By Brian Paglia
After Union Grove stopped Woodland an inch short of a first down in overtime, there was no sideline boundary. There was only pandemonium, only Wolverine players and coaches leaping and storming the field, only a sense that a seismic shift in the direction of their season had taken place.
Union Grove overcame three turnovers, two missed field goals and inconsistency on offense with a 12-yard catch from Ty Moore to Craig Worley on the first possession of overtime and a defensive stand to escape with a 14-7 victory at Woodland in a Region 3A-AAAA game Friday.
"I think if you show up every day and you expect them to come out and work, when you get into situations like this you hope it pays off," Union Grove coach Paul Burgdorf said. "Give all the credit to the kids. They hung in there, even when we had opportunities and couldn't capitalize. The kids just didn't give up. They just kept coming back."
Two weeks ago, Union Grove (2-3, 2-0) suffered its third straight loss, its first 0-3 start since the school opened in 2000. Uncertainty shrouded the Wolverines, who had made the playoffs four of the past five seasons.
But, victories over Alcovy and Woodland (1-3, 0-1) have invigorated the Wolverines' playoff outlook and restored confidence.
At the half, Union Grove trailed 7-0 despite intercepting Woodland quarterback David Williams three times and totaling 56 yards on offense. Running back T.J. Moon (29 carries, 122 yards) fumbled twice and lost one. Quarterback Ty Moore (6-of-11 passing, 125 yards) threw an interception and was sacked once.
Coming out of halftime, Union Grove found its offense quickly. Four plays in, Moore fit a pass into the middle of Woodland's defense to Ed Wilkins, who outran the Wolfpack secondary for a 69-yard touchdown.
"We tried to run (the play) in the first half, but (Moore) got sacked," Wilkins said. "That time our line stood strong. As soon as I caught it, I was like, 'Oh man. I'm going to the land of milk and honey.'"
For the remaining 22 minutes of the game, neither team put forth a vintage performance. Both teams missed two field goals within 37 yards. Woodland had consecutive turnovers in the fourth quarter, two of the Wolfpack's six turnovers. Moore was intercepted a second time by Woodland safety Jordan Joseph.
All that changed in overtime. Starting on the 15-yard line, Moon rushed twice for three yards. Then Moore found Worley open on a quick out-route on the left sideline. Worley made his defender miss and scooted in for the eventual game-winning touchdown.
"Moore fed me the ball and I saw the cornerback crashing hard down," Worley said, "so I cut inside and there was the endzone. It's about as simple as it gets."