However, after holding the Spartans to a couple of first-quarter scores, the Wildcats allowed twice that many touchdowns in the second quarter as South Paulding pulled away for an eventual 49-0 victory.
Despite the lopsided defeat, Woodland’s offense made the most progress it has made since perhaps the season’s first game.
Two yards are all that separated the Wildcats from their first touchdown of the year.
Alas, Woodland found itself denied of the end zone after quarterback Mason Robinson’s pass on fourth-and-goal from the 7-yard line fell shy of its intended target, Quadre Allen, who lunged near the goal line for the pigskin.
“… The last play, Mason and Quadre Allen made a great adjustment; we were just a little short on the pass,” Wildcats coach Vince DiLorenzo said of his team’s near-touchdown. “They had the initial [play covered], but Mason and Quadre kind of ad-libbed and it was a great idea … We just couldn’t get the ball there.”
Before coming up just shy on its deepest drive of the season, Woodland displayed an ability to make clutch conversions that had mostly eluded it in the first four games. Allen’s 26-yard run on third-and-9 got the ball inside Spartan territory as the Wildcats stood just 45 yards from paydirt.
The hosts engineered another third-down conversion as Robinson connected with Grant Quick on a 12-yard slant to the South Paulding 28. The pair continued to help the Wildcats push the ball toward the goal line as Quick’s 17-yard, second-down catch placed the ball on the Spartan’s 15.
After an offsides penalty momentarily slowed Woodland’s momentum, South Paulding provided a break for the Wildcats following a 15-yard facemask call that set up a more manageable third-and-9 from the 14. Robinson capitalized with an 11-yard run to the 3.
Woodland, though, again committed a 5-yard penalty, moving the ball back to the 8. Robinson’s 6-yard run placed the ball at the shadow of the goal line once more, but a no-gainer followed by a bobbled snap and 5-yard loss on third down eventually spelled doom for the Wildcats’ scoring chances.
DiLorenzo lamented his team’s red zone penalties but noted that even those miscues should not have prevented a moment Woodland fans have been awaiting for quite some time.
“Unfortunately, … we jump offsides, but we still should have scored. We still should have got the ball in the end zone,” he acknowledged.
Putting aside the realities of the Wildcats’ empty drive, the team seems to have finally found a combination of players to help drive the ball downfield — Robinson at quarterback and Allen and Qua Stocks joining him in the backfield, with Quick and Phelan Philpot manning the wide receiver positions.
“Together those guys were able to make some plays. Mason made some plays, and the [line] blocked and … we were able to get the ball down [the field],” DiLorenzo said.
South Paulding drove the ball plenty as well, but its offense appeared to be a shell of the 48-points-per-game outfit it entered the ballgame as. The Spartans at times looked out of sync in the first quarter, save for a 61-yard bootleg pass from Chandler Burks to Ben Norman, which set up Jae Bowen’s 5-yard TD run, and a 3-yard score from Burks — on a drive that began at Woodland’s 19.
Things changed in the second quarter with South Paulding racking up four more scores as consecutive drives that began on the hosts’ 25-yard line netted a pair of 1-yard TD runs for Burks.
“I think it was the number of opportunities that they had inside the 50 [yard line],” DiLorenzo said when asked about the Spartans’ scoring outburst following the game’s first 12 minutes. “You keep giving them as many opportunities as we gave ’em, you can’t hold ’em out [of the end zone] — and again it was tough on our defense for their offense to be given the ball so close, so often.”
An interception by the Spartans’ Khalia Hackett set up the first score of the second quarter while Trevon Simmons’ 31-yard punt return put South Paulding in prime position to go up 28-0 at the 3:50 mark.
Simmons added to his punt return total following the Wildcats’ ensuing offensive series, grabbing Jose Paniagua’s punt at the 38 and outrunning Woodland’s punt return team for a 62-yard TD.
Right before halftime, with 1:02 showing on the clock, the Spartans tacked on their sixth touchdown when Burks’ 28-yard TD strike found Bowen, who ran in the final 10 or so yards.
Leading 42-0, South Paulding reached its average in the fourth, responding to the Wildcats’ 18-play drive — which ate up the entire third quarter — with a 30-yard score on Burk’s swing pass to L.J. Pope to provide the final margin.
Up next for the Spartans is a home date with Allatoona, while Woodland (0-5) faces its third Paulding County school of the season Friday, Sept. 27, when it visits North Paulding, a team that — like South Paulding — also finished with a winning record a year ago. The Wolfpack, though, made the second round of the playoffs and wound up 8-4.
North Paulding represents another stern test for the Wildcats, who have yet to face a team with a losing record — its opponents have a combined 17-3 record around the midway mark of the football season.