GONZALES — Sometimes all it takes is one play to win a game, and Eltorrian Gildersleeve proved that Friday night.
Gildersleeve intercepted a Kyran Irvin pass and returned it 73 yards for the game-winning touchdown with 4.5 seconds left, lifting Woodlawn High to a 34-27 victory over East Ascension High in District 5-5A action at EAHS’ Spartan Stadium.
“I saw the receiver break off his route and I saw him (Irvin) overthrow it a little,” Gildersleeve said. “I had to get and bring it back for my team.”
Gildersleeve zig-zagged down the EAHS sideline and was hit by several Spartans, but made a spin move around the 10-yard line and ran into the end zone.
The fact that it was the lone turnover for East Ascension (4-3, 1-1) on a night when the teams combined for 990 yards of offense provided the irony.
“That’s one of the toughest ways to lose,” East Ascension coach Paul Bourgeois said. “You’re driving and you think you might score and in one play you lose the game.”
Irvin and Woodlawn quarterback Charles Brooks were two of the offensive stars. Brooks completed 20 of 31 passes for 314 yards and two touchdowns for the Panthers (5-2, 1-1). Irvin finished 17 of 27 for a career-high 268 yards to go along with three TDs for the Spartans.
Brooks also ran for 108 yards for Woodlawn on 13 carries, while Irvin had 70 yards on 14 carries for EAHS. Courlen Walker caught nine passes for 185 yards and a TD for the winners.
Joshua Bates had three runs of 40 yards or better and ran for a game-high 136 yards on seven carries for EAHS. Joshua Walker had a rushing TD and also caught four passes for 97 yards for the Spartans.
“You have to play for 48 minutes,” Woodlawn coach Brett Beard said. “You’ve got to keep your head in the game and make plays when your number is called. What a great play, a great time. I also thought offensively we played great.”
Woodlawn drove into EAHS territory twice in the early going, but turnovers ended those possessions. Johnny Baker intercepted a Brooks pass and returned it 34 yards. Joshua Dennis recovered a Brooks fumble.
That fumble set the stage for the first TD. Irvin launched a 56-yard scoring pass to Waguespack, who raced down the right side of the field with 3:14 left in the opening quarter. The Spartans’ 6-0 lead stood until late in the half.
EAHS put together a 12-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Irvin tossing a 10-yard TD pass to Malik Van Diver at the 4:53 mark.
Woodlawn answered with a 77-yard drive. Brooks’ 35-yard TD pass to Walker cut the East Ascension lead to 12-7 with 2:54 remaining in the half.
The teams traded possessions before the Spartans got the ball back with 1:07 to go. Irvin led EAHS on a rapid-fire 85-yard march down the field. A 35-yard pass to Van Diver was the biggest play. Irvin then hit Waguespack with a 14-yard TD pass with 12 seconds left.
The Spartans took an 18-7 lead into the locker room but that didn’t last long. Woodlawn took the second-half kickoff and scored 40 seconds later. A 67-yard pass from Brooks to Walker set up a 3-yard TD run by Tajh Sullivan that made it 18-14.
Woodlawn scored again after an EAHS punt. This time, a more methodical drive ended with Ashton Johnson scoring on a 27-yard run. The Panthers had chased EAHS down and held a 21-18 lead with 6:14 left in the third period.
Bates ripped off a 42-yard run that led to Walker scoring on a 1-yard run for East Ascension. The Spartans led 24-21 at the 3:45 mark in the third quarter.
Woodlawn pieced together another long drive that ended with Brooks throwing a 9-yard TD pass to Sullivan early in the fourth quarter. Cale Kernan’s 27-yard field goal tied it at 27-27, setting up the final dramatics.