BRANDON — On second down in overtime, the skies opened up and rain started to pelt Markowski Field. It was go time for the Otter Valley football team.

With the ball on the 2-yard line, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Otter Valley and Woodstock both wanted to be in the driver’s seat for the No. 3 seed in the Division III playoffs, but only one club would get that feeling.

The Otters snapped the ball and quarterback Caleb Whitney took it himself, just as he had many times throughout Saturday’s game. Three feet forward, another three feet and the Otters went crazy. Whitney found the end zone to give Otter Valley a 41-35 win in overtime against the Wasps.

“We knew the weather was coming and called the timeout and were like, ‘oh boy’,” said Otters coach Kipp Denis of the weather ahead of the biggest play of the game.

“We knew we could punch it in. That was a designed play we did on the last play.”

Just to put themselves with a chance to win, the Otters had to stop Woodstock’s overtime possession first. Per overtime rules, the Wasps took the ball on the 10-yard line and had four plays to score.

They moved the ball to the 6, before a false start pushed them back to the 11-yard line. Colby Eaton dropped back for a 4th down pass, but it fell incomplete.

“We were looking for that quick slant to (Corey White). He’s a good athlete,” Denis said.

Sitting in the No. 3 and No. 4 spots in Division III heading into the game, there wasn’t much that was going to separate the two clubs.

Otter Valley opened the scoring on its opening drive, moving just outside of the Woodstock red zone on eight plays. On the ninth play of the drive, Whitney found his favorite target Brady Diaz for a 21-yard score. Whitney connected with Dylan Stevens-Clark for a 2-point conversion.

The Wasps quickly responded on the ensuing drive, getting all the way down to the 1-yard line, where Willy Underwood punched it in to make it 8-7.

Woodstock took its first lead of the day after Robby Macri picked off Whitney. Eight plays later, Corey White took the hand-off on a counter play and scored from 31 yards out.

Whitney and Diaz connected again in the next drive. Diaz caught the ball over the middle, broke a tackle and was off to the races for a 63-yard score.

The Wasps grabbed the lead back on the first play of the second half, with Brooks Ruderman rushing for a 62-yard touchdown.

Whitney rushed for a score on the next OV drive and found Stevens-Clark again for a 2-point conversion.

Whitney threw for 106 yards and rushed for 86 yards. Diaz had 96 receiving yards for OV

The teams continued going back and forth with scores. White rushed one in for Woodstock and Whitney did the same for Otter Valley.

The Otters got a big special teams play up one point in the fourth quarter, blocking a Wasps punt. Luca Polli rushed in a score on the ensuing drive, before Woodstock responded with a passing TD from Colby Eaton to Eric Blanchard, setting up the overtime.

In a game that had as many twists and turns as a horror movie, Denis was proud of his team for pulling this one out.

“It was a team effort all the way around,” Denis said. “On special teams, we didn’t give up any big plays. The kids played hard. We knew we were going to have our hands full.”

Otter Valley (5-2) is at Springfield on Friday to finish the regular season. With a win, the Otters would lock up the No. 3 seed in the Division III playoffs. Woodstock’s home playoff game hopes are still alive, but the Wasps host undefeated Windsor on Friday.

“This game almost guarantees us a home (playoff) game,” Denis said. “Springfield is tough. They kind of remind me of us with a good quarterback. (Sam) Presch is really good. We know that.”

The Otters were jumping around together after the coaches talked to the team in the pouring rain following Saturday’s game. It was a moment and game Otter Valley’s players and coaches won’t forget.

They’re on to Springfield.


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