With the victory — their first over the Eagles in three years, and after a 45-0 rout just last season — the Wolverines (3-5, 3-2) overtook the Eagles (4-4, 3-2) for the fourth and final playoff spot in Region 5AAAAAA.
“Man, I am just so excited for our kids. They wanted this one real bad,” said Woodstock coach Brent Budde, who beat Etowah first the first time as a head coach. “We were a bit rough at times, but you can’t question our heart and desire. Our kids are always going to give it everything they got. Our kids fight hard, and that’s what I love about them.”
Fighting hard was exactly what the Wolverines had to do in the fourth quarter to hold the Eagles’ offense at bay.
Trailing 14-7 with less than 2 minutes to go in the third quarter, it seemed as if Etowah was going to even the score when a 19-yard run by Raishod Devezin gave the Eagles first-and-goal from the Woodstock 5-yard line.
The Wolverines’ defense held strong, however, denying the Eagles on four straight downs to take back possession of the ball and keep their lead.
On Etowah’s next possession, it was forced to punt, and the snap fell short of punter Ryan Hopper, who was forced to fall on the ball on Etowah’s 7-yard line.
But, with the game seemingly in its control, Woodstock fumbled the ball back to Etowah two plays later to give the Eagles new life.
Etowah was forced to punt, but it eventually got the ball back with just over 2 minutes to go.
On the first play of the drive, quarterback Robbie Knox hit wide receiver Ben Rowell on a 51-yard pass to give the Eagles the ball on Woodstock’s 23-yard line.
The Wolverines didn’t allow the Eagles to gain another yard, however, and Knox’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete to seal the victory.
“Our defense kept calm, stepped up, and bowed their necks when they had to,” Budde said.
Etowah coach Dave Svehla lamented the Eagles’ inability to be able to finish off drives with scores.
“We could move the ball up and down the field on them. We just didn’t do a very good job of scoring,” he said.
Despite Etowah’s offensive struggles late in the game, it was actually the Eagles who opened the scoring first when Brandon Engle capped a nine-play, 72-yard drive with am 8-yard touchdown run with a little over 7 minutes to go in the first quarter.
For the next 15 minutes, the game was a defensive battle, with neither side managing to score.
Then, when it seemed that Etowah had made a defensive stop, and would force Woodstock to punt from the Eagles’ 35, an encroachment penalty moved the ball to the 30, and Woodstock decided to go for it on fourth down.
The ensuing play was a spectacular one for the Wolverines, as quarterback Alex Motsinger targeted Keeton in the back-right corner of the end zone.
Though the safety was between Keeton and the ball, the Woodstock running back leapt into the air and caught it behind the defender’s head before just landing in bounds for a touchdown with less than 4 minutes to go in the half.
Keeton wasn’t done there.
After Woodstock forced Etowah to punt on its next possession, Keeton fielded the ball from his own 11-yard line before sprinting 89 yards down the sideline to give the Wolverines a 14-7 lead that proved to be the final score.
“Max is a gamer,” Budde said. “Good players love the big-game atmosphere, and he was pumped up for this one. You just can’t say enough about him.”
Keeton finished with 48 yards receiving on two catches, as well as 15 yards rushing on two carries.
Motsinger was 6-of-12 with 84 yards passing and one touchdown.
Knox went 10-for-20 for Etowah with 158 yards and two interceptions.
With the victory, Woodstock now needs to win at Wheeler next week to clinch its first state playoff berth in two years.
Meanwhile, Etowah must win at Walton and hope that Woodstock loses to Wheeler if the Eagles are to have a chance at the playoffs.