By Taft Gantt ’20
On fourth down with 10 seconds left, Woodberry Forest needed a touchdown. Staley Wideman ‘20 seemed to be the answer as he juggled a tipped ball in the end zone. However, two Maroon defenders batted the ball away, and Episcopal survived The 119th Game 20-16.
Episcopal dominated the first half. An interception on Woodberry’s second offensive play set the Maroon up with a seven-yard touchdown run. The Tigers’ only two scores of the half came off high snaps on Maroon punts. One was recovered by Landon Ellis in the end zone for a touchdown, and the other was recovered by Episcopal for a safety. The Maroon offense scored two more touchdowns to lead 20-9 at halftime.
The Tigers’ defense came alive in the second half. Along with not allowing the Maroon any points, the unit forced a turnover when J Banzet ‘20 hit the quarterback and knocked the ball loose. Colin Kovacs ‘20 recovered the ball at the Maroon 35-yard line and set up the Tigers’ offense with its best field position of the day.
“We started to settle in during the second half after playing timid in the first,” said Banzet. “Once we got a few stops in the third quarter and the offense did not turn the ball over, we felt like we could compete with their offense. The defensive line held their gaps stronger and allowed Jianni [Woodson-Brooks ’20] and me to scrape faster and make more plays.”
Woodberry took advantage of the Maroon turnover and scored an eight-yard touchdown pass from Ben Locklear ‘20 to Wideman with roughly six minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Forestmen forced the Maroon to punt and gave the offense a shot with just over a minute left. Locklear led the Tigers down to the 20-yard line, but the Maroon defense held strong.
Woodberry finished the season 2-7, but the Tigers should not hang their heads. The players persevered through a rough start to the season and won their last two games leading up to The Game against Episcopal. Woodberry outscored those opponents (Trinity Episcopal and Fork Union) by a total of 35 points; both teams are ranked in the top four of the state playoffs.
The Game, which has been played every year since 1901, is the oldest unbroken high school football rivalry in the South. Woodberry leads the overall series 58-52-9 and will host the 120th playing of The Game next year on November 14.