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Woodbury football: Royals earn first win, defeat Hastings 29-23

Woodbury running back Junius Wilson (23) celebrates a kickoff return Friday at home against Hastings. Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker1 / 3
Woodbury junior linebacker Geno DeMike gestures to the sideline during the Royals' 29-23 home win over Hastings. Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker2 / 3
Hastings running back Tyler Mellick brings the ball up field Friday against Woodbury. Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker3 / 3

The Royals earned their first win of the season Friday night behind a strong second-half output and a powerful rushing performance from running back Junius Wilson.

Woodbury (1-1 overall, 1-1 Suburban East Conference) defeated Hastings 29-23 at home, securing head coach Andy Hill's first win for the team.

"We just threw down the gauntlet and said, 'Hey seniors, it's your year,'" Hill said after the game, his second for the Royals after losing last week to Stillwater.

The Raiders jumped on the board in the first quarter after Woodbury failed to convert a fourth-and-one attempt. Hastings exploited the field position and scored a touchdown when quarterback Aaron Stoneberg connected with receiver Ellis Williams, putting the Raiders up 7-0.

Woodbury evened the score with 3:10 left in the opening frame when Wilson punched in a run from the 1 yard line, capping a drive that included a long connection from Royals quarterback Joe Wood to receiver Jordan Voit.

The Raiders chewed up the clock in the second quarter, and with just under six minutes remaining in the half, converted a third-and-14 on a running back sweep that resulted in a touchdown.

Hastings went into halftime with a 14-7 lead.

Woodbury came out on fire to start the second half. On the first play in Woodbury's opening drive, Wilson broke four tackles on his way to an 80-yard touchdown scamper that wasn't without some drama.

During the run, Wilson gestured twice to the Hastings defense, a move that drew a taunting foul. Woodbury escaped harm on the play, however, as the Raiders also were flagged, creating offsetting penalties.

After the game, Wilson admitted he had charisma on his mind during the play. The senior captain said the "energy" exchanged between defense and offense brought to mind old University of Miami games he had watched in his younger days.

"I just felt the energy when I was running," he said.

Hill thought otherwise and benched Wilson for a series after the play as a reprimand for taunting - a lesson he said the player learned immediately.

"(Wilson) said, 'That's on me,'" Hill said.

The game tied 14-14, the momentum appeared tipping toward Woodbury as Hastings was forced to punt on the ensuing series. But a Woodbury player mishandled the ball, giving it back to the Raiders on Woodbury's 32 yard line.

The Raiders pushed the ball up to the Royals' 12 yard line, but settled for a field goal that put Hastings up 17-14.

Deep in its own territory, Woodbury kicked a short punt on the ensuing drive, giving Hastings another scoring opportunity. The Raiders converted a fourth-and-one and extended their lead to 23-14 on a Tyler Mellick rushing touchdown. The Royals blocked a point-after try.

Late in the third quarter, the Royals pounded the ball upfield and finished at Hastings' eight yard line to end the quarter. After a Wilson run down to the one yard line was called back on a Woodbury penalty, junior quarterback Sawyer Moon - who started the second half for the Royals - found Voit in the back of the end zone.

The touchdown trimmed the Raiders' lead to 23-21.

Things took a turn for the worse for Woodbury on its next drive, however - a series punctuated by a mishandled ball and a Moon pass that nearly led to an interception. That series ended on a high snap to the Woodbury punter and turned over the ball on Woodbury's nine yard line.

Hastings couldn't convert and ended up turning the ball over on downs itself.

Led by big runs by Wilson and Moon, Woodbury marched up the field on the following drive. Moon found paydirt with about three minutes left, giving Woodbury its first lead of the game at 27-23. Hill called for a successful two-point conversion, where Moon connected with receiver Connor McKeen.

With Woodbury players urging the crowd on, the defense - capped by a Wilson sack of Stoneberg - foiled a last attempt by the Raiders.

"We looked a lot better in the second half," Hill said after the game.

Statistics were not immediately available.

Woodbury now turns to intradistrict rival Cottage Grove - its next opponent in a Sept. 16 road match-up.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is a regional/enterprise reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage includes St. Croix County government, higher education and state politics in Wisconsin. 

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