First Posted: 11/19/2013
ROCKINGHAM — If Northwest Guilford football coach Joe Woodruff didn’t believe in conspiracy theories, then he had to think someone at the North Carolina High School Athletic Association didn’t like him.
For four straight seasons, Woodruff and the Vikings made the trek to Rockingham to face Richmond Senior in the state playoffs.
In the first three meetings, the Raiders outscored the Vikings by 30 points and many expected the fourth matchup to go along the same lines. The only problem was Northwest Guilford had other thoughts.
Reid Baxter, who is now a running back at North Carolina, scored on a 1-yard dive with 2:15 left in the contest to put the Vikings up 21-14. Sixteen seconds later, Andrew Ritz returned a fumble 17 yards for a touchdown to clinch a Northwest Guilford 28-14 victory in the 2011 state 4AA playoffs.
It was the first win for the Vikings in the series and one Woodruff called the signature victory for his program at the time.
“I don’t think it has sunk in for the players how big of a win this is,” Woodruff said after the game. “You look around this stadium and you see all the state championships and conference championships. This is a big win for our program.”
Two seasons later, Northwest Guilford sits with an 11-1 record and will play host to Richmond for the first time, but Woodruff refuses to dwell on the past and the last time his team played the Raiders.
“We haven’t shown it (the game film) to the kids,” he said. “We haven’t referenced it either. I think our offensive coaches may have looked at it to see some tendencies in their defense.”
Even though Woodruff and his coaching stuff have been mum on the previous victory, he did add he had a handful of players on the field who remember that night.
“We had many more that were on the sideline,” Woodruff said. “Our kids have a tremendous amount of respect for Richmond. We have played the likes of Northern Guilford, Page, High Point Central, so there’s not a whole lot of bad teams on our schedule. I don’t have to explain to the players what it means to have Richmond coming here.”
The Vikings’ only loss this season came at Glenn, 21-14. Northwest Guilford faced six playoff teams during the regular season, including four which are still alive in the second round. One of those squads, Northern Guilford was forced to forfeit two games this year, including a 33-7 win over the Vikings.
“Everyone said the loss was going to be a blessing,” Woodruff said. “It was hard to believe at the time. We won three straight since then. Our kids figured it out. We didn’t play up to our potential and we didn’t play for all four quarters. We let the elements get to us. It was a good learning experience for us and since then, we haven’t had a bad practice.”
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.