By Kris Freeman for the White House Tribune
(White House) – White House junior Wesley James blitzed unblocked from the left defensive end and crumpled LaDarius Wimberly on fourth down and the Blue Devils ran out the clock on the Maplewood goal line for an improbable 23-22 victory at home in the second round of the Class 4-A playoffs.
While White House (7-5) was the higher seed, the Panthers (7-5) were the favorite and disposed of WHHS in the quarterfinals in 2011. But this was a different team, built on speed and not power, and the otherwise physical Blue Devils forced mistake after mistake in a tight ball game with four lead changes.
Maplewood committed eight penalties for 66 yards, twice negating a first down. While 5-of-11 on third down, the Panthers were 0-of-3 on fourth down and snapped a punt through the endzone for a safety.
The biggest miscue for White House came full circle, however. When Wayne Williams lost 29 yards on a punt in the first series of the third quarter which landed on the north end zone fence, but the free kick was fumbled by Chris Mullins with the Blue Devils leading, 16-12. Mullins fumble was the only turnover.
Two series later, Cortez Adams darted 63 yards and Wimberly found LaDarius Malone for a two-point conversion and a 20-15 edge with five minutes to play in the third quarter.
Mullins lined up deep for the kickoff and Juantarious Bryant placed it short at the 17. Mullins fielded the ball and cut to the home sideline before breaking through a wedge of defenders and bolting 83 yards for the eventual game-winning touchdown. Chase Dunlap added his third extra point for a 23-20 margin.
In a bizarre twist, Dunlap suffered the same fate punting as his Panther counterpart. Standing in almost the exact same spot on the field, a fourth quarter snap flew over the senior’s head and he kicked it out of the endzone for a safety, avoiding the Maplewood rush. That 23-22 score would hold up.
The mistakes for Maplewood mounted. Jordan Huskey intercepted Wimberly at the one yard line. Again inside the red zone, a clipping penalty wiped off a first down at the 10 and two consecutive incompletions stalled the drive. With just three minutes to play, James sack of Wimberly at the White House 30 was the final straw.
Senior Grant Wicker was held just under 100 yards rushing, and for an offense built around the power running game, White House managed only 173 total yards. But without a penalty, and two fantastic scoring drives, the Blue Devils were sharp when it mattered. Quarterback Ryan Pool completed just 2-of-4 passes for 16 yards, but his first was a brilliant compromise to avoid a sack, hitting Chris Mullins on the shuffle pass for a 16-yard first down. Pool also rushed for a touchdown and Wicker added a TD, a 34-yard run to give the Blue Devils a later 14-12 halftime lead.
Senior linebacker Ethan Hoffman starred on both sides of the football. Hos four carries for 26 yards were all for first downs as a fullback, and his 15 tackles led the defense including two quarterback pressures and a vicious hit on Wimberly during an incomplete pass.
James added 10 tackles, junior Taylor Wood had nine and junior Bailey Burns seven.
Maplewood dominated total offense with 311 yards. Wimberly completed 8-of-17 for 80 yards and Adams rushed 17 times for 135 yards with Troy Fair complementing him with 13 carries for 91.
White House hosts third-seeded Liberty Magnet School (8-4) in the quarterfinals Friday at 7 p.m. The Crusaders dropped top-seed Lexington in the second round and will be looking for revenge after White House upset them at home three years ago in the second round.