Lutheran High Northeast held the ball for over 32 minutes in a 20-14 win over Crofton at Veterans Memorial Field on Friday.
But the Warriors forced them to sweat until the final second ticked off the clock, when the win was sealed after the Eagles' Ryan Brand intercepted an Evan Woockman pass inside the 5-yard line after the Warriors had taken over on their own 33 following Lutheran High's first punt of the game.
"We couldn't get the ball. We had one series the first half, they on-sided the ball and we gave them the possession right back. When we finally got the ball, we drove the whole way -- no problem," Crofton coach Tony Hoffman said. "Got the ball in the second half, drove the whole way and fumbled. The second score they got, we pick it and drop it. The next score they got, we catch it and drop it. We just self-destructed."
That self-destruction was aided by the fact that the Eagles owned a better-than 2-1 advantage in time of possession, and they didn't waste any time controlling time.
Lutheran High took the opening kick and marched 65 yards on 12 plays to take a 7-0 lead when Brand scored from four yards out with 5:50 left in the opening quarter. And the ensuing kick provided a wind-aided, half-intentional onside kick that the Eagles gulped up at the Crofton 48.
That possession ended when Spencer Rosberg scored on a eight-yard reverse two plays after the Warriors almost intercepted a pass inside the 5-yard line. Rosberg's touchdown came with 25 seconds left in the first quarter and finally allowed Crofton's offense to get its hands on the ball.
The Warriors went three-and-out, and the Eagles then marched 68 yards and ate another six minutes off the clock before being stopped on fourth down for the first time in five tries at the Crofton 16 with 5:07 left in the first half.
"That's something we take pride in. We said coming into the game that whoever wins fourth down is going to win the game," Lutheran High coach Darin Suckstorf said. "We take pride in our o-line getting that yard when we need it."
The Warriors answered with an 84-yard drive that pulled them to within 13-7 on a one-yard plunge by quarterback Evan Woockman with 52 seconds left in the half. Lutheran High, however, pushed the lead to 20-13 when Shaka Taylor found Keaton Alberts on a 68-yard bomb with 8 seconds left in the half.
On the previous play, Taylor's pass was nearly intercepted by Woockman, who had it in his hands three times before it fell to the ground.
"We do have a lot of confidence in throwing. We work on it a lot, but we don't do it a lot," Suckstorf said.
Taylor, who finished with 127 rushing yards on 31 carries, was then knocked out of the game when Jake Guenther leveled him with 5:50 left in the third quarter. Sitting on the ground for a few minutes following the hit, the senior quarterback underwent concussion evaluation on the sideline before watching second- and third-string backs follow the offensive line on a possession that took over 12 minutes off the clock before ending inside the Crofton 1-yard line with 8:52 left in the game.
Crofton, which averaged 6.2 yards per play but was out-snapped 68-39, marched 99 yards and cut its deficit to 20-14 with 3:44 left on a high and wobbly fourth-down pass from Evan to Austin Woockman that seemed to hang in the air longer than the Warriors held onto the ball.
"I don't know what he did. I told him, no matter what, you just launch it," Hoffman said. "And he launched it."
But the Warriors couldn't penetrate any further than the Lutheran High 30 after a three-and-out, and Brand stepped in front of Evan Woockman's desperation heave on the game's final play.
Evan Woockman finished with 110 yards on 15 carries and added 54 passing yards as Crofton fell to 4-2 on the year.
Taylor complemented his 127 rushing yards with 96 yards through the air, and Cody Boche added 51 yards on 10 carries as Lutheran High improved to 6-0. Ayden Wiederin completed 4 of 5 passes for 47 yards after Taylor went down for an Eagle team that was already playing without starting running back Nick Stolze.
"He (Stolze) has had some cramping issues, so he's resting. We were actually down to our third-string running back because our second-string running back has a high-ankle sprain. We were hoping Shaka would be able to go the whole game . . . but we basically had two sophomores in there running the show, and I think they did a good job," Suckstorf said. "Our theme this year is 'Unshakable faith, unshakable brotherhood.' We're kind of living by it right now.' "
Crofton (3-2) .................................................. 0 7 0 7 - 14
Lutheran High Northeast (5-0) ....................... 13 7 0 0 -20
LHNE: Ryan Brand 4 run (Nate Stolze kick), 5:50
LHNE: Spencer Rosberg 8 run (Run failed), :25
CRO: Evan Woockman 1 run (Brock Mueller kick), :52
LHNE: Keaton Alberts 68 pass from Shaka Taylor (Stolze kick), :08
RUSHING: (CRO) Austin Woockman 7-52, Corbin Wavrunek 1-3, Eric Kleinschmit 7-14, Evan Woockman 15-110; (LHNE) Shaka Taylor 31-127, Cody Boche 10-51, Ryan Brand 6-13, Ayden Wiederin 8-10, Nate Stolze 3-17, Spencer Rosberg 1-8.
PASSING: (CRO) E. Woockma 4-8-1, 54; (LHNE) Taylor 2-4-0, 96; Wiederin 4-5-0, 47.
RECEIVING: (CRO) Tyler Koch 2-35, A. Woockman 1-12, Kleinschmit 1-7; (LHNE) Myles Kant 2-46, Stolze 1-4, Keaton Alberts 1-68; Rosberg 2-20.