Woodberry holds off St. Christopher’s

Woodberry appeared headed for a blowout win over St. Christopher’s Saturday afternoon.

The Tigers built an early lead on the strength of an opportunistic defense and some efficient offense in the first quarter.

But after that, things ground to a stalemate as Woodberry held tight to the early lead and pulled out a 13-6 victory over the Saints.

“We had all that enthusiasm and energy, and I think we relaxed a little bit,” said Woodberry coach Clint Alexander. “We had four times we got inside the 30 and couldn’t get it in.”

Woodberry’s defense made sure that didn’t matter, holding a talented St. Christopher’s offense to just 112 yards of total offense, including just 16 yards on the ground. St. Christopher’s quarterback Giles Thompson completed just nine of 25 passes and threw for 96 yards.

“This might be our best defensive effort in years,” Alexander said.

It took an unconventional approach to make that happen. Alexander and his staff have made a habit of altering their entire defensive approach over the years and tailoring it to exactly what the opposition is doing. Saturday was no different.

“Instead of a nickel back, we went with a nickel outside linebacker, two juniors, Isaiah Brown, E.J. Johnson rotated,” Alexander said. “They’re really tight end based (around 6-foot-6 UVa commit Jack English) and we took all that away with that.”

The defense provided the early spark too when Nathaniel Tyrell pounced on a fumble on St. Christopher’s first drive. That set the stage for Hunter Etheridge to score from eight yards out for a 7-0 lead.

Woodberry’s defense came up with another stop after and the offense went on the march again, this time piecing together an 82-yard drive, with Sam Miller hauling in a 7-yard touchdown from Etheridge to take a 13-0 lead with 35 seconds left in the first quarter.

From there Woodberry held on.

The Tigers kept St. Christopher’s out of the endzone until early in the fourth quarter, when Marshall Hollerith slipped in from four yards out to pull St. Christopher’s within a score. English set up the play with a long return on a field goal block where Spencer Bibb had to run the big man down from behind to prevent a touchdown. After halting the Tigers’ offense on the next drive, the Saints had a chance to at least tie the game, but Doug Randolph came up with a critical sack and the St. Christopher’s offense only went backwards, allowing Woodberry to maintain its edge and pick up another win, moving to 6-2 on the year.

H.T. Minor had another solid game on the ground, picking up 87 yards on 20 touches. Etheridge threw for 195 yards and the touchdown on 15-for-26 passing. He also rushed for 37 yards and the score. Christian Asher emerged as a threat in the passing game with 70 yards on six catches while Brandon Walker had 52 yards on two catches. Nate Ingram also snagged a 39-yard catch.

Nik Gjika had a career day with seven solo stops and four pass breakups. Doug Randolph had four quarterback hurries and a pair of sacks for the Tigers. Greer Martini checked in with three solo stops and a fumble recovery. Christian Asher had a sack and Ty Abdul-Karim had four pass breakups.

Woodberry has a thrilling two-week stretch to close out the season, facing Fork Union Friday on the road before taking on archrival Episcopal at home in the latest installment of the South’s oldest prep football rivalry.