WOODBURY - The Wildwood High School football team played its first playoff game ever on Saturday afternoon.
The Warriors learned the hard way that the playoffs can be cruel.
Seventh-seeded Wildwood lost 49-0 to second-seeded Woodbury in a South Jersey Group I quarterfinal game.
The loss ended a magical season for the Warriors. One of the state's smallest schools, Wildwood finished 6-4 after winning just three games over the past three seasons combined.
"I'm very proud of what we accomplished this year," Wildwood senior lineman Omar Cajigas said. "This is my third year ever playing football. Everybody's proud of what they did. We're just ashamed that it ended this way."
Coach Rich Hans and two assistants each gave emotional speeches to the team after the game.
"We haven't had that feeling too much this year, so it was kind of hard seeing the disappointment in their faces," Hans said, "but at the end of the day, you tell them, 'Look, you guys ran into a really tough team that will probably win South Jersey.' "
The Warriors were led by a senior class that featured running back Wesley Hills, who rushed for 2,114 yards this season. Hans said every player who came out for the team as a freshman three years ago was still there Saturday.
"They've been getting laughed at and ridiculed for losing, losing, losing," Hans said. "You give them a lot of credit for not ever quitting. ... To go from three wins in a career to six wins your senior year, it just speaks volumes for those guys."
The Warriors looked as if they might keep it close against Woodbury. They had the ball into Thundering Herd territory on two of their first three drives. But the first drive ended with a fumble - one of four on the day for Wildwood - and the Warriors never could punch it in.
Woodbury, meanwhile, scored touchdowns after all four fumbles and got some big plays from a balanced offense led by quarterback Anthony Averett, who has committed to the University of Alabama.
Defensively, the Thundering Herd keyed on Hills. They didn't even let him touch it on kickoff returns until the end, choosing to squib-kick for most of the game.
"We took away what they wanted to do most - running Hills," Woodbury coach Zack Valentine said.
Hills ran hard even in the final minutes, with the game out of reach. He was overcome with emotions afterward.
"It's the last time putting on this Wildwood jersey for football," Hills said. "It's just, it's tough. It's real tough."
Cajigas said it will take "a lot of time" to get over the loss and appreciate the special season that Wildwood had. Eventually, though, they will be remembered for what they did to get to the playoffs, and not the score of Saturday's game.
"They made the town proud," Hans said. "You can't put it into words. The kids just did an excellent job this year."
Contact Jason Mazda:
Wildwood 0 0 0 0-0
Woodbury 12 8 29 0-49
WB-Martin 8 run (kick failed)
WB-Martin 7 run (conversion failed)
WB-Demby 62 run (Martin pass from Averett)
WB-Gamble 50 pass from Demby (Martin run)
WB-Martin 2 run (Ayers pass from Martin)
WB-Demby 36 run (Demby kick)
WB-Brown 10 run (kick failed)
TEAM STATISTICS WW WB
Rushing yards 46 252
Passing yards 48 93
Penalties-yards 1-5 2-10
Turnovers 4 1
Rushing-Wildwood, Hills 29-37, Valentin 1-7, Christian 1-3, Krunkle 1-(-2), Flanders 1-1. Woodbury, Averett 6-39, Martin 6-33, Demby 5-106, Brown 5-69, Ayers 2-4, Halloway 1-2, Buckley 2-(-1).
Passing-Wildwood, Hills 1-1-0-48, Gentek 0-3-0-0. Woodbury, Averett 5-6-0-43, Demby 1-1-0-50.
Receiving-Wildwood, Christian 1-48. Woodbury, Gamble 3-76, Ayers 1-(-1), Martin 2-18.
Records-Wildwood 6-4, Woodbury 8-1.