Dunwoody High School will make its first football playoff appearance since 2009 in November, following a 3-seed clinching 32-18 win over Riverwood High School on Oct. 26 at North DeKalb Stadium.
The achievement comes one year after Dunwoody recorded its first non-losing season since 2011, and now the Dunwoody Wildcats are 8-1 with a chance to secure a home playoff game with a win during the final regular season game on Nov. 3.
“I appreciate this team so much. They’ve stuck with me, and I appreciate them and now they finally get what they deserve,” said Dunwoody head coach Mike Nash. “We’re not done yet. We reached our first goal, but we don’t want to be one-and-done. We want to compete. Let’s not take nine years to get over the next hump.”
Dunwoody relied on a balanced offensive attack against Riverwood, and the defense finally wore down Riverwood’s front line and made several game changing plays late in the game — which has been the game plan for the Wildcats at several points this season.
The scoring started in the second quarter when Christian Lee hit a 34-yard attempt with 10:30 left before halftime. Riverwood responded by taking its only lead of the night on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Jackson Davis to Jim Fluker.
Dunwoody senior running back Malachi Crenshaw was quick to respond, taking a handoff for a 40-yard touchdown on the next drive to give Dunwoody a lead that it would hold for the rest of the game.
Dunwoody added another field goal—this time a 34-yard make from Lee—to up its lead to 13-6 before halftime.
Riverwood came racing back after halftime with a quick score to bring the game to 13-12. However, Dunwoody senior defensive end Luke Cole blocked the extra point to keep his Wildcats in the lead.
Dunwoody answered the early second half score with a long pass from Matt Pearch to Max Quartararo before Caden Celestine punched in a short touchdown run to give the Wildcats a 20-12 lead.
Riverwood then scored with a 52-yard passing play but missed the two-point conversion after a penalty set the offense back. Dunwoody—leading 20-18–then began putting the final touches on the game at that point.
“After last year, I was afraid they’d come back again,” said Nash. “We still only gave up six points a half, but we had trouble getting off the field. Hats off to Riverwood, these kids are good.”
The Wildcats added a deep hall of their own to the mix when Porter Allison caught a 40-yard pass from Pearch, broke a tackle at the goal line, and found six points. The Wildcats led 27-19 after the extra point from Lee.
On Riverwood’s next possession, Luke Phillips pressured the quarterback into the end zone on fourth down. Cole and Noble Butler caught up with Phillips and the quarterback to force a safety that extended the lead to 29-19.
Dunwoody’s defense finished the game with three sacks and six total tackles for no gain or for loss.
A few possessions after the safety, a field goal from 37 yards gave Dunwoody its last points of the night. Riverwood still managed to get into Dunwoody territory with less than two minutes left, but more pressure from the Wildcats’ defensive front forced a quick throw that was intercepted by Harrison Martin to end Riverwood’s chance.
In addition to the big defensive plays and long field goals, Crenshaw finished with 108 yards and a touchdown and Pearch had 178 yards and a touchdown.
The 8-1 record marks the most wins for a Dunwoody football team since the 2008 team’s 12-1 record. A win against North Atlanta in the final week of Dunwoody’s regular season would tie this season’s win total with the combined win total of the previous three seasons.
The Wildcats will be back in action on Nov. 3 at North Atlanta High School for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
“We’re not done,” said Nash. “This is big. I mean, if we go over there and upset them—I know no one in the state thinks we can do that besides us—we get to host a playoff game. Our community is phenomenal. If we do that, this place will be packed.”