JACKSON TWP — The touchdown that Woodland Hills scored just before halftime Friday night could have been a turning point.
Instead, it turned out to be a mere footnote.
Seneca Valley was forced to punt deep in its own end, setting the Wolverines up at SV's 28 with just 13 seconds left in the second quarter. It took Woodland Hills just one play to find the end zone as Gavin Judson found Michael Coleman, cutting the Raider lead to 10-7 at the break.
The slim lead came despite the fact that SV out-gained Woodland Hills in the first two quarters, 202-67.
“They got a lot of momentum from that score,” said SV safety Josh McLean. “It was rough, coming just before the half, but we just had to stay together and keep making plays.”
That's how the Raiders spent the final two quarters on both sides of the ball as they prevailed 24-7 in a non-conference game at NexTier Stadium.
Moments before scoring their lone touchdown of the game, the Wolverines (2-6) had been stonewalled at the goalline, with McLean among several defenders who stopped running back Anthony Merideth for no gain on 4th-and-goal from the one-yard line.
The Raiders, however, were unable to run out the clock, forcing the punt.
“That touchdown that they (Wolverines) scored was not on our defense, but our offense,” said SV coach Ron Butschle. “We have to find a way there to move the ball, pick up a first down and keep them from getting the ball back.”
The Raiders (6-2) had the perfect answer following intermission. First, their defense forced Woodland Hills into a three-and-out. The offense then drove 73 yards in just six plays, with quarterback Gabe Lawson scoring on a one-yard run. His 35-yard pass to McLean and a 25-yard run by Matt Stanger set up the score.
Stanger rushed 24 times for 126 yards in the game. His four-yard run midway through the final quarter capped the scoring. He opened the scoring earlier in the night when he received a screen pass from Lawson and raced 26 yards on the game's first drive.
“This was a breakout game for Matt,” said Butschle. “Our offensive line had a lot to do with that. They blocked very well tonight, both in the running game and passing game.”
Butschle admitted he was concerned with the Wolverines' running game coming in. Backs Anthony Merideth and Will Clark had formed a very effective 1-2 punch for head coach Tim Bostard.
But the Raiders, who have now given up just 57 points in eight games, completely shut down the ground game. Merideth and Clark combined for just seven yards on 12 carries. As a team, Woodland Hills totaled just nine yards on the ground.
“Our front seven forced their backs to go wide. Then, us defensive backs were there to make the plays
“We knew Seneca was big up front and they just out-physicaled us,” said Bostard. “It forced us to go to our passing game.”
But Judson's arm was neutralized for most of the game. SV's Ryan Kristobak picked off one of his passes midway through the first quarter. The turnover set up a 22-yard field goal from Winters that put the Raiders up 10-0.
Lawson finished the game with 216 passing yards, the one touchdown and one interception. Jake Stebbins caught five passes for 93 yards, McLean three for 83 yards.
When asked for his thoughts on the offensive effort, McLean replied, “We're just getting started.”
Seneca Valley travels to Pine-Richland Friday.
Woodland Hills 0 7 0 0 — 7
Seneca Valley 10 0 7 7 — 24
SV — Matt Stanger 36 pass from Gabe Lawson (Seth Winters kick), 8:37
SV — Winters 22 field goal, 3:17
WH — Michael Coleman 28 pass from Gavin Judson (Chuck Hanchett kick), :06
SV — Lawson 1 run (Winters kick), 8:08
SV — Stanger 4 run (Winters kick), 7:01
Rushing:Woodland Hills, Anthony Merideth 6-2, Will Clark 6-5, Gavin Judson 6-(-15), Jay Smith 4-17. Seneca Valley, Matt Stanger 24-126, Gabe Lawson 11-25, Jake Mineweaser 3-7.
Passing:Woodland Hills, Gavin Judson 12-18-158-1. Seneca Valley, Gabe Lawson 10-15-216-1.
Receiving:Woodland Hills, Jayden Lucas 5-53, Michael Coleman 3-38, Jay Smith 2-76, Will Clark 1-(-3), Mekhi Jackson 1-(-6). Seneca Valley, Jake Stebbins5-93, Matt Stanger 1-36, Luke Smith 1-4, Josh McLean 3-83.