Inspired by a dazzling game-opening 86-yard kickoff return by Chris Walker, Coolidge dominated H.D. Woodson in every phase of the game to earn a surprising 35-6 victory in the Interhigh League championship game yesterday before an estimated 4,000 at RFK Stadium.
"Never in my life have any of my teams been so dominated," said Woodson Coach Bob Headen, minutes after suffering one of the worst defeats in his 20 years of coaching. "Coolidge didn't do anything unexpected, they just outplayed us. Even the kickoff return didn't break us. We had time to come back."
Not on this day. Led by linebacker Thomas Connally, ends Gerald Edmonds, the defensive player of the game, and Maurice Simpson, Coolidge held Woodson to 59 yards rushing -- 42 coming on 14 runs by tailback Rodney Purifoy -- and a total offense of 65 yards.
"We wanted to keep Purifoy from getting outside. If we did that, it would force them to pass," said Simpson. "They aren't a passing team so the key was to put pressure on them when they had to throw."
Sound strategy. Perfect execution. Warriors quarterback Darwin Bridgers completed only two of 16 passes for six yards. His receivers dropped a half dozen of his throws, but the Colts also sacked the junior three times, intercepted four passes and forced him to fumble twice.
Coolidge (9-1) used ball control to stretch its 7-0 lead to a comfortable 21-0 margin at halftime.
After a short punt by Purifoy to the Woodson 37, the Colts needed only five plays to score. Connally, who rushed for 131 yards on 25 carries and was named offensive player of the game, high-stepped the final 21 yards through a bewildered Woodson defense on a trap play. Roger Bailey made the second of five conversion kicks to make it 14-0 with 3:02 left in the first period.
Connally and Walker intercepted passes by Bridgers and Simpson recovered a fumble in the second period to prevent Woodson (7-5) from getting on track offensively.
Three plays after Simpson's recovery at the Woodson 13, Shaun LaVette (79 yards on 20 carries) scored from two yards out with 25 seconds left to help give the Colts their 21-point lead at intermission.
"We did what we planned to do -- stop their run and use a lot of counter plays and traps against them," Coolidge Coach Sam Taylor said. "Our defense was great. We kept good pressure on him (Bridgers) and covered their receivers. This is what we worked hard all year for."
The score could have been much worse. Coolidge, with 306 yards total offense on 76 plays from scrimmage, compared to Woodson's 35 plays, started eight of its 13 possessions in the Warriors' territory. An apparent 23-yard touchdown pass from Oscar Ellerbe to Anthony Myers was wiped out by a penalty. Four other drives ended at the Warriors' 15-, 16-, nine- and 12-yard lines.
"Our counter plays and runs up the middle worked best," said Connally, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound senior. "Our plan was to attack the Woodson defense and our line did a great job opening holes."
Connally benefited from some gaping holes to pick up big yardage as the Colts drove 45 yards to score midway through the final period. He capped the 10-play march with a one-yard scoring run.
Woodson's lone bright spot of the dismal afternoon came seconds after Connally's second touchdown of the day. Purifoy, who had scored six touchdowns in his last two games, took the ensuing kickoff, cut to the outside and evaded a diving effort by Coolidge's Howard Arrington to finish off a 90-yard kickoff return.
But even Purifoy's run was soon forgotten. With less than a minute to play, Coolidge's Troy Thomas picked off another pass by Bridgers and returned it 51 yards for the day's final touchdown.
Several Coolidge players never saw the score; they were too busy celebrating.