It took the Wilson Tigers a late fourth quarter scoring drive and a defensive stop with just seconds left in the game to hold and defeat the Ballou Knights 37-34 in what was a crazy back and forth affair for a spot in the DCIAA championship Thursday.
“I’m just thankful to be back, it’s an honor to be in this game and we going out there trying win it,” said Wilson head coach Mark Martin. “We just played them last week so we knew it was going be a tough game we jumped out on them, they walked us down and we had to finish, and that’s what we been working on, finishing.”
The game didn’t always look like it would come down to the final seconds as the Tigers jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter after two Steven Williams Jr. touchdown passes including an 85 yard touchdown bomb to Sean Savoy.
Williams Jr. and the Tigers offense continued their impressive passing attack as the quarterback was able to hit wide receiver Navon Prince on a slant route that Prince would take the rest of the way with some nifty juke moves for a 72 yard touchdown and 19-0 lead seconds into the second quarter.
“Preparation before this game was to move our playmakers around and let them do what they do best,” said Williams Jr. “ We knew we had one playmaker, but we had another one [Navon Prince] coming back and all we had to do was really move them around and we was going score, we was going do what we do best.”
Ballou responded with a 10 play drive that ended with a Marquis Hamilton rush from inches out; the score cut Wilson’s lead to 19-7 halfway through the quarter.
Williams Jr wasn’t done in the first half as he would connect with wide receiver Khaleb Coleman on the next drive for his fourth passing touchdown of the half, this time a 13 yard pitch and catch in the back of the end zone. The Tigers would go up 25-7 after the failed two point conversion.
Hamilton of Ballou found himself in the end zone for the second time on the night with just 48 seconds to play as the Knights pounded the ball on the ground and cut into the Tigers lead 25-13 going into halftime.
If the first half was on offensive clinic, the third quarter was a defensive showcase as both teams were able to buckle down coming out of the half on the defensive side and hold the offenses in check. Neither team was able to find the end zone in the third quarter, while both defenses came up big forcing turnovers.
As the fourth quarter began the turnover bug continued to plague both teams as Ballou was able to recover a muffed punt by Wilson inside the red zone. Three plays later, running back Jamal Speaks was able to score the team’s third running touchdown of the game, this one cut Wilson’s lead to single digits 25-20.
Things wouldn’t get better for Wilson. On their next offensive possession Williams Jr wasn’t able to handle the shotgun snap causing Wilson’s second fumble of the quarter. Ballou capitalized as Speaks found the end zone again, this time a 19 yard burst up the middle; the score gave Ballou its first lead of the game at 27-25 and nine minutes to play.
“When we went into half I told them it wasn’t over, then we slipped up and they came back.” said Savoy. “So I just made sure I stayed on top of them to make sure we finished this game out.”
The Knights lead was short lived however as the Tigers were able to respond with a touchdown of their own in just under one minute of game time as Savoy was able to haul in his second touchdown catch of the game, this one from 16 yards out, the score put Wilson back in front 31-27 with close to nine minutes on the clock.
The teams would trade scores as Wilson took back the lead from Ballou for a second time in the quarter, with the score being 37-34 and two minutes left on the clock, Ballou would attempt to take back the lead for the third and final time of the game. Starting on its own 23 yard line, the Knights were able to get the ball all the way down to Wilson 16 before the snap went over the head of quarterback Keonte Johnson and all the way back to the 45 yard line before it was recovered by Wilson and the victory was sealed.
“We young, and when you got a young team you’re going make mistakes so sometimes you have to take the good with the bad, we came back and we fought,” said Ballou head coach Jason Lane. “Unfortunately at the end we weren’t able to make that last play or take that last attempt so we got to rebuild we got a young team and we’ll be back I promise you that.”
Wilson now will turn its focus to the Woodson Warriors as they face the team Thursday for a chance to be crowned DCIAA champions.
“Its great [the win], I feel great for our school for our kids we got a majority of the whole team coming up next year and we’re just so glad to be in this game,” said Marti