Sasser boots Saints as time expires
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 8, 2011 11:10 PM
Stephan Woodard provided the inspiration.
Kyle Sasser delivered a much-needed win that turned into another instant classic between two county archrivals Friday evening.
Sasser drilled the game-clinching 34-yard field goal as time expired and lifted the Warriors to a nail-biting 17-16 victory over Southern Wayne at Little Big Horn. Eastern Wayne avoided the pitfall of a winless season after capturing the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference championship one year ago.
"It's a testament to the kids because they've battled through (adversity)," said third-year Warriors head coach Bubba Williams. "They've had a hard year. (We've) had a lot of breaks not go our way, some things that last year fell in place for us.
"We've got some talented kids. They just have to play together as a group."
The Warriors did this time.
The Saints (4-3 overall, 0-3 ECC) grabbed a 14-0 lead on Quintae Bradshaw's touchdown runs of 8 and 16 yards in the opening half. The Warriors had a chance to pull within a touchdown late in the second quarter, but came up empty on a 13-play, 6-minute drive.
The missed opportunity didn't sit well with Woodard.
"I just felt like, as a senior, I needed to step up," said Woodard.
And he did.
The 5-foot-6, 160-pounder returned the second-half kickoff 86 yards to the house. Sasser added the extra point and a once-silent Warrior sideline immediately became animated.
"That was crazy ... a sick return which was the turning point of the game right there," said Sasser.
Eastern Wayne's defense forced a 3-and-out on Southern Wayne's first offensive series of the quarter, and started its next drive on the Saints' side of the field.
Quarterback Jake Wiser directed a nine-play, 47-yard march that ended with Lamorris Pridgen's replay of the "Immaculate Reception" on second-and-goal from the 17. Flushed from the pocket, Wiser rolled to his left and lofted a pass to Pridgen, who was covered by three white jerseys.
A Saints' defender deflected the ball which dropped into Pridgen's open arms as he fell backwards into the end zone. Sasser's second PAT created a 14-14 deadlock with 5:36 to go.
"I thought it was going to be picked at first when I saw it tipped," said a grinning Pridgen. "I said 'here we go' and just caught it. I was lucky. I had to make a big play and it came up good for me."
Southern Wayne retook the lead 16-14 when Eastern Wayne snapped a fourth-quarter punt out of the end zone with 6:09 to go. The Saints returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, but a holding infraction moved the ball back near midfield and the Warrior defense held on downs.
Four minutes remained in regulation.
Using Shelton Pender and Craig Smith as his workhorses, Wiser moved the Warriors down to the Saints' 28-yard line. On fourth-and-7 from the 31, Wiser found Pridgen uncovered on the left sideline for an 11-yard gain.
"That was blown coverage," said SW head coach David Lee.
Sasser began warming up.
As precious seconds ticked into eternity and the crowd yelled for Williams to burn a timeout, Eastern Wayne (1-6, 1-2) advanced inside the red zone. Sasser grabbed his tee as Williams asked for the timeout, ran onto the field, placed it on the dew-slickened turf and waited for the snap.
The final three seconds expired as Sasser's game-deciding field goal easily split the uprights with plenty of distance to spare. Pandemonium erupted on the Warriors' side of the field, while several Saints players sat stunned in disbelief.
"I saw that two-point safety on the board and knew the game might come down to (a field goal)," said Sasser. "I was sitting over there the last five minutes just throwing up prayers. I just hoped it would go through.
"It feels really good to seal that victory for our team and maybe it will turn our season around."