Wildcats looking to stem the tide against Eastwood

J. Patrick Eaken

        Two years ago, the Eastwood-Woodmore (77-7 Eastwood win) football score looked a lot like the Ohio State-Miami (75-6 Ohio State win) game two weeks ago.
        The biggest difference was that Woodmore did not get a $1.5 million payday like Miami University did.
        This year, Eastwood is undefeated and ranked third in the Associated Press Division V state media poll. The Wildcats are winless in their first four games, so a Woodmore victory when the two border schools go head on at Freedom Field would have to be considered a major upset.
        It was not always this way. From 1982-2001, Woodmore won 13 of 20 games when they were members of the Suburban Lakes League.
        However, since 2002, Woodmore has won just twice in 17 games, and in the last six games, all Eastwood wins, the Eagles have outscored the Wildcats 297-34.
        Eastwood opened the season with a 21-14 victory over Ottawa-Glandorf (3-1), 49-14 win over Bowling Green (2-2), 49-13 win over Maumee (0-4) and 55-20 Northern Buckeye Conference victory over Fostoria (1-3).
        “BG was down a little bit, they lost some backs and their line was really good, and I think Ottawa-Glandorf is really good and playing really well this year,” said Eastwood third-year Craig Rutherford.
        “Obviously, we have to be happy with winning all four games. It’s maybe not what people would think is being balanced on offense, but we feel pretty balanced. We’ve got two running backs who are both averaging about 150 yards rushing a game,” Rutherford continued.
        “Our quarterback, Jared McNulty — he’s throwing the ball well. He’s not throwing a lot, but he’s completing 87 percent of his passes and has four touchdowns, so that’s giving us another dimension that’s definitely helping in getting some other things done out there.”
        University of Toledo-bound 6-foot-1, 194 pound senior running back Jaden Rayford has already gained 693 yards on 63 attempts — good for over 10 yards per carry, and he has scored seven touchdowns. Justin Pickerel, a 5-11, 172 pound senior back, has 560 yards on 55 carries, also over 10 yards per attempt, and has scored nine TDs.
        They not only have a good offensive line blocking for them, they have each other.
        “It’s nice that we have so many running backs that are good runners, but also good blockers, so it is difficult to key on one specific guy,” Rutherford said. “Jaden has been running a lot to the outside while Justin runs between the tackles, and then (senior back) Mason Glaze has had some big runs and catches for us as well as our third back. They all run the ball really well and they block really well, and that just opens everything up for us.”
        McNulty, a junior has completed 13 of 15 passes for 223 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. Six passes have been to Rayford for 113 yards and two touchdowns and four have been to Pickerel for 61 yards and a touchdown.
Defending the run key
        Woodmore lost to Northwood, 36-18, Gibsonburg, 19-0, Lakota, 21-8, and Otsego, 43-13. Those four opponents are a combined 11-4 and two of them, Northwood and Gibsonburg, are defending league champions who are favorites to win titles again.
        Despite that kind of opposition, Woodmore has only been outgained in total yardage 1, 180 to 757, with most of the difference coming in the Wildcats’ inability to stop the run, which may not bode well against Eastwood.
        Woodmore junior quarterback Aaron Sandrock has completed 41 of 88 passes for 460 yards and three TDs, including 18 to 6-4, 210 pound senior target Andrew Barringer, who has 234 yards receiving and two TDs.
        Junior back Ethan McNair has five catches for 82 yards, junior Evan Hensel has three catches for 42 yards, senior Dylan LaFountain has seven catches for 39 yards and junior Dennis “D.J.” Melter has five receptions for 34 yards and a touchdown. Melter has also ran for 128 yards on 46 carries, his longest covering 32 yards.
        Woodmore’s defense is led by 5-10, 210 pound senior linebacker Seth Drossel (25 tackles, two for a loss and one fumble recovery), 6-1, 200 pound junior Mike Brzeczek (24 tackles, seven TFL), Hensel (23 tackles, three TFL, fumble recovery) and McNair (20 tackles, one TFL). Hensel is a defensive back and McNair plays linebacker on defense.
        Eastwood’s defense is led by 5-6, 162 pound junior linebacker Zach Kwaitkowski (37 tackles, 10 TFL, one sack, one caused fumble), Glaze (31 tackles, seven TFL, two sackes, two caused fumbles, fumble recovery) and 5-11, 175 pound senior linebacker Noah Henline (27 tackles, nine TFL, one sack).
        “We’re not a big defense, but our guys are aggressive,” Rutherford said. “Really, it’s hard to single out one specific guy. All 11 guys have had a big game for us, so I think the key to our defense is we’re getting a lot of guys to the football. They like to play defense and they like to hit. They know their responsibilities and they work really hard to get it done. They know where they fit on defense.
        “The way our defensive coaches prepare our guys during the week has been critical to limiting opponents,” Rutherford continued. “We think that we’ve played some really good teams and they still scored points. It would be nice to get some shutouts.”
        Woodmore coach Lou Bosh is seeing players coming out for football again this year and roster numbers are up. Rutherford says his Eagles are wary about any league opponent they come up against.
        “We really think the league is as balanced as it has ever been. You have to prepare the right way during the week and you have to play hard on Friday. I think that if we do the little things correctly that we’ll be in position that we can win every game,” Rutherford said.
        “It’s just ‘take it one week at a time,’ I guess, and our guys say that over and over. That’s nice to make sure that you don’t have to press them to make sure they are focused on their opponent. That will be the key start looking forward. If we start looking ahead to other teams, any team in our league could come out and start making plays and we could have some tough games.”
        For example, Lake defeated Rossford 48-21 in the league opener, but don’t count the Bulldogs out behind quarterback Kyle Kromenacker.
        “There are some other really good quarterbacks in our league this year,” Rutherford said. “All I know is Lake and Rossford both have some playmakers and they both have really good coaching staffs. I think that game (Lake-Rossford) came down to some turnovers in the second half. You start turning the ball over and the game can start getting away from you.”

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