LYNCHBURG, Va. — In an offensive showdown that featured 11 touchdowns and little defense, the momentum-swinging play was a hard count. That cadence, and the resulting penalty, helped Woodgrove keep possession and hold on to win its first state championship, 38-33, Saturday in the Virginia Class 4 football title game.
Up five points with less than six minutes left, the Wolverines faced fourth and four from the Titans 38-yard line.
Quarterback Graham Walker called a hard count and a Lake Taylor defensive lineman jumped offside, the team’s seventh encroachment penalty of the game, to extend the drive.
“They were very anxious up front,” wide receiver Nick Lockhart said.
As the whistle blew, Woodgrove’s sideline erupted while Lake Taylor’s let out a collective groan. One Lake Taylor defender fell to the ground and clutched his helmet in disbelief. In a game in which both teams scored with ease and the team with the final possession seemed likely to have the upper-hand, that penalty helped seal the win for No. 13 Woodgrove (11-2), a Purcellville school that opened in 2010.
“It’s huge for the school. We’ve never had anything comparable to this in our little town that we have,” said Lockhart, who had six catches for 116 yards and a touchdown. “It [was] a dream of ours since a young age to win this.”
Lake Taylor regained possession, eventually, several minutes later but could not march down the field and turned the ball over on downs.
The Wolverines, who won their final 10 games, have had plenty to celebrate over the past three months. That continued Saturday. One player flung his helmet to the air. Several dropped to the ground and hugged each other. A few cried. Coach Mike Skinner turned to the fans and encouraged them to get rowdier.
The teams combined for 891 yards, gaining 25 yards or more on 12 separate plays.
Walker passed for 343 yards and rushed for 135 to lead the Wolverines offense. He added five touchdowns.
“It’s the best one I’ve had,” Skinner said of his quarterback. “What a tremendous performance. If some colleges don’t want this guy, they’re crazy.”
Lake Taylor’s 49-yard run for a touchdown on the second offensive play of the game was a sign that the matchup would feature high scores even though Woodgrove allowed fewer than 12 points per game entering this one. The Titans (13-2) of Norfolk ran for touchdowns of 70 and 55 yards in the second quarter to stay close, but the Wolverines remained calm and executed their offense.
Walker connected with three receivers for touchdowns. He passed or kept the ball himself on 70 of the 86 offensive plays Saturday.
“We’ve been talking about this since our freshman year,” Walker said. “We thought we’d be the class to hopefully get it done. A lot of hard work, sweat and tears and we were able to pull it out.”