins to the Brink

Fairfield Central Escapes with 28-21 Win in Round 1

 

Rodriguez Edmonds turns the corner on the Woodruff defense. (Photo/DeAnna Robinson)

Rodriguez Edmonds turns the corner on the Woodruff defense. (Photo/DeAnna Robinson)

WINNSBORO (Nov. 19, 2016) – The wolverine is a stocky, muscular carnivore with the ferocity and strength to kill prey many times larger than itself. Friday night, the Woodruff Wolverines very nearly did just that, pushing Fairfield Central to the brink at E.K. McLendon Stadium in round one of the Class 3A state playoffs.

Stanley McManus’ 3-yard touchdown grind with 56 seconds left in the game gave the Griffins the 28-21 edge over a Woodruff team that had clawed back again and again throughout the 48-minute battle.

For the Wolverines and their gunslinging quarterback, Keegan Halloran, who threw for 210 yards and a pair of TDs on the night, 56 seconds looked like plenty of time to tie things up.

On their own 46, Woodruff converted a fourth-and-3 with 28 ticks on the clock when Halloran hit Keith Pearson at the Griffins 46. Halloran scrambled for 2 yards on the next play, then quickly spiked the ball on the next snap to set up third-and-8 from the Fairfield 44 with 3 seconds remaining.

The Griffins rushed three and loaded the secondary with eight. With zeroes showing on the clock, Halloran dropped back and pulled the trigger just as the pocket collapsed around him. The ball soared into the lights – and was batted down at the 10-yard line by the Griffins defense.

Fairfield Central had escaped.

“We survived. That’s all I can say,” Fairfield Central head coach Demetrius Davis said. “They’re a good football team, but that game shouldn’t have been that close.”

The Griffins were hit with 121 yards on 13 flags Friday, while Woodruff was admonished only seven times for 65 yards. Penalties in the red zone cost the Griffins two potential scores in the first quarter.

“I’ve never seen that bad of officiating. I really haven’t,” Davis said. “But we were able to overcome it.”

The Griffins took a 7-0 lead into the half behind McManus’ 24-yard TD pass to Antonio Jackson on third-and-18 with 3:28 on the clock. Fairfield Central’s defense, meanwhile, kept Woodruff in check.

In addition to holding the Wolverines scoreless and to two first downs through two periods, the Griffins virtually eliminated the ground game. Woodruff rushed for only a single net yard in the first half, while the Griffins kept the passing game at a manageable 24 yards.

“We actually played a little better on defense than I thought we would,” Davis said, “being that we’re down. Ah’Quil Ross was playing defensive back tonight and he’s never played defensive back a day in his life.”

But in the third quarter, the Wolverines turned the tide.

Woodruff knotted the game at 7 on their opening drive of the second half as Halloran began picking apart the war-weary Griffins secondary. In just under 90 seconds, Halloran had zipped the Wolverines from their own 42 down to the Fairfield Central 8. From there, the pass-happy quarterback darted in on foot to tie the game.

The Griffins gave Woodruff a gift late in the third when McManus fumbled on the Fairfield 34. Halloran quickly went to work, leading Woodruff to the Griffins 9. With 40 seconds left, Halloran fired a bullet to Duke Ferguson to give the Wolverines their first lead of the game, 14-7.

It would, however, be their last lead of the game.

The Griffins set up shop after the kick at their own 25 and their ground game finally began to emerge. In their last game of the regular season at Camden on Nov. 4, the Griffins rolled up 826 rushing yards. Friday night, Woodruff jammed up the run, holding first-half tallies by Tony Ruff to 51 yards, Rodriguez Edmonds to 81 yards and McManus to 30 yards.

“They loaded the box up,” Davis said. “We knew they were going to. Any time a team rushes for over 800 yards (at Camden on Nov. 4), they’re going to make you throw the ball.”

Before the night was done, however, all three would be in triple digits.

With 9:18 to go in the final frame, Edmonds put the exclamation point on a 75-yard drive with a 16-yard dash into the paint. That spoiled Woodruff’s short-lived lead, tying things up at 14-all.

On the first snap of the ensuing drive, Halloran was picked off at the Fairfield 26 by Quay McBride. On the Griffins’ first play following the turnover, Ruff burst through the line and blazed a flaming trail down the middle of the field for a 74-yard TD run. The PAT kick by McManus, who was good on all four attempts, put Fairfield Central up 21-14.

Halloran was picked off again on Woodruff’s next possession, this time in the end zone by NyDarious Williamson with 6:20 left in the game. The Griffins’ patchwork defensive backfield of mostly freshmen and sophomores had come up big in the clutch.

“I think they (the secondary) did unbelievable,” Davis said. “To play this kind of team that throws the football and we’ve got guys in there that haven’t ever played and we’ve got to put them in a position this week – my game ball goes to Ah’Quil Ross.”

The Griffins could not do much with interception, however, as penalties again hampered their progress. With 4:33 remaining, Fairfield was forced to punt the ball away.

Woodruff took over at the Griffins 37 and made short work of the short field. With 3:05 to go, Halloran found K.T. Bryson with a 14-yard TD pass, and just like that the two teams were all even again.

McManus’ 3-yard game-winner capped a 69-yard drive and sends Fairfield Central into round two next week against Palmetto. The number 2 seed out of Region II, the Mustangs knocked off Pendleton Friday, 27-10.

“We survived it,” Davis said again. “We get Kimoni Harris back next week (at DB), so we get one of our DB’s back next week. And we might get Rodric Woodard back, so we’ll see.”

 

W: 0-0-14-7 – 21

FC: 0-7-0-21 – 28

 

SCORING SUMMARY

Second Quarter

FC – Antonio Jackson 24 pass from Stanley McManus (S. McManus kick). 3:28.

Third Quarter

W – Keegan Halloran 8 run (Tyler Parris kick). 10:16.

W – Duke Ferguson 9 pass from K. Halloran (Luke Mallory kick). 0:40.

Fourth Quarter

FC – Rodriguez Edmonds 16 run (S. McManus kick). 9:18.

FC – Tony Ruff 74 run (S. McManus kick). 8:54.

W – K.T. Bryson 14 pass from K. Halloran (T. Parris kick). 3:05.

FC – S. McManus 3 run (S. McManus kick). 0:56.

 

TEAM STATS

W                                            FC

First Downs                        13                                           20

Rushes-Yards                     23-46                                     49-457

Passing Yards                     210                                         65

C-A-I                                      18-31-2                                 8-17-0

Fumbles-Lost                     2-0                                          2-2

Penalties-Yards                 7-65                                       13-121

 

INDIVIDUAL STATS

RUSHING: W – Jarius Thompson 7-9, Keegan Halloran 13-23, Matt Taylor 3-14. FC – Stanley McManus 19-137, Jamas Goins 1-9, Rodriguez Edmonds 14-130, Tony Ruff 15-181.

RECEIVING: W – Cole Fuller 1-0, Duke Ferguson 6-76, K.T. Bryson 1-14, Keith Pearson 4-56, Matt Taylor 1-21, Austin Parks 3-27, Austin Smith 3-16. FC – J.R. Edmonds 2-2, Tony Ruff 1-7, Antonio Jackson 2-23, Ah’Quil Ross 2-23, Rodriguez Edmonds 1-10.

PASSING: W – Keegan Halloran 18-31, 210 yards, 2TDs, 2INTs. FC – Stanley McManus 8-17, 65 yards, 1TD.