The Press Newspaper
The Detroit Tigers double play team of shortstop Alan Trammell and second baseman "Sweet" Lou Whitaker, chocolate and peanut butter, the dudes from "The Hangover" movies — there are some combinations that just go together.
Another combination is 5-foot-11, 200 pound Woodmore senior quarterback Jake Matwiejczyk, and his 5-5, 141 pound senior wide receiver Evan Ulinski.
"Jake is a great athlete who has developed into a good QB," praises coach Britton Devier, who in his fourth year as the architect of Woodmore football. "He has always been a good runner but this year has become the total quarterback package. He distributes the ball well to our wide receivers and running backs.
"Evan is the toughest, most-competitive kid," continues Coach D. "He proves that dynamite comes in all sizes. Evan has made several amazing catches this year, and rarely has a drop. Without these two on offense, we'd have a much different identity."
The Cats are 4-3 overall, but 1-3 in the Northern Buckeye Conference. This comes after finishing 4-6 overall and at 2-5 in NBC play in 2012 and 2-8, and 1-6 in '11. Those three league losses this season loom large, but the quarterback feels as if Woodmore can play with anyone, including the larger schools in the NBC.
"I think we are so close to battling for the NBC title again. This team definitely has the attitude and mindset for it, and I think we just need to work harder, and get stronger over the off season," shares the 18-year-old Matwiejczyk.
Outside of his team's turnaround, Matwiejczyk has enjoyed a taste of success, to the tune of 83 completions on 142 attempts, for 1,297 yards and 16 passing touchdowns. Prior to the 'Cats loss at Rossford, he was still tops on the NBC passing leader board, even ahead of Lake’s All-NBC second team quarterback and Flyer record-holder Jared Rettig.
"We really are so close," agrees the 18-year-old Ulinski, who also checks into the NBC leader board with 25 receptions for 386 yards, three TDs, and a chain-moving average of 15.4 yards per catch. That places him just behind Woodmore teammate Malachi Brown (17 catches, 440 yards, 25.9 ave.) and big Genoa tight end Quentin Spiess (11, 415, 37.7), although Ulinski remains the most-targeted receiver in the NBC.
"Last year, we beat (perennial NBC power) Eastwood in a really close game," Ulinski adds, "and I think this year, in some cases, we just haven't executed like we know we can.
"But, I think the community is really just excited about our team again," he continues, "and I've never really seen a bigger crowd on a Friday night, then like the one we had at our season opener (rout over Port Clinton) this year. I'm excited."
Matwiejczyk interjects, "This town's definitely rocking on Friday nights again. I don't think we've ever had this many people come to our games since I've been here. You can just tell it's a different atmosphere this year, and it's got to be a little intimidating for opposing teams to come into Wildcats Stadium on Friday nights."
Who can blame the PC Redskins (0-7, 0-4), the Elmwood Royals (1-6, 1-3), and the resurgent Flyers (5-2, 2-2) -each of who's already made a trip to refurbished Wildcats Stadium this fall, and left town with a 55-7 loss, a 49-22 loss, and a 63-34 win respectively, for winding away from Elmore with a new-found respect for these 'Cats.
For Matwiejczyk there has been no shortage of big games, including: 186 yards through the air, 200 on the ground, and a five touchdown night (two passing, three rushing) to kick off the season against Port Clinton; a second five touchdown night (three passing, two rushing) in week two at Cardinal Stritch Catholic; a three rushing touchdown night against Lake, in which he took off with the ball 29 times for 158 yards (he also threw for 268, and two scores); and a six touchdown night — five of them passing, on 352 yards against Elmwood.
Ulinski turned in a two TD-catch output versus Tiffin Calvert to help spark a 48-14 win; an 81-yard kickoff return for a score to get the party started against Stritch, and a two-yard TD reception in a 56-6 victory; and eight catches, for 121 yards against Elmwood, which he capped off with a sweet one-handed grab near the goal line.
Matwiejczyk and Ulinski have combined for 874 extra yards, via J-Mat utilizing his legs and shifty 4.65 40 time to scramble for 628 yards on the ground, and 11 touchdowns, with EU complimenting him with 10 kickoff returns for 246 yards as a solid special teams ace.
“Yes, in the end…that's what heroes do,” Devier said. “They're champions of the cause. They go above and beyond the call. They have each other's backs. They make everyone around them feel good about being a part of something. And they never forget where they came from…which translates to Matwiejczyk and Ulinski knowing that they're never as good alone, as they are together, and with the support of their hometown behind them. And that's a recipe for sweet success, and a winning combination, whether you're winning championships every year or not.”
Ulinski also plays defense, and is a returning second-team all-NBC defensive back from '12, who has notched 31 tackles, 27 of them solos, and two tackles for losses. While Matwiejczyk was honorable mention all-district for the 'Cats last year after throwing for 2,107 yards and rushing for 910. To go along with his second team All-NBC defensive accolades, Ulinski earned second-team offensive honors on the strength of 43 catches, for 534 yards, and nine TDs.
"I would describe Evan as a hell of an athlete, and he's definitely the toughest kid I know,” Matwiejczyk said. “He's always working his heart out on the field. I've never seen anyone outwork him. He is a role model to our entire team. Everyone should have his attitude and love for the game! Evan's like a brother to me, and no matter the situation, like if I'm tired, I look at him and see that he's playing every play like it's his last, and it rubs off. Evan makes us rise up, and play to the next level."
Says Ulinski, "Jake and I have been playing together since seventh grade, so this is our sixth year together. Jake is a gifted athlete who is very elusive and fast, but he also has a cannon for an arm, and has good accuracy. He comes to practice every day with a smile on his face, and is well-liked and respected in the locker room. On the field, I have a pretty good idea of where Jake will throw the football, and he trusts me to go make plays for him."
Matwiejczyk offers, "I love everything about this team. They're my family and I've grown up with every one of these guys. I have weapons everywhere on the field. I have an outstanding line. I have receivers like Evan, Malachi, Dan (Sprinski), and Brad (Bringman), who run their routes hard and fast, and who I can count on to be open on every play. I also have a great running back (Tony Rozzi), who runs hard and hits his holes as hard as possible. I just love this offense. It's a pick-your-poison type of offense, and it's a dangerous offense for any defense to try to prepare for."
Ulinski echoes, "I like that we don't just rely on any one player and that we can score on any play, with any guy. Our offensive line has given us a running game that we haven't really had in years past. And our running back (Rozzi) has rushed for over 100 yards multiple times this year. It really opens up our scoring. This team plays fast and we score often."
"We are a more confident and resilient team, and we just believe we are a good team. I am very proud to be a part of turning the program around, and I'm excited that every year we're getting better. I have high expectations for the future of this program."
Matwiejczyk adds, "The tradition that's being built. It's exciting to know that I helped start it and I can't wait to come back next year and see Woodmore football being successful in everything they do.
"I've watched Woodmore football ever since I was a kid and it was always my dream to be under those Friday night lights. But to be a key part of the Wildcat resurgence? That's like a dream come true. We're here to prove that we're the new Woodmore football team."
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