VACAVILLE — When a recording Kelly Clarkson singing the line “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” played over the PA system at Zunino Stadium, the Will C. Wood High football team was on life support.
Before running an offensive play the Wildcats trailed Vanden by two touchdowns and the odds of coming back on the muddy turf looked long at best.
But come back they did, tying the game by the second quarter and again with 48 seconds left in regulation before pulling out a 28-27 nonleague victory over the devastated Vikings, Saturday night.
Vanden scored on its first possession of the overtime on a 10-yard pass from Jadon Brisendine to Dion Williams, but Antonio Ramirez’s conversion attempt was ruled wide left.
Wood countered with a 1-yard keeper off right tackle by quarterback Tyler Bailey and Adam Cunning’s kick provided the margin of victory.
How tough a loss was it for Vanden, which hadn’t given up a point in its first two games?
“It’s real tough, because we haven’t expecting (giving up the lead) out of our defense,” said Vikings coach LeVon Haynes. “Funning thing, I told our guys they’re going to be tested. I knew those guys would come out and play inspired football. They wanted the game. We made a lot of mistakes. My hat’s off to Will C. Wood. They played hard and we didn’t execute.”
Not nearly well enough to win, especially when the game seemed in control early.
The Vikings (2-1) were their own worst enemies, converting just twice on 14 third downs, the second as time expired at the end of regulation. They also were penalized 17 times for 145 yards.
“You can’t do that and win ballgames,” Haynes said. “You can’t beat a Pop Warner team.”
In the opening minutes it looked as if the Vikings were playing a junior pee wee squad, at least when it came to kickoffs. A Wood return man literally booted the opening kickoff and it was recovered by Vanden’s Khalil Nunley at the Wildcats’ 16.
Brisendine then hit Damaurius Muchison on a post pattern in the end zone for the opening touchdown. The first of Ramirez’s three conversions made it 7-0 just 12 seconds into the game.
The Vikings pooched the ensuing kickoff and Billy Hurst swooped in to recover the ball for Vanden at the Wood 39.
Seven plays later, Brisendine hit Williams on a slant pass on fourth-and-goal from the 7 to make it 14-0 before the Wildcats had run a play.
Wood (2-1) went three-and-out on its first possession, but it’s best offense proved to be its defense.
Roddrick Douglas picked off a Brisendine pass at the Wood 25 and raced down the left sideline 75 yards for a touchdown nearly as stunning as the first two scored by the Vikings.
Wood recovered a Vanden fumble on the ensuing kickoff but again failed to get a first down. The Vikings turned it over on downs as a pair of drops on swing passes gave the Wildcats the ball at their own 41.
Three plays and a 15-yard penalty on Vanden later, Bailey hit a wide open Aaron Herbert over the middle for a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter.
The second of Cunning’s four conversions tied it at 14-14.
It stayed that way until the Vikings drove 48 yards on nine plays – including their first third-down conversion of the night after failing the first 10 times – with a scrambling Brisendine finding Tony Terry alone in the end zone from 4 yards out.
That put Vanden up 21-14 with 2:14 to go in the third quarter.
Wood was poised to tie it midway through the fourth quarter but a low snap was bobbled by Bailey on fourth-and-1 from the Vanden 3 resulting in a 1-yard loss.
The Vikings couldn’t do anything with the reprieve, however, and had to punt it away, giving the Wildcats the ball on their 48 with 3:17 to go in the game.
Two personal fouls on the Vikings proved devastating as Wood drove to the Vanden 5 before Bailey hit a leaping Arthur Jackson for the tying score with 48 seconds remaining.
The Vikings managed to get to the Wood 38 on a 24-yard pass for a first down from Brisendine to Williams, but the time was allowed run down without the ball being spotted and Vanden allowed a chance to kill the clock.
Wood’s comeback and the overtime proved Clarkson’s words prophetic.
They also made game stats meaningless. The Vikings held Wood to zero yards rushing on 29 attempts with Bailey going 12 of 25 for 123 yards.
Vanden, meanwhile, rushed for 80 yards – its second straight game under 100 yards on the ground as a team – with Hamilton leading with 81 yards on 19 carries.
Brisendine finished up 18 of 30 for 179 yards with Dion Williams catching seven passes for 75 yards and Terry five for 56.
The road gets tougher for both teams on Friday as Vanden hosts MEL juggernaut Napa and Wood entertains SCAC power Benicia.
“We didn’t execute a few things, that happens,” Haynes said. “That was the difference in the ballgame. We have to regroup. We face a tough Napa team, we know that. We play at home. We have to flush tonight and get back to work.
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.