Catholic High put the special back into special teams at Olympia Stadium on Friday night, but the Bears still had to fight to the final play to pull out a 38-30 win over Woodlawn in District 5-5A action.
Catholic’s offense had short fields to work with following a 45-yard kickoff return by Landon Flowers to the Woodlawn 15, and a 32-yard punt return to the 11 by Grayson Walsh. The Bears blocked a crucial PAT kick after the Panthers had cut the lead to eight points late in the fourth quarter, but the icing on the cake was the work turned in by kicker and punter Jack Gonsoulin.
“Our special teams came up big,” Catholic coach Dale Weiner said. “Jack gives us consistency and field position. Grayson Walsh has kind of taken over our return chores the last few games.
“Woodlawn played a great game. Those guys played their hearts out. They had a lot of poise. We had them down three scores and they hung in there. I’m just proud we ended with a possession and didn’t give the ball back at the end. I thought we showed a lot of character.”
Gonsoulin hit a Catholic High record 50-yard field goal and barely missed wide right on a 52-yard attempt. He punted four times for a 42.4 yard average including a 54-yarder, was perfect on five PATs, and drove six of his seven kickoffs into the end zone.
“We take a lot of pride in our special teams at Catholic,” Gonsoulin said. “Coach (Eric) Held, our special teams coach, pays a lot of attention to details.”
As for the 52-yard near miss?
“I’ve already forgotten about it. Kickers have short memories,” he said.
Woodlawn (5-4, 1-3) found itself down 10-0 in the first quarter before the Panthers offense made a first down. Catholic took advantage of two short fields following a Brian Herry interception on the Woodlawn 36 and a short punt which gave them the ball on the 35.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire caught a 10-yard pass from Ian Brian for the first score and Gonsoulin’s long field goal put the Bears ahead by 10.
Quarterback Charles Brooks finally got the Panthers moving on their next possession, marching them 80 yards in 10 plays to cut the lead to three. WHS had an apparent TD pass from Brooks to Sullivan called back by a penalty, but responded with a bullet from Brooks to Courtlen Walker, who made the catch in close coverage on the right sideline.
Catholic (8-1, 4-0) got one more touchdown in the first half on a 9-yard run by Derrius Guice to cap a 69-yard drive. Guice picked up 109 yards in the first half that included a 50-yard breakaway.
Woodlawn picked up another three points on a 23-yard field goal by Hassan Chaybata after a bad snap on a second-and-goal play from inside the 1-yard line set the Panthers back to the 20.
They outgained Catholic in the first half, but also had eight plays for a negative 38 yards against a staunch Bears’ defense Brooks’ 67-yard TD run in the third quarter tied the game at 17 before Catholic went up by 21 on touchdowns by Guice, Edwards-Helaire and Landon Flowers. The Panthers got two more scores from Javin Myers before Catholic managed to run out the clock.
“We’re just not quite there yet,” Woodlawn coach Brett Beard said. “These kids will fight, but we don’t make that one critical play when we need it. We feel there’s only one team in the state that can beat Woodlawn, and that’s Woodlawn, and we did that tonight.”
Brooks ran for 148 yards and passed for 203 more with two touchdown passes. Taj Sullivan had six catches for 74 yards.
Guice had 163 yards rushing on 23 carries and caught three passes for 20 yards.