BLOOMDALE — Elmwood got their opportunity to knock down the two-time defending Northern Buckeye Conference champions Otsego, and the Royals took advantage.
Elmwood put up 385 total yards of offense, including 245 rushing, to defeat the visiting Knights, 21-7, Friday. The Royals are a perfect 5-0 and 2-0 in the NBC, while the Knights fall to 3-2 and 1-1.
“It’s a great team win,” Elmwood coach Greg Bishop said. “These are the games you want to play in, especially in the midway point of the season — big games that mean a lot, so we’re getting after it.”
Despite the two-touchdown win, Otsego refused to lay down for the Royals.
“These kids can hit hard, but we knew all week it was going to be a tough fight. We just practiced hard and came out and it worked out,” Elmwood senior quarterback Hayden Wickard said.
Bishop added, “We knew they play hard. We’ve watched them on film. They get after it, so we knew we had to set the intensity from the get-go.
“Our kids are resilient. We had some things not go our way, but we kept plugging away and getting after it. That’s all we ask them to do — is just keep going and going.”
Elmwood took a 7-0 first quarter lead on Wickard’s 44-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Micah Oliver on a perfectly executed bubble screen that saw Oliver stay behind his blockers and then flash past the secondary.
In the second quarter, on a play-action read-pass option, Wickard ran 27 yards around right end for six points and senior kicker Mattia Susan added his second of three conversion kicks to put the Royals up 14-0.
Elmwood surprised the Knights with an offside kick, which was recovered by Elmwood sophomore Connor Sterling at midfield, but three dropped passes on the ensuing drive left the Royals stranded at the Otsego 22.
On Elmwood’s next possession, the Royals went 68 yards on six plays, but a Wickard pass was intercepted by junior defensive back Devin Farley, who returned it to the Elmwood 40.
The 14-0 score stood until halftime, but the Knights’ ability to keep the Royals out of the end zone and even force a turnover seemed to give Otsego momentum going into the locker room.
Otsego’s defense forced a punt to start the second half, and then the Knights marched 67 yards on five plays, scoring on a 42-yard TD run by Farley, who doubles as the Otsego quarterback, on the Knights’ version of a play-action read-pass option.
After a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty whistled on Elmwood, Otsego took advantage with their version of an onside kick, which was recovered by senior kicker Austin Williams at the Elmwood 32.
But Elmwood’s defense stiffened, and on a fourth-and-five at the Elmwood 27, senior defensive lineman Adam Mohre stopped Farley short at the 26-yard line.
From there, both teams continued to trade possessions until Elmwood put together a nine-play, 51-yard drive with Wickard scoring off tackle from 15-yards outs, putting the Royals up 21-7 with 2:25 remaining.
“We knew we had to keep it going,” Wickard said. “They almost got back into the game, but we stopped them, so we just had to keep our momentum up. The offensive line was doing a great job blocking the last couple drives.”
Part of Otsego’s gameplan was to try and keep Elmwood’s offense off the field, so you could see Farley waiting until the back judge got to his five-second count on each play before calling for the center to snap the ball.
Plus, Otsego stuck more than usual to its ground game, rushing for 124 yards, and passing for only 106.
“We’re a tempo offense at heart, but we thought we wanted to try and keep their offense on the sidelines. That is an explosive offense. They have got a lot of really good players,” Otsego first-year coach Josh Lindke said.
“We came up short — we had to punt, and we had a couple quick drives and things like that. But we executed the gameplan for the most part what we wanted to do in terms in keeping them off the field, but we must finish drives and put up some points.”
Bishop said he had a suspicion that would be Otsego’s gameplan, so the Royals had to rely on their defense more than ever.
“We call in our defense,” Bishop said. “We held them to seven points on that one broken play, and our defense played some lights out tonight.
“That’s what we want them to do is get after them every single play and our defense stood up tall tonight, and our offense did a great job keeping the game moving, creating a long drive at the end and shutting the door on them.”
Wickard completed 13 of 22 passes for 137 yards and he ran for 78 yards on 13 carries. Senior running back Mason Oliver ran for 158 yards on 15 carries, averaging 10.5 per carry.
Micah Oliver was Wickard’s favorite target, catching seven passes for 91 yards, plus he was a major force from his defensive back position.
“Micah Oliver did a great job tonight — he broke the game open (first quarter TD) and was a lockdown on defense the whole night,” Wickard said.
Elmwood senior Mason Mossbarger caught three passes for 28 yards, junior Ayden Green caught a 12-yard pass and Mason Oliver had a reception good for seven yards. Sophomore back Andrew Traxler had a carry for 14 yards.
For Otsego, Farley completed 13-of-26 passes for 106 yards, including seven to junior Jack Simpson for 61 yards. Senior back Blake Steele had 61 yards rushing on 20 carries and Farley ran for 57 yards on eight carries.
Otsego sophomore Jake Limes caught two passes for 20 yards, Steele caught three passes for 15 yards, and junior Owen Atkinson had a nine-yard reception.
Lindke liked the fight he saw in his players, despite coming up short.
“Our kids battled. They are tough kids. We’re certainly not happy with the way we played but we’re not disappointed in the way we play either,” Lindke said. “We’re not here for moral victories. We wanted to win this football game. I thought we had plenty of opportunities to win this football game.
“We don’t have the biggest kids by any means, but these kids battle, and they continue to fight, scratch and claw to give us a chance to win a lot of football games on the road.”