BRADENTON -- Bobby Wooten is the smallest player on the Southeast defensive line.
But he turned into a giant Friday night when he blocked an extra point in the second overtime to enable the Seminoles to escape John Kiker Memorial Stadium with a 21-20 victory over Winter Haven in a Class 3A-Region 3 semifinal.
The win sends Southeast (10-2) on the road next Friday to face unbeaten South Fort Myers, which defeated previously unbeaten Naples 28-21 in the other regional semifinal, for the Region 3 title.
It was the second week in a row the Noles won by a 21-20 score, but this was not for the faint of heart. The game could have gone either way until the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Wooten jumped as high as he could and the ball hit him in forehead, saving the Noles from having to go into a third overtime.
“It hurt, but it felt great. I never did anything like that before,” the defensive end said. “I saw an opening, jammed my guy as hard as I could and jumped through, put my hands up and it smacked me right in the head. It was a little low, but I think it would’ve gone through if I didn’t get it.”
No one would argue with Wooten, who up until that moment had a zero on the Southeast defensive chart that lists big plays.
The game ended tied at 14 after regulation and both teams failed to score in the first overtime, where each team starts at the 10-yard line and gets one possession.
Southeast scored first in the second overtime on a 6-yard pass from Dyron Speight to Calvin Williams, and Dustin Clark added the extra point. Winter Haven (10-2) scored on its first play when Levi Borders hit Mike Easton on 10 yard-pass, setting up the extra point attempt.
“Fortunately, our kicker made the extra point to give us one more point and we were very lucky,” Southeast head coach Paul Maechtle said. “We had the momentum, but when they came out in the third quarter, they made their mind up they were going to move the football. Fortunately we were able to respond and come away with the win.”
Good fortune shined on the Noles earlier in the game in another big way. The Noles were clinging to a 7-6 lead when Winter Haven got a bad snap on a punt attempt that went over the kicker’s head and Desmond Blue tackled him on the 1-yard line. On the next play, Brian Poole scored and the extra point gave Southeast a 14-6 lead with 10:19 left in the game.
Winter Haven came right back, going 80 yards and hitting two clutch plays. On a 4th-and-11 from the Southeast 34, Borders hit Easton with a 28-yard pass, and two plays later the quarterback, scored from 1-yard out.
He then hit A.J. Lane with a two-point conversion to tie the game with 4:16 to go.
In the first overtime, Winter Haven missed a field goal attempt and then Southeast missed a 35-yarder.
“On that big pass play, we should’ve knocked the ball down. That is the third time that has happened this year,” Maechtle said. “We need to coach that better. We had three defensive backs in on the play and nobody knocks it down. But that was really special what Wooten did. He is our shortest defensive lineman, but he is a wrestler, plays with a little pad leverage. There was no play. He just got in there.”
Southeast controlled the ball the first half but could only score seven points, which came courtesy of an 11-yard TD run by Poole with 1:54 remaining before halftime.
Winter Haven scored on its first possession of the second half on a 75-yard, nine-play drive, but missed the extra point. The Blue Devils threatened to win the game in regulation when they reached midfield and Borders lofted a long pass inside the 10. But freshman Bobby Haines picked it off.
Jared Williams led Southeast with 66 yards on 19 carries, and Poole added 45 yards on 10 carries. The Noles rushed for 117 yards on 37 attempts and Speight connected on 10 of 20 passes for 106 yards.
“Jared was getting beat up and the humidity was a lot higher (Friday) than it was the last couple of weeks and he got a little tired,” Maechtle said. “Getting this breaks two weeks in a row is more than you anticipate, but we will take it. Calvin Williams did a real nice job getting open on that slant for the final touchdown.”