In front of scores of alumnu and homecoming court royalty, Woodlawn gave its fans plenty to cheer about Thursday night with a 56-0 victory over the Tara Trojans in a District 6-4A matchup at Panther Field.
The Panthers defense was on the prowl from the onset, forcing four first-quarter turnovers — including two interceptions returned for touchdowns — en route to a 28-0 lead after 12 minutes of play.
“They’ve been flying around all year getting turnovers, and they continued it tonight,” Woodlawn coach Daniel Luquet said.
Tara receiver-turned-quarterback James Ownes fumbled on the Trojans’ opening play, giving Woodlawn favorable field position at the Trojans 31-yard line.
“We took the ball, thinking we were going to be able to drive down the field,” said Tara coach Cooter Mansur, whose team dropped to 0-7 overall and 0-2 in district play.
“We tried to give (our players) a little confidence by taking the ball. Then the first play from center, we mess it up.”
Woodlawn quarterback Jamari Nelson hit running back Javin Myers on a screen pass the very next play that resulted in a 31-yard touchdown and an early 7-0 lead.
Woodlawn safety Xavier Lodge intercepted Ownes on Tara’s next drive and returned it 15-yards to give the Panthers a 14-0 lead.
The Panthers (4-3, 2-0) recovered a Trojan fumble in the end zone, extending the lead to 21-0.
Woodlawn pushed its lead to 28-0 when Panthers safety Dillon Whitehall intercepted Tara quarterback Patrick Arnold, returning it 30 yards for a touchdown.
“We need to play well on defense so we can give our offense good field position,” Luquet said. “Our defense is spectacular when they come out ready to play, and they did tonight.”
Not to be outdone by their defensive teammates, Nelson marched the Woodlawn offense down the field early in the second quarter for a touchdown drive of their own.
Nelson connected with Myers for a 42-yard pass out of the backfield to put the Panthers at the Tara 22-yard line. Two plays later, Nelson connected with wide receiver Taj Sullivan for an 8-yard touchdown pass that gave Woodlawn a 35-0 lead it would carry into halftime.
Woodlawn continued to move the ball with ease on the opening drive of the second half.
Myers rushed for a 59-yard gain down to the Trojans’ 5-yard line on the first play of the second half. Nelson found Myers two plays later for a 6-yard touchdown pass, and the Panthers took a 42-0 lead.
“They played within the offense,” Luquet said. “They did what we asked them to do. If you do that in this offense, you’re going to have success.”
A Tara turnover on its next drive led to a 20-yard touchdown pass from Devin Whiting to J’Quan Wells and a 49-0 lead.
Running back Josh London tacked on a 9-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter to cap the Panthers’ scoring parade at 56-0.
The Trojans’ lone bright spot on defense was cornerback Desment Green, who had two interceptions.
“You’re going to win a lot of football games if you win that turnover battle,” Luquet said. “We turned it over two times, but we still won the turnover battle. That’s what we try to do each week.”