Eagles hold off Woodland for first playoff win, 25-21

By: Nick Pecoraro/Telegraph Correspondent
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Vista del Lago football fans got everything they could have asked for in the eight vs. nine matchup of the first round of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs between the Eagles and the Wolves of Woodland High at Prairie City Stadium on Friday night. The Eagles ran the clock down with a four-point lead late in the fourth. Needing just a first down to take the victory knee, Vista quarterback Aaron Young tripped untouched as he dropped back to pass on fourth down, turning the ball over to the Wolves. “I saw Logan (Smith) in one-on-one coverage and I figured I’d chuck it up to him and ice the game. The next thing I know, my eyes went up and I went down,” said Young. “On the sideline, I was begging for my defense to bail me out. I thought, ‘this could be bad and I’ll be hated for the rest of my life’.” Woodland began its final drive at their own 38 with exactly one minute left and marched down to the Vista 16 with six season-deciding seconds on the clock. On third down, Josh Pfeffer brought just enough heat to force Woodland quarterback Dalen Jones to throw long and incomplete. Led by Young, Vista stormed the field in celebration after the final play, as the Eagles earned the first playoff victory in school history. “I was just thinking, ‘Come on defense, just one more stop,’” said Vista coach Chris Jones. The game featured eight lead changes between the two Division III teams. Woodland began the game with a 12-play opening drive that ended in a Tommy Connolly field goal from 29 yards out. Vista answered two drives later when Young connected with Chris Cooper for the first of three touchdowns between the two Eagles. Woodland’s Jones exploded through the middle for a 56-yard touchdown run to regain the lead at 9-7 just before the first quarter closed. Vista was more effective when they forced Jones to pass, as they were able to pressure the dynamic quarterback often. Four Eagles had at least one sack, led by Andrew Whitney with four, while Steven Gudino, Anthony Peoples and Charlie Conlon also contributed. “It feels great winning the first ever playoff game at Vista. It’s a pretty good feeling,” said Cooper, who led the Eagle air attack with five catches for 138 yards. Cooper’s second score reestablished the Vista lead at 18-15 heading into halftime. Woodland retook the lead at 21-18 when Jones scored another short touchdown for the Wolves. Four plays later, Young hit Cooper for the third time from 55 yards out to cap scoring at 25-21 with 7:48 in the third. The rest of the game would be a defensive standoff. “Both teams stepped up defensively. We did a good job of stepping up into some gaps. (Jones) is a heck of a runner and I’d much rather have him drop back and throw rather than take off downhill running,” said Coach Jones, whose Eagles advance to challenge No. 1-seeded Oakdale, who defeated Center, 61-21 on Friday. “We’ve done a few things in our young history and now we’re taking another step. This is kind of an elite matchup. We’ve played some good football teams in our five years, but this is an upper echelon team with a long history. That’s where we want to be. We’ll give it all we’ve got and compete our tails off next Friday.”