CENTRAL - Woodlawn High School swung the big-play pendulum in its favor just enough to tilt victory in its favor.
The Panthers, who built as much as a three-touchdown lead early in the third quarter, had to convert a fake punt to keep their final scoring drive alive midway through the final quarter en route to a 41-27 victory Friday over Central at Wildcat Stadium.
“Last week we kicked the ball with five minutes left and we couldn’t stop them,” Woodlawn coach Don Jones said of last week’s 50-39 loss to Denham Springs. “Our rule is when they are (gunners) outside, we’re going to run it and it turned out perfect. We had so many people step up tonight and make plays.”
Woodlawn (2-1) faced fourth-and-3 when personal protector Brent Terrance went 22 yards over the right side to Central’s 37-yard line with seven minutes to play and the Panthers clinging to a seven-point lead.
Two plays later, leading rusher Kenneth Collins (15 carries for 75 yards) scored on a 29-yard, second-effort run to help Woodlawn snap a two-game losing streak against Central.
“We’re young and we’re making the mistakes that most young and inexperienced teams make,” Central coach Doug Dotson said. “I’ve got a lot of faith that this team is going to compete. The thing I’m most proud of is we dug ourselves a deep hole but we never quit. I think for a minute everybody thought, ?Hey these guys are coming back.’ You can’t spot a good football team 21 points and that’s basically what we did.”
Woodlawn finished with 375 yards, led by the combination of quarterback Kendall Barnes and wide receiver Jamaal Lofton.
Barnes completed 12 of 19 passes for 213 yards, one interception and four touchdown passes. Lofton (six catches for 149 yards) hauled in three of them in the first half. Lofton also displayed his big-play capabilities on special teams with a 92-yard kickoff return to open the third quarter for a 27-6 advantage.
Lofton had three kickoff returns for 165 yards and wound up with 314 all-purpose yards and four of his team’s six touchdowns.
“Everybody knows we’ve got some weapons,” Jones said. “We’ve got to play better on defense. I’m just real proud of our kids for hanging in there. We just had to keep scoring.”
Central (1-2) nearly erased all of Woodlawn’s lead with a 21-point third-quarter explosion.
Gary Triplet answered Lofton’s kickoff heroics with a 96-yard return of his own to ignite the Wildcats, who twice pulled to within a touchdown at 27-20 and 34-27.
Quarterback Brett Courville, who accounted for 283 yards and three touchdowns, ran for his second 1-yard TD of the game and also found wide receiver Jeremy Anderson (6-41) for a 20-yard scoring pass with 4:08 left in the third quarter.
Courville completed 11 of 23 for 163 yards and added 123 yards on 24 carries. The Wildcats wound up with 356 yards of offense - 193 on the ground and 163 through the air.
Barnes and Lofton connected for five completions, 141 yards and three touchdowns for a 21-6 halftime lead.
Woodlawn’s opening 24-yard scoring drive, courtesy of a fumble recovery on Central’s opening series, took four plays to complete with Barnes finding Lofton, who broke out of tackle inside the 5 for a 10-yard touchdown on second-and-goal.
Central answered with its most impressive drive of the half with a 12-play, 85-yard march that consumed nearly five minutes.
Courville accounted for eight of the plays with six carries for 17 yards, including a 1-yard scoring run on third-and-goal, while completing a pair of passes to Devon Gales for another 55 yards but the Wildcats still trailed 7-6 after a failed two-point conversion attempt.
Woodlawn then opened a 21-6 advantage midway through the second quarter on TD passes from Barnes to Lofton of 80 and 39 yards, respectively.
“It was a heck of a football game,” Jones said. “It was such a classy game. Just a clean, great high school football game and anybody could have won the game.”