• By Thomas Mims, Sport Writer

WCMS 7th graders defeat Elks in semifinals to put Tigers in big game, hunting Georgetown Buffaloes

Some games come down to the X’s and O’s. Others come down to one big play or dumb luck. But others are simply a battle of wills. For Woodford County Middle School football coach Dave Thomas, Tuesday night’s 16-8 conference semifinal victory over Elkhorn Middle School was one of those battles of will. “We wanted it more than they did,” said Thomas, still taking in the sights of his 7th grade team’s playoff win. “Our character showed up in the second half.” The night began in frustrating fashion for the Tigers. Elkhorn converted two fourth downs on the game’s opening drive on their way to a touchdown and two-point conversion to take an 8-0 lead. An early lead wasn’t the only thing the Elks took — they also took the first quarter. Woodford didn’t touch the ball until the final 30 seconds of the game’s opening frame. After nearly seven minutes of defending, the Tigers finally took the ball on the attack, immediately opening up the passing game with an 18-yard gain on a pass from quarterback Leland Taylor to Nolan Asher. The drive looked stalled a few players later, but then Taylor found Wyatt Crowe for a 29-yard pass on fourth-and-9 at the Elkhorn 30-yard line. A few goalline rushes later and Taylor found his way into the endzone. He would complete a pass to Graham Hodge on the conversion to tie the score at 8-8. “Leland threw the ball the best he has all season. I knew with the way they’ve played us before ... the passing game has been there. I wanted to try and take a shot on the first play of the game and he was able to hit Nolan. He made some big timely plays for us,” said Thomas, lauding his young signal caller’s efforts. With the score still tied after halftime, the Tigers got the ball to begin the second half and drove into the red zone with relative ease with a physical approach as the blockers took over the line of scrimmage. Deep inside Elk territory, Taylor faked a handoff and almost walked into the end zone because his path was so clear. The two-point conversion looked like a re-enactment of the touchdown as Taylor once again was afforded the space to leisurely stroll in for the score to put Woodford County up 16-8 with three minutes left in the third quarter. The lead in hand, the responsibility now turned to the Woodford defense. “We went into the break and made some adjustments (with Samuel Garrison) at middle linebacker. We decided to spy the quarterback some and he made some huge stops.” Much improved from the game’s opening drive, the Woodford defense forced a punt after just three offensive plays and a fake punt that managed to keep the drive alive due to a Woodford facemask. The Tigers were moving the ball well when an untimely fumble struck midway through the fourth quarter. The mistake came as the Tigers were trying to drain the remaining time from the clock. The miscue gave the Elks one last chance with just over three minutes remaining in the game, needing a touchdown and conversion to force overtime. Elkhorn made little progress before facing a fourth-and-1 on their own 34-yard line. Again, the Tiger defense roared, stuffing the rush up the middle to get the ball back and clinch the victory. “That number seven kid they’ve got, he’s been an animal all season. He broke a long gain against us in the regular season. I figured he was getting it and our defensive line — all four of them — got great movement off the ball and the linebackers came up. It was a huge stop,” said Thomas. Next up for the Tigers is a championship game against Georgetown Middle School, fresh off of an upset of top-seeded Scott County. There was plenty of excitement between the Tigers’ coaching staff, players and parents when the news of the upset broke as it meant avoiding one of the two teams to defeat the Tigers this season. Still, no matter who the opponent, Thomas believes there’s only one thing his team has to concern themselves with — their own play. “When we’re able to play our game, we win. If we let somebody else dictate to us (how the game goes) we can have some struggles. We just need to play our game and see what happens.”

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