PEMBERVILLE — You must give Elmwood credit — going for the win on a two-point conversion in a shootout on the road at Eastwood’s Jerry Rutherford Stadium Friday.
Elmwood senior quarterback Hayden Wickard rolled right but could not find a receiver, and his pass fell incomplete with 1:37 remaining in the game, allowing Eastwood to squeak out a 49-48 Northern Buckeye Conference victory.
“We felt like we always want to give ourselves a chance to win, so let’s go at it right then and there,” Elmwood coach Greg Bishop said. “We had some things we thought were open, we just didn’t execute.”
Eastwood improves to 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the conference, while Elmwood takes its first loss, dropping to 6-1 and 4-1.
The game saw 1,047 yards of offense — 624 by Elmwood and 423 by Eastwood. Each team had seven touchdowns, and it was reminiscent of Elmwood’s 56-49 win over the Eagles last year.
Last year’s loss has been on Eastwood senior quarterback Case Boos’ mind ever since. Friday, he ran for 210 yards on 29 carries and three touchdowns, and he completed 3-of-4 passes for another 63 yards and one TD.
Boos had touchdown runs of 61, 7, and 10 yards and threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to senior running back Isaac Reynolds.
“We’ve waited about a year for this, and I could not be prouder of my guys,” Boos said.
“If anybody knew how much work we put into this the whole year round, the whole summer was about this game, and to come out with this outcome is unbelievable for my guys.”
As a result, the Battle of the Woods Trophy, which has been played since both schools were in the Northern Lakes League in the 1960s, returns to Eastwood. Eastwood leads the series, 46-17-1.
It is the last time the two schools will play each other in a league game as Elmwood moves to the Blanchard Valley Conference next year.
Don’t fret, Wood County football fans, because the two schools have already scheduled to play each other in the second week next year in a non-league contest, so the Battle of the Woods will continue. If it’s as wild as this year’s game was, there is much to look forward to.
Eastwood averaged 7.3 yards per play and Elmwood averaged 9.3 yards, but the Eagles were counting on a powerful and fast contingent of four running backs and their offensive line, while the Royals had a more balanced, but highly potent offense.
“With our guys, even when it seemed the hole was closed down, we were able to get just a couple extra yards,” Rutherford said.
“I know their backs were doing the same thing — their quarterback and running back were running really hard.
“It was as physical and as fast and as emotional a high school game that you will see. I think that is kind of what everybody expected.”
A seven-touchdown, 49-point second quarter saw the Eagles take a 35-28 lead at halftime.
Eastwood held a 42-28 and 49-35 lead at different intervals of the third quarter, but Elmwood came back on a six-yard touchdown run by senior back Mason Oliver and 16-yard TD run by Wickard in the fourth quarter to set up the failed conversion.
“That was the toughest game I’ve ever played in my entire life,” Boos said. “Credit to them — they played us well, they kept fighting.
“They were down 14 and they got back into it, but that two-point play was the deciding factor, though.”
Both coaches say competing in games like this are a big part of coaching. Only, it was Eastwood who was celebrating afterward.
“Honestly, it’s an exciting game. We’re like everybody else, we’re enjoying an exciting game,” Eastwood coach Craig Rutherford said.
“Obviously, we gave up a few more touchdowns than what we want. But in the end, it’s all about having more points on the scoreboard, and we had one more than them.”
Bishop added, “It’s a lot of fun. Obviously, we came up on the wrong end tonight, but our kids battled. They played hard. I can’t ask for anything else from them.
“We had some adversity. We put in ourselves in a spot to win the game. Yeah, we came up a little short tonight, but I’m super proud of them.”
Eastwood senior running back Bryce Hesselbart ran for 120 yards on 11 carries, senior Bryce DeFalco ran for 21 yards on eight carries, and senior Isaac Reynolds ran for 10 yards on five carries and had TD runs of one and four yards.
Plus, Hesselbart intercepted a Wickard pass and returned it 43 yards for a score in the second quarter, and DeFalco recovered a fumble when Wickard had trouble with a handoff exchange, stopping a potential Elmwood scoring drive.
Boos’ other pass completions went to junior Kaiden Sanchez for 17 yards and sophomore Dayquan Oliver for 13 yards.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Wickard, who Bishop says is getting his share of looks from college football programs, completed 22-of-34 passes for 395 yards with four TDs. Wickard also ran for 62 yards on 16 carries.
“He’s a big kid. He’s a big body,” Bishop said. “He’s taken over as the leader of the offense.
“He’s taking it very seriously and getting after it. He’s getting better every week. He’s making plays and doing the things he needs to do offensively for us.”
Wickard threw TD passes of 20 and 69 yards to senior Mason Mossbarger, an 11-yard TD pass to junior Micah Oliver, and a 65-yard TD pass to senior Alex Arnold.
Arnold caught seven passes for 146 yards, Mossbarger had five catches for 144 yards, and Micah Oliver had four catches for 65 yards.
Also, for the Royals, senior Les Voska had a reception or 20 yards, senior Mason Oliver had three catches for 12 yards, and senior Cannon Endicott caught two passes for eight yards.
In addition, Mason Oliver ran for 155 yards on 16 carries, but he missed one offensive series after showing signs of a possible ankle sprain or cramping, but minutes later was back on the field. Mason Oliver also had a four-yard TD run early in the second quarter.
Now that Eastwood has the driver’s seat in the NBC, the Eagles will look toward next Friday when they take on Rossford, led by another prolific quarterback in Alex Williams, at Jackson Ferguson Stadium.
“If you watch Rossford, their offense is really good, and their defense is getting better, but we are going to enjoy this one,” Rutherford said. “If we’re going to win next week, we’ll have to clean up our defense.”