Purcellville, Va. — With less than two minutes left in the first half of their VHSL Region 5C semifinal against Briar Woods, the Woodgrove High School football team faced a 4th-and-8 from the Falcons’ 21 yard line. Already leading by a score, the Wolverines elected to go for it. Woodgrove senior quarterback Brett Johnson lofted a pass towards the sideline, and senior receiver Tyler Blizzard hauled it in. The ensuing extra point put the Wolverines up 14-0.
“I didn’t know it was a catch until I looked up at the ref. When I saw it, I went insane,” Blizzard said. “I was so happy to get my team on the board like that.”
The Woodgrove defense then forced a three-and-out, taking over again with less than 30 seconds to play at the Briar Woods 44. On the first play of the drive, Johnson again tossed a pass – this one down the middle. It was tipped into the air in coverage, before Blizzard came down with it in the end zone.
“They’re very stout on the defensive line. I think Logan Kotter is one of the best linebackers in the area,” Woodgrove head coach Derek Barlow said. “They’re just salty on the run, so I just thought we needed to take some more shots downfield. Nothing against their secondary, but we just felt it was a little bit of a mismatch to their favor upfront, so we just tried to spread it out.”
That late first half rally was the difference in lifting the Wolverines over the Falcons, 33-21, on November 22 in Purcellville.
“We lost to this team earlier in the year 28-0, so that’s all we’ve been thinking about leading up to this game,” Blizzard said. “We knew we would see them again, so our emotions are pretty high right now.”
When the Wolverines and Falcons met in the regular season, it was a whole different ball game. Woodgrove was without starting running back KJ Lewis, starting tight end Price Williams, starting lineman Jordan Wilkerson, and starting cornerback Micaiah Hendricks.
“No excuses, we lost fair and square,” Barlow said. “[With all the injuries] we had to move pieces, so pretty much everything that could have gone wrong went wrong.”
Blizzard – who caught six passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns in the first half of the region semifinal – credits his explosive game to the return of Lewis and Williams.
“Last time we played them, KJ and Price were out, so they focused on me a lot,” Blizzard said. “Tonight, we had KJ and Price back, so that freed me up a lot to make plays.”
KJ Lewis is a major part of the equation, we’ve been missing the last four weeks. We’re very excited to have them back.
—Woodgrove head coach Derek Barlow
Despite trailing 20-0 heading into the half, Briar Woods wouldn’t go away. After a Lewis touchdown run midway through the third quarter, Briar Woods junior Evan Rutkowski returned the ensuing kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown.
Then midway through the fourth, the Falcons started clicking in the passing game as junior quarterback Christian Greene hit junior receiver Evan Smith and Rutkowski with touchdown passes.
“That’s a great football team,” Barlow said. “I have a lot of respect for Daniel Bruton. I’ve lost a lot of sleep this week. He’s a heck of a play caller.”
The Wolverines will have their hands full again in the Region 5C championship game against one of the most storied coaches in Loudoun County history when Woodgrove travels to Stone Bridge for a 1 p.m. kickoff on November 29.
Barlow is intimately familiar with the Stone Bridge program having served as an assistant under Mickey Thompson for eleven years before joining the Wolverines’ staff.
“It’s going to be really odd being on that sideline. It’s a fantastic venue, and I have great memories there,” Barlow said. “People might say I’m crazy for wanting to play Stone Bridge, but you want to know what you have. I know what we’re up against. It’s almost like their birthright to go to the state final. We’re just playing with the house’s money now. Let’s work hard and see what happens.”
|2Q||11:04||Woodgrove||Price Williams to Daniel Pavolic 1-yard TD pass (Kollin Samaha PAT)||7-0|
|2Q||1:25||Woodgrove||Brett Johnson to Tyler Blizzard 21-yard TD pass (Kollin Samaha PAT)||14-0|
|2Q||0:18||Woodgrove||Brett Johnson to Tyler Blizzard 44-yard TD pass (PAT blocked)||20-0|
|3Q||6:42||Woodgrove||KJ Lewis 2-yard TD run (Kollin Samaha PAT)||27-0|
|3Q||6:29||Briar Woods||Evan Rutkowski 86-yard kickoff return TD (Riley Callaghan PAT)||27-7|
|4Q||8:57||Woodgrove||Brett Johnson to Hunter Pavolic 16-yard TD pass (PAT blocked)||33-7|
|4Q||5:53||Briar Woods||Christian Greene to Evan Smith 17-yard TD pass (2pt failed)||33-13|
|4Q||3:34||Briar Woods||Christian Greene to Evan Rutkoswki 29-yard TD pass (2pt good)||33-21|