Cornerback Dillan Thompson sparked Woodlawn’s football team to its first win of the season Thursday with an early interception return for a touchdown.
The junior and his teammates hope that will be the catalyst for more than the 16-6 road win over New Town.
“It’s a statement,” said Thompson, who finished with two interceptions. “This is the start of, hopefully it will be an 11-game win streak for us. We don’t plan to do no more losing. We plan to work out every week. We plan to come out, execute, do what our coaches say, make a run.”
The Warriors, who came into the game 0-2 while the Titans were 2-0, are aiming for their first playoff berth under second-year coach Elwood Townsend, who took Douglass to the Class 1A state final in 2013 and 2014 and took Reginald Lewis to the 1A South regional final in 2016. Neither program had won a regional playoff game until Townsend arrived.
Last year, the Warriors finished 6-4, but they missed the playoffs.
Townsend, The Baltimore Sun’s 2012 All-Metro Coach of the Year, said steady improvement is just a matter of getting the players to believe. They also lost the first two games last season before turning things around.
“I think we’re a little bit more talented this year. We just have to put it together,” Townsend said. “Last year, those kids, they wanted to work hard at the beginning. We lacked some talent in certain areas last year. Our quarterback went down in the fourth game with a broken shoulder, so this year, we came out and we just wanted to focus on things that we can control.”
In Thursday’s game — moved from Saturday because of the threat of Hurricane Florence’s aftermath — neither team managed much traction on offense as tempers flared at times between the Baltimore County west-side rivals. A few minutes into the game, Woodlawn’s Tahj Roberts recovered a fumble, the first of three New Town turnovers, but the Warriors could not convert.
Midway through the first quarter, Thompson picked off a Woodlawn pass and ran 61 yards for the touchdown. Quarterback Damontaa Johns converted the two-point conversion and the Warriors led 8-0. They would never trail.
“It was a big confidence booster for us,” the junior said of his touchdown. “I felt like me getting an interception, it set the tone early. It got everybody hyped and ready to play and I feel like that started a great game.”
The Warriors defense didn’t give up much, and it held off repeated attempts by the Titans to score from within the 10-yard line late in the first half. The Titans got within a yard and a half of the goal line, but the Warriors held.
“We just had to stay fundamentally sound,” junior linebacker Antonio DeShields said. “We’ve been working all week in practice trying to stay from jumping offsides. We’ve just got a lot of guys who want to work together and it’s a bigger picture than just this game.”
The Titans had a chance to tie after Darron Broach forced a fumble. Gerrell Johnson recovered it and raced 69 yards for a touchdown, but the Warriors stopped the conversion attempt.
About four minutes later, Woodlawn added to its 8-6 lead when Jawan Rabb ran for a 14-yard touchdown with 1.3 seconds left in the third quarter. Malachi Dalton scored on the conversion run and Woodlawn led 16-6.
The Warriors were driving for more with George Washington IV eating up yardage on the ground, but with 53 seconds left, they turned the ball over. Antoine Collins recovered but the Titans weren’t able to score in the final 36.5 seconds.
New Town coach Mike Savage said the game was a learning experience for his young team after their hot start.
“They’re senior heavy. We’re not,” Savage said. “I’ve probably got six seniors. These guys are young. All 11 on offense and all 11 on defense will come back next year. It’s better for them to taste that loss early in the year. It would have helped us point-wise for the state playoffs. With them being a 3A school and us being 2A, it would have helped us a lot, but it doesn’t hurt us.”
W 8 0 8 0 — 16
NT 0 0 6 0 — 6
W—Thompson 61 int. return (Johns run)
NT—Johnson 69 fumble rec. (run failed)
W—Rabb 14 run (Dalton run)