They say defense wins championships, but it was special teams that nearly punched the Bridgeton High School football team’s ticket to the Group II South final.
The Bulldogs made a 20-yard field goal — the first one they attempted all season — with 3:21 to play to take a lead, but allowed Woodstown to march 65 yards and score to steal to a 14-9 victory and reach the state final on Friday night.
“We faced adversity all night, and we just handled it,” Bridgeton linebacker and running back Quasheem Taylor said. “That’s all we could do. We tried our best, we gave it our all.”
Bridgeton had one last chance to mount a miracle comeback. The Bulldogs had the ball on their own 27-yard line with 47 seconds left and drove to the Woodstown 4-yard line with time to run one more play.
Quarterback Ronald Williams rolled to his right and threaded the ball through a crowded end zone and hit Cappadonna Miller in the chest, but the usually sure-handed Miller couldn’t hold on to the ball as he fell to his back.
“He did so much for this team this year, so we can’t get down on him,” Williams said. “He played his heart out tonight.”
It was Miller who provided the first spark of the night for Bridgeton. He returned a punt 42 yards for a score late in the first half to cut the Wolverines’ lead to 7-6.
That’s how the score stayed until late in the fourth quarter.
Woodstown had the ball on their own 15-yard line with 6:27 to play, but fumbled the ball away after a run and a couple penalties. Bridgeton had the ball on the Wolverines’ 4-yard line, but couldn’t punch it in, so they sent out Williams to attempt the first field goal of his career.
The kick sailed perfectly through the uprights and the Bulldogs celebrated as they lined up for what would prove to be the game-winning drive.
On that drive, Woodstown converted on 3rd-and-long, and then scored on 2nd-and-7 with a pass from Jared Carney to Tariq Thomas.
“You have to hand it to them, that was a nice drive at the end,” Bridgeton coach Dave Ellen said.
The Bulldogs were emotional after the game because of the way the contest ended, but they weren’t upset about their performance.
“We had a good shot at the end, we just didn’t come up with it,” Taylor said.
Bridgeton was trying to make its first final since 1999 when they won Group II South. For Woodstown, it will be just their second-ever finals appearance.
This is also the second year Bridgeton has reached the semifinals as a No. 6 seed. Last season it was Delsea who ended the Bulldogs’ season.
“They left everything on the field, and that’s all you can ask,” Ellen said. “Worse things are going to happen to them than losing this game.”
Defensively, Bridgeton allowed Woodstown to gain just 151 yards on offense, including the 52-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. And 65 of those yards came on the final drive.
Bridgeton sacked Carney four times and dropped Woodstown runners for a loss 10 other times.
Williams finished the game 9-of-18 passing for 114 yards. He was picked off twice, but neither turnover led to points as the Bridgeton defense rose to the occasion each time.