Clinging to a two-point lead early in the fourth quarter, Woodbridge needed someone to make a big play.
Ricky Rayford responded with the biggest play of the season so far, returning a fumble 55 yards for a touchdown as the Blue Raiders scored a huge, 21-18 road win over Lake Forest on Monday night.
Woodbridge, ranked fifth in Division II, had been criticized for a soft schedule but proved it will be a force by improving to 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the Henlopen South. No. 7 Lake Forest slipped to 3-3 and 1-2.
“This win means a great deal for us,” Rayford said. “They told us that we couldn’t do it. They said that we hadn’t played anyone. But if we were 1-4, they would have said we were the typical Woodbridge. So we came out here to prove something.”
The Spartans roared right down the field on their first possession, with John Flamer’s 6-yard run completing a five-play, 60-yard drive for a 6-0 lead. The Blue Raiders answered with a 19-yard run by quarterback Logan Wescott to go up 7-6.
Woodbridge put together another drive early in the second quarter, and Dajon Emory made a beautiful diving catch on Wescott’s 25-yard touchdown pass for a 14-6 lead.
Lake Forest grinded 53 yards in 10 plays, with Flamer pushing it in from the 1 with 45 seconds left in the first half. But Woodbridge stopped the Spartans’ two-point run attempt to stay ahead, 14-12.
It stayed that way until the Blue Raiders’ Ty’Req Nelson forced a fumble on a sweep at the Woodbridge 45. Rayford picked it up and sprinted the distance for a 21-12 lead with 10:10 to play.
“I saw my man cause the fumble, and I saw a great opportunity to just scoop and score,” Rayford said. “That’s what we practice in practice, so I utilized it in the game and took it to the house.”
The Spartans responded with a 12-play, 80-yard drive, with quarterback Ridge Betts scoring on an 11-yard keeper to pull Lake Forest within 21-18 with 4:58 remaining.
But the Blue Raiders picked up two critical first downs and burned the clock on their next drive, finally giving the ball back to the Spartans at their own 35 with only 13.7 seconds remaining. Woodbridge’s Nate Opaliski sealed the victory with a sack.
The win sets up an even bigger game for the Blue Raiders on Friday, as they host Indian River for homecoming.
“It means everything,” Woodbridge coach Ed Manlove said. “This is the biggest game we’ve had in the past 14 years. To finally be halfway through the season and playing for something, that’s been our goal all along.”
The Spartans piled up 279 yards rushing, including 150 from Flamer on 17 carries. But three lost fumbles and some key penalties were too much to overcome.
“We’re a pound-it offense, and we put ourselves in bad situations,” said Lake Forest coach Fred Johnson.