By Skip Pearlman
The Woodlands High Falcons proved they are part escape artist and part prizefighter in Saturday’s Class C semifinal showdown against Bronxville.
The Falcons, somehow, took every punch the Broncos threw at them – and there were plenty. And Woodlands managed to escape jam after jam throughout the contest. Every time it looked like the Broncos were about to take over the game and live up to their top-ranking, the Falcons made like Houdini and escaped unscathed, and with their lead intact.
In a truly entertaining game at Bronxville High School – where the outcome wasn’t decided until the final play of the game – it was fourth-seeded Woodlands that made the most of every opportunity, and was rewarded with a 25-22 victory.
Woodlands (3-4) will take on No. 2 Rye Neck (6-1) – for the third consecutive year – in the Class C championship game Saturday at noon at Mahopac High School. Woodlands won two years ago, with Rye Neck taking last year’s title.
The Falcons had a lot of heroes on this day, but none bigger than WR/LB Jon Stewart. The senior captain started, and played the first quarter, at quarterback – marching the Falcons down the field on their opening drive and capping it off with a TD pass to Miguel Lanier.
Stewart also ran for 75 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, and on defense he forced and recovered a fumble, had an interception, and led the team in tackles.
Senior DB Rashad Baker came up huge in shutting down Bronxville’s No. 1 receiver, Charlie Tarry. Baker broke up two potential TD passes just prior to halftime – intercepting one as time expired. And he also broke up what would have been a go-ahead TD for Bronxville in the final 29 seconds, deflecting a long pass down the left sideline that looked like a score.
Myles Thigpen came up big for Woodlands, as well, completing eight key passes for 70 important yards, and also rushing for a score. And the Falcons defense played perhaps its best game of the season, stopping Bronxville on the Falcon two in the fourth quarter, and also slamming the door at the 16 late in the third.
It seemed like whenever the defense needed a big stop, they got it.
“It feels great,” Falcons coach Mike Meade said. “Especially after the season we’ve had… this ranks among our biggest victories. We’re the No. 4 seed, and all three of the other seeds beat us (during the season). We played them (Bronxville) tough two weeks ago (in a 27-13 loss), and we felt that if we showed up, we could play with them. I was very proud of the way we played… we showed a lot of emotion.
“Baker played a great game against their go-to guy,” Meade added, “and Jon was unbelievable. He took the game over. He’s our best player, an All-Section player, and he got the job done. Our offensive and defensive lines were key, and our defense gave us an incredible effort with key stops.”
“It feels great,” said Thigpen “We’ve been talking all year about how we’re gonna get this done… I knew we were capable of playing like this. The O and D lines were big.”
Baker agreed. “This is one of the first games I can honestly say we played with four quarters of hard work,” Baker said. “We all worked together – as a team. We put our minds to it, and now we’re going back to the championship game.”
Said Stewart: “From the beginning of the season we’ve taken it one game at a time… we had to recover from the loss of all our big time seniors, and that was big, on the line. Our defense was great today… Nahjee O’Donohue, DaShawn Beecham… they all put pressure on the quarterback. And every turnover was critical.”
Woodlands, which led 18-14 at halftime, made it a two-score game when Venier Brown ran for a one-yard TD with 8:06 left in the fourth. The TD was set up by a Stewart 14-yard run on the prior play.
Bronxville answered with a one-yard TD run from Brendan Carty with 2:10 remaining, and the Broncos added a two-point conversion to make it a three-point game.
Woodlands recovered the ensuing onsides kick at midfield, but went three-and-out, giving Bronxville one last shot, with 38 ticks left. That’s when Baker broke up a big pass play that appeared headed for the end zone, and the game ended when Broncos quarterback Graham Klimley was sacked by the Falcons’ swarming defense.
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