The ball appeared to be over his head at first, but in an instant he grabbed it, and quickly decided to advance it from the 1-yard line.
With a zig right and a zag left, Forest Park’s Eric Kumah put the exclamation point on a game that up to that point had already been remarkable enough for him and his Bruins’ teammates by returning the punt 99 yards for the final Forest Park touchdown in a 40-14 victory over host Woodbridge Friday night.
- For a photo gallery from the game, click here
Forest Park (7-2) unleashed its full arsenal, especially in the first half, in dealing Woodbridge (4-5) a severe blow to its playoff chances. The Vikings were 10th overall going into Friday’s game and only the top eight teams will gain a berth in the playoffs. Now Woodbridge must beat Gar-Field next week and hope to get help from teams above in the rankings.
The Bruins have already clinched a spot in the 6A South Region Playoffs for the second straight season.
Kumah scored four touchdowns, three on passes of 47, 19, and 44 yards from quarterback Nathan Perrin, who threw for 240 yards and four touchdowns. Perrin also completed an 18-yard scoring pass to Christian Nelson.
Meanwhile, the Bruins’ defense sacked Woodbridge quarterbacks four times and notched three interceptions, two by Allan Shields. The Vikings’ offense didn’t get untracked until the second half when the game was already out of hand.
Starting quarterback Mike Majette completed 25 of 35 passes for 216 yards, but it was key drops on potential scoring passes by Majette and backup Brandon Pitt that proved pivotal. Both passes were on target, but were inexplicably dropped.
Forest Park was fortunate during a short kick on the opening kickoff. The Bruins recovered at the 31 after the ball was briefly fumbled by Woodbridge. Six plays later, Cortez Watson ran it in from the 1 to give the Bruins a 7-0 lead with the ensuing point after touchdown.
The Bruins quickly increased the lead less than 90 seconds later when Allan Shields intercepted a pass from Majette at the Woodbridge 47. Perrin found Kumah in the left flat moments later and Kumah took it the rest of the way for a touchdown that made it 14-0.
Woodbridge experienced more first quarter disappointment when Majette nearly connected with Kalel Grant on a 38-yard scoring pass, but Grant, who appeared to have the ball in the end zone, inexplicably dropped it moments before putting hands over his face in anguish.
Later, Pitt nearly threw a scoring pass to Dominic Benson, who dropped it. The drive ended when Martin Monge missed a 35-yard field goal try to keep the score at 14-0.
The Bruins scored again early in the second quarter when Perrin led them on a six-play, 78-yard drive during which he completed three passes for 62 yards, including an 18-yard scoring strike to Christian Nelson.
Perrin threw his third scoring pass of the quarter, this one a 19-yarder to Kumah, with 1:12 left after Woodbridge backup quarterback Brandon Pitt was intercepted again by Shields.
Woodbridge had three turnovers in the quarter and managed 104 yards of offense, all but 30 of which was gained on the ground.
Meanwhile, Forest Park rolled up 277 yards in the first half, including 172 in the air from Perrin, who completed 8 of 14 passes in the half.
Benson later caught a 20-yard scoring pass from Majette and Jay Jay Burruss notched an 8-yard scoring run to prevent the shutout.
Kumah said the punt return was “a fortunate play” that was sparked by Nelson and the Forest Park coaching staff encouraging him to advance the ball.
“When I first saw it going over my head, I was thinking.’ Okay, it’s going to be a touchback,’” Kumah said. “But then I saw it slow down and Christian [Nelson] was like, ‘Get it, get it,’ so I got and it just made the best [play] out of it that I could.”
Kumah said the chemistry between him and Perrin has been improving all season.
“We’ve been working to get good chemistry between us and I think it just keeps getting better and better,” Kumah said.
Forest Park coach Daniel Bruton could not hide his excitement about the Bruins’ play, especially in the first half.
“We punched it in on that first drive after six or seven plays of nothing but runs and that’s just the O-line [offensive line] manning up and making big plays and then we got to what we are good at, which is spreading the ball around,” Bruton said. “We wanted to spread the ball out and see what they were trying to take away. It was a total team effort tonight because the defense did well to contain a phenomenal athlete like Mike Majette as well as the other athletes they have.”
Bruton said Forest Park’s winning streak, which reached seven with the victory, probably will have no effect on next week’s regular season finale against Hylton.
“When you run off seven wins in a row, that’s a good thing,” Bruton said. “But Hylton’s used to running off seven, ten, 11 in a row. Hylton’s the top dog and until you beat them and beat them when it matters, they are always going to be the top dog. We are kind of the red headed step child and we have to earn our stripes. They are a great football team. We are going to do our job to get prepared. It’s going to come down to execution.”
Shields said the Bruins’ emphasis on discipline was a big reason for the team’s strong start.
“It feels great to make a big play, especially getting an interception right after we had a fumble [in the second half]” Shields said. “I knew they would be key to helping our team get this win. But our coach [Bruton] always emphasizes discipline. When difficult things happen, sooner or later it’s going to come down to discipline if you are going to overcome it.”
FOREST PARK (7-2) 14 13 13 0 – 40
WOODBRIDGE (4-5) 0 0 7 7 – 14
FP—Watson 1 run (Smith kick), 9:15
FP—Kumah 47 pass from Perrin (Smith kick), 7:31
FP—Nelson 18 pass from Perrin (kick failed), 9:36
FP—Kumah 19 pass from Perrin (Smith kick), 1:12
FP—Kumah 44 pass from Perrin (run failed), 11:12
FP—Kumah 99 punt return (Smith kick) 7:03
W—Benson 20 pass from Majette (Monge kick), 3:17
W—Burruss 8 run (Monge kick), 2:42
Missed field goals—Monge 35
Forest Park, Watson 12-56, Nelson 4-53, Perrin 6-22, Smith 3-14, Myers 1-(minus 2); Woodbridge, Burruss 10-52, Jerkins 7-40, Grant 3-6, Majette 5-(minus 2).
Forest Park, Perrin 15-21-0-240; Woodbridge, Majette 25-38-2-216, Pitt 0-2-1-0.
FOREST PARK, Kumah 4-117, Tauriac 3-43, Drapen 2-41, Nelson 3-30, Watson 2-12, Smith 1-1, Evans 1-(minus 3); Woodbridge, Benson 7-104, Grant 5-48, Jalloh 2-38, Pitt 4-19, Burruss 4-9, Ward 1-9, Sherrod 1-5.