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Woodbury football: Rhoda, Raiders too much for Royals

Woodbury kept pace with Cretin-Derham Hall for the first quarter but sustaining that kind of tempo took something more than the Royals had Friday at O'Shaughnessy Stadium on the campus of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

Raiders quarterback Conor Rhoda threw four touchdown passes and running back James Onwualu scored three touchdowns as Cretin-Derham Hall (5-2, 5-2 SEC) romped to a 48-20 victory over Woodbury for its third consecutive victory.

Since starting the season 2-1, the Royals have lost four consecutive games and played without starting running back Quran Al-Hameed during much of that span. Al-Hameed, who led the conference in rushing prior to his injury, sat out Friday once again and Woodbury's rushing stagnated against a physical Raiders defense.

"This is a team I think we can play with, but not yet now," Royals head coach Andy Hill said. "We've spent a month now trying to find our confidence and if we don't find it we'll be getting ready for basketball and hockey season pretty soon. But if we do find it, we might have a pretty cool story we're talking about in a couple of months."

Woodbury hasn't won since it beat Park 43-7 Sept. 14 and Hill cited the East Ridge game as the beginning of the team's downturn when the Raptors beat the Royals 28-26 Sept. 21 at East Ridge High School.

"Unfortunately we've turned that game into the Super Bowl of Woodbury," Hill said. "It's been a tough recovery since that. It's almost like we wait for something to go wrong and then we feel like the bottom is falling out and it hasn't."

For a quarter it looked like Woodbury played with confidence as it tried to stick with Cretin-Derham Hall. But Onwualu and the Raiders are awfully tough to run with when they're on. Onwualu rushed for a 7-yard touchdown and caught a 17-yard touchdown pass in the first half.

After both teams stalled on their first offensive possessions of the game, the Royals and Raiders traded touchdowns, but Cretin-Derham Hall converted on both of its 2-point conversions to build an 18-13 lead.

The Raiders went up 8-0 on a 30-yard strike from Rhoda to Connor Keane, but it didn't take long for the Royals to respond. After an illegal shift penalty made it first-and-15, quarterback Sawyer Moon broke loose for a 70-yard touchdown run.

Cretin-Derham Hall answered with a seven-play drive, capped off by an Onwualu 5-yard touchdown run to make it 16-6 after a 2-point conversion.

"We'll take the one-play touchdown drives, but at the same time, to be in that type of a battle, they showed that they could do it just as quick, and probably better than we could," Hill said. "We needed to sustain drives and to do that you've got to be able to run the football."

Woodbury came back on the next possession to close the gap. Abiola Abodunde ran wild for a 46-yard touchdown to make it 16-13 after the extra point with 3 minutes, 29 seconds left in the first quarter.

The Raiders needed just two plays to dash the Royals' thoughts of a competitive game. Rhoda and Keene connected again, this time for a 43-yard touchdown in a drive that took 23 seconds. Rhoda rolled out and bought time in order to find a wide open Keane that effectively put the Royals away. It also built a 24-13 lead that never got threatened again.

Woodbury struggled with its tackling it led to Raiders running backs racking up yards. Cretin-Derham Hall turned several minimum yardage situations into big gainers because of an inability to wrap up and tackle. The Raiders slashed through arm tackles and refused to allow just one defender to bring them down.

"At some point it just comes down to the will, the will not to drop to my knees and grab with my fingers, but to drive with my feet and wrap with my arms and throw my hips," Hill said. "If we do that we'll be fine. We did that earlier in the season, we did it against Stillwater, we did against Hastings. Fundamentally we're off and we keep working on it, but it's got to click."

The Royals (2-5, 2-5 SEC) sputtered offensively after getting big plays early and that came because of incompletions. Woodbury dropped balls a number of catchable receptions and it hurt.

Cretin-Derham Hall built a 42-13 lead at halftime through a dynamic offensive attack. Rhoda found wide receiver Connor Keane in the back of the end zone for 29-yard touchdown with 10 seconds left in the half and Keane outleaped a defender and hauled in a spectacular catch on a third-and-21.

Woodbury had a chance to keep it close after a pass interference call put the Royals at the Raiders' 34-yard line. But Woodbury went four-and-out with three incompletions and stalled out at the Raiders 22-yard line.

It took until late in the game when the Royals found the end zone again. Moon rushed in for a 1-yard touchdown to make it 48-20.

Hill expects Al-Hameed to return for Wednesday's game. Woodbury faces Forest Lake in the regular season finale Wednesday in Woodbury.