It was deja vu for the Bears, generating another fun, furious ending to a football game, only to be foiled in the final seconds.
Once again, White Bear Lake trailed by a lot, 15 points, late in the game, scrambled back to the verge of victory, and fell short, this time 29-27 against the Woodbury Royals in the regular season finale, Wednesday evening at home.
“It’s tough to lose one like that — just like the East Ridge game,” said Brandon Berwald, junior quarterback, who passed for 230 yards and two touchdowns, and in the last eight minutes engineered two scoring drives and almost a third.
It came down to a 38-yard field goal attempt by Jeff Odamtten with 12 seconds left. Odamtten, whose perfect onside kick with 1:01 left had kept their hopes alive, booted it high and far, almost directly over the right post, close enough for some boisterous cheering to erupt. However, the official looking straight up at it from under the post shook his head and crossed his arms. No good.
“I thought he made it,” coach Kyle Bartlett said. “They said it was by a few inches. Jeff’s got the leg for it, so I thought we’d go for it right there.”
In week five, also at home, the Bears trailed East Ridge 28-14 late in the third quarter and staged a furious rally. A touchdown and a field goal made it 28-23, and an apparent winning touchdown with 13 seconds left was called back for a block from behind.
“We are so close to being 5-3, just a few inches,” Bartlett lamented.
Instead, the Bears take a 3-5 ledger into the Section 5, Class 6A playoffs starting Friday, Oct. 25. Woodbury improved to 5-3.
Berwald and the offense showed remarkable poise as they stormed back to make a game of it, completing several third- or fourth-down passes for first downs in the last three drives.
“I’d rather be ahead,” Berwald said, “but I’m not afraid (of being behind). I’m excited every time we get the ball, and I know we have the guys to make the plays we need.”
Berwald hit Brice Peters on a crossing pattern for a 27-yard touchdown to pull within 29-21 with Odemtten’s kick.
Woodbury quarterback Charlie Wilson, who ran wild for 221 yards and three touchdowns in 21 carries, went to work against the Bears, who badly needed a defensive stop. Wilson galloped about 40 yards on third-and-10, but it was called back for a hold, and the Bears sacked him on the next play, forcing a punt.
Back in business, Berwald, who was 19-for-38, hit three first-down passes, one to Rico Kirk and two to Peters. His 10-yard dart to Peters on fourth-and-8 perched the ball on the Royal 13. Cam Zaleski barged into the end zone the next play with 1:01 left.
That made it 29-27. But with a chance to tie, Berwald, in shotgun formation, fumbled on the handoff and was tackled retrieving the ball.
However, Odamtten dribbled an onside kick just right and the ever-present Peters pounced on it. The Bears set up again at midfield.
On third-and-10 from the 34, Berwald hit Peters again for 12 yards, placing the ball on the 22. With no time outs left, they turned to Odamtten, who had barely missed one from 39 in the third quarter. He’s made two field this year from 22 and 23 yards but shows a 40-yard range.
Berwald also threw a seven-yard TD pass to Sammy Russ in the second quarter. Russ caught eight passes for 87 yards. Zaleski had an eight-yard touchdown run in the second quarter while gaining 64 yards in 19 carries. Peters caught six passes for 73 yards and carried eight times for 33 yards.
However, Wilson was the dominant player, breaking away for touchdowns of 58 and 73 yards in the first quarter and adding a seven-yard score early in the fourth. This was his best outing; he had 489 yards and three touchdowns coming into the game. Woodbury’s other TD was a five-yard run by Parker Theis.
Woodbury had 290 yards rushing but just seven passing. The Bears and 118 rushing and 230 passing.
Woodbury ………...... 15 7 0 7 — 29
White Bear Lake ...… 0 14 0 13 — 27
Wood — Charlie Wilson 58 run (Cole Smutry run)
Wood — Wilson 73 run (Scott Hanson kick)
WBL — Cam Zaleski 8 run (Jeff Odamtten kick)
Wood — Parker Theis 5 run (Hanson kick)
WBL — Sammy Russ 7 pass from Branden Berwald (Odamtten kick)
Wood — Wilson 7 run (Hanson kick)
WBL — Brice Peters 27 pass from Branden Berwald (Odamtten kick)
WBL — Zaleski 13 run (run failed)