UPDATED: Royals stun Cretin in section playoffs
All season long, Andy Hill said his team was capable of beating any other team - if his Royals played to their potential.
Woodbury proved that when it mattered most - on Friday in the quarterfinal round the Section 4AAAAAA playoffs against Cretin-Derham Hall. The Royals - heavy underdogs after compiling a 3-5 regular-season record and drawing a sixth seed in the playoffs - stunned the No. 9-ranked team in the state on its own turf, winning 21-14.
"We played a full 48 minutes," Hill said, calling the Cretin upset "a huge win for our program."
The win over No. 3-seeded Cretin - a team that had beaten Woodbury 48-20 just two weeks earlier - propels the Royals into the round of 16 in the newly formed Class AAAAAA section. The new alignment calls for first-round winners play "crossover" games in the round of 16 against teams from other sections.
For Woodbury, that means a match-up against the No. 8 team in the state - Prior Lake. The Lakers moved on to the round of 16 after dismantling Park on Friday, Oct. 26.
Woodbury travels Friday to Prior Lake for the 7 p.m. game.
The Royals took a moment to savor the victory before refocusing on Round 2.
Senior quarterback Sawyer Moon said he and his teammates detected an air of arrogance from the home team before the game kicked off.
"They thought they were going to come in and plow us over," he said of Cretin. "But we fought back. ... We just didn't want to go home."
The Royals utilized a revamped defensive system aimed at stifling the Raiders' pulverizing running game and capitalized on the play of Moon and senior running back Quran Al-Hameed.
Moon led all rushers with 110 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns. Al-Hameed ran for 96 yards in 19 attempts and recorded one rushing touchdown; he also finished with 34 yards receiving.
The Royals, who averaged 6.4 yards per carry against the Raiders, finished with 335 yards of total offense.
Woodbury's defense also dug in; the team won the turnover battle 3-to-1, with interceptions from Abiola Abodunde and Jake Schaffer, along with a fumble recovery by Geno DeMike.
Senior lineman Ryan Winter recorded two sacks in the game.
Woodbury began the game on its heels following an early first-quarter score that put the Raiders up 6-0 on a passing touchdown.
The Royals answered back in the second quarter as Moon drove Woodbury into Cretin territory on a 52-yard pass to Reid Peters, who was tripped up just short of the end zone. Peters finished the game with 49 yards receiving on two receptions.
Moon later punched in the rushing touchdown from four yards out; Lisa Huska's extra point put the Royals up 7-6.
The Woodbury sideline was quieted later after a fumble inside its own territory, but an ensuing missed field goal by Cretin re-energized Woodbury.
The teams entered the second half with Woodbury up 7-6.
With the Raiders driving on their own 49 on a third-and-three play, Woodbury's DeMike forced a critical fumble away from standout running back James Onwualu.
The play led to an 18-yard rushing touchdown by Al-Hameed, who broke several Raider tackles on his way into the end zone. Another Huska extra point put the Royals up 14-6.
Cretin battled right back, however, with about a minute left to play in the third quarter. Onwualu punched in a fourth-and-one touchdown run from the one yard line. The Raiders tied up the game by converting a two-point play.
Woodbury sophomore Ben Donnelly returned the ensuing kickoff to Cretin's 47 yard line and Moon stayed hot, later connecting with Al-Hameed on a 36-yard pass. Moon passed completed six of 12 passes for 120 yards against Cretin.
After another completion - this time, a 13-yard shot to senior Tucker Benjamin - Woodbury found itself on the Cretin two yard line. Benjamin hauled in three catches on the night for 37 yards.
Moon held on to the ball on a fourth-and-one play, finding paydirt - and punched in the winning touchdown.
Woodbury nearly added to the deficit after a pick by Schaffer that allowed the Royals to drive deep into Cretin territory. A fourth-and-four field goal attempt, however, was blocked by the Raiders.
The Royals snuffed out Cretin's final offensive effort as the game clock ticked down to zero.
"(We will) not be satisfied with just this," Moon said. "We want more."
The Royals' next opponent, Prior Lake, beat Park 47-7 in the first round of the playoffs. The Lakers are the No. 1 seed coming out of Section 3AAAAAA and finished first in the South Suburban Conference with a 7-1 regular season record.
Hill said he's bracing for a Prior Lake team that boasts two hard runners and playmaking receiver.
"For us to be successful, we will have to be fundamentally sound and tackle well," he said. "They won't go down easily. And on offense we have to be crisp in knowing our assignments and playing fast.
"It's great to still be playing and we'll be ready to play come Friday night."