E.A. Sports Today

Lincoln’s big plays overshadow freshman’s big game

Alexandria’s Keenan Woodruff rushed for 240 yards, 2 long TDs, but Valley Cubs fell 44-32

Alexandria's Keenan Woodruff (32) watches second-half action after scoring his second long touchdown of the game Friday.

Alexandria’s Keenan Woodruff (32) watches second-half action after scoring his second long touchdown of the game Friday.

Alton Davis (far left) scores Alexandria's first touchdown on a fourth-and-goal from the 1.

Alton Davis (far left) scores Alexandria’s first touchdown on a fourth-and-goal from the 1.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Keenan Woodruff walked through the Alexandria bench area in the final minutes of what was turning into a tough loss trying to keep the tears from escaping from under his helmet.

The freshman had run like a savvy veteran and for a while it looked like the Valley Cubs were going to win a key region game, but in the end they couldn’t overcome Lincoln’s speed and big plays in the second half and lost 44-32 Friday night.

“It was tough, it was tough; just have to play better next time,” Woodruff said after emerging from the team room. “We were trying to play hard, trying to execute, trying to get back on defense … stop the run. We just couldn’t do it, couldn’t pull it off.

“It hurts, but you just have to bounce back from it. Maybe next time.”

Woodruff had a breakout game. He ran for 240 yards and two long touchdowns on 21 carries. When he somehow managed to keep his balance through a twisting 46-yard tour through the Lincoln defense for his first touchdown and followed it with a 57-yard score in the third quarter, it evoked memories of legendary Georgia announcer Larry Munson’s call early in the career of future Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker – “My God, a freshman.”

“He was one we were worried about when we watched tape,” Lincoln coach Brad Wallace said. “(Woodruff) has some wheels on him and he runs the ball really hard and gets after it.”

But the Golden Bears had weapons of their own. Quarterback Zavian Caldwell had touchdown runs of 1, 17 and 70 yards and threw a 71-yard tournament pass – all after Woodruff’s second touchdown gave the Valley Cubs a 32-17 lead midway through the third quarter. Caldwell also had a 23-yard touchdown run and a 23-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.

The two 70-yard plays came on consecutive offensive snaps. Caldwell finished with 149 yards rushing and 94 yards passing. Jamario Howard had 193 yards rushing for the Golden Bears.

“We knew coming in we would have to contain their speed and we did for a while and we went up, but when we didn’t it was ugly in a hurry,” Alexandria coach Frank Tucker said. “Their speed was the difference in this game.”

Lincoln appeared headed for an easy win early, opening a 14-0 with touchdowns on its first two possessions.

But the Valley Cubs rallied with three touchdowns in the first nine minutes of the second quarter to take the momentum and a 24-17 halftime lead.

One of the scores was Woodruff’s nifty 46-yard run through the Lincoln defense. It looked like he was down several times, but he always managed to keep his feet and found his way into the end zone. With Alton Davis’ two-point conversion, the Valley Cubs were down only 17-16.

“Keenan got us back in this game,” Tucker said. “He did a great job getting us back in this game with some good runs, and hopefully he will continue to do that.”

Alexandria finally took a lead on Austin Wells’ 1-yard run and Woodruff’s two-point conversion 3:39 before halftime.

The rally was helped along by two big breaks on the special teams. A bad snap on a punt set up the go-ahead touchdown and a bad snap on a field goal attempt kept Lincoln from getting closer at the break.

Woodruff also scored on a 57-yard burst that gave Alexandria a 32-17 lead with 6:25 left in the third quarter before Lincoln started its big-play barrage. The Golden Bears has 320 yards of total offense, 249 rushing, from that point to the end.

“At halftime we kind of challenged them,” Wallace said. “I told them, ‘Guys, we’ve got to get back in this ball game. We’ve got to get some kind of momentum.’

“It wasn’t pretty by no means, but the thing I’m real proud about my kids right now is they fought back in the second half and got themselves back in the ball game. We’ve got a lot of things to work on by all means but those kids fought back and got back after it.”

The Valley Cubs did a good job of making Lincoln’s massive Auburn commitment Jaunta’vius Jackson a non-factor in the game. Jackson did force and recover a fumble between the two 70-yard scoring plays, but he wasn’t the dominant figure fans might have come to Lou Scales Stadium to see.

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn arrived at halftime to watch his future player and stood in a far corner of the end zone within arm’s length of two state troopers during the break, but left midway through the third quarter.

“They got after us pretty good in the trenches,” Wallace said. “They had an unbalanced set and gave us fits all night long. We’ve got to learn that we’ve got to stick our nose back into stuff like that. It was a tough go at it until the second half.”

Al Muskewitz is Content Editor/Senior Writer of East Alabama Sports Today. To comment on this story or pitch a story idea, contact him at musky@wrightmediacorp.com and follow him on Twitter @easportstoday1.

Lincoln (2-1, 2-0) 14 3 13 14 — 44
Alexandria (1-2, 1-1) 0 24 8 0 — 32

L – Zavian Caldwell 23 run (Mason McIean kick)
L – Quinderius Carmichael 23 pass from Caldwell (McIean kick)
A – Alton Davis 1 run (Chase Smitherman catch)
L – McIean 23 FG
A – Keenan Woodruff 46 run (Davis run)
A – Austin Wells 1 run (Woodruff run)
A – Woodruff 57 run (Wells run)
L – Jamychol Baker 71 pass from Caldwell (McIean kick)
L – Caldwell 70 run (run failed)
L – Caldwell 1 run (McIean kick)
L – Caldwell 17 run (McIean kick)

Lin Alex
First downs 13 18
Rush-yds 39-335 49-315
Passing yds 94 63
C-A-I 2-10-0 5-14-1
Fum-Lost 3-2 0-0
Punts-avg 0-0 5-36.8
Pen.-yds 8-85 11-105

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