The Elmwood Royals defeated the Eastwood Eagles 28-7 to win a Division V football regional semifinals at Bowling Green High School’s Bobcat Stadium Friday, which was rocking with rowdy fans from each local school.
The Elmwood win avenged a 49-48 loss to the Eagles during the regular season.
“It means a lot to beat a team that beat us earlier in the year, it means a lot to this team,” Elmwood senior receiver Alex Arnold said. “Our coaches put together a great game plan and we just had to excecute — that was it.”
Elmwood senior running back Mason Oliver added, “It feels great being able to be the first (Elmwood) team to ever make it this far, especially after beating these guys in the playoffs after they beat us. It just feels great — it is an honor.”
Mason Oliver led Elmwood’s rushing attack with 150 yards on 23 carries, senior quarterback Hayden Wickard had 40 yards on 12 carries, Mason Mossbarger had 22 yards on two carries, and Arnold ran for 22 yards on six carries.
Wickard completed 7-of-11 passes for 142 yards, including two junior receiver Micah Oliver for 76 yards, two to Mason Oliver for 44 yards and two to Arnold for 22 yards.
The Royals started off strong with a 80-yard drive for their first possession of the game. Micah Oliver was the first player to put points up on the board with a 17-yard touchdown.
The Eagles offense tried to push following the touchdown, but Elmwood’s suffocating defense would not allow Eastwood any time in the redzone. At the end of the first, the Royals were up 7-0.
Two minutes into the second quarter, Oliver capitalized again as he went for a 69-yard touchdown to make it 14-0. The Eagles could not gain any momentum as the Royals dominated the field.
Halfway through the quarter, Arnold put up more points on an 18-yard run to make the score 21-0. Minutes later, Eagles quarterback Case Boos blasted off for a 40-yard run to cut some of Elmwood’s lead, making it 21-7.
In the dying minutes of the second quarter, the Royals had even more offensive chances, yet two incomplete passes in their end kept the score at 21-7 at halftime.
The second half of the game looked to be more even, as the Eagles fought hard to stay within their playoff dreams. However, Elmwood’s defense proved to be powerful, and Eastwood could not convert despite gaining some yardage.
With seven minutes to go in the third, Eastwood saw an opportunity as defender Bryce DeFalco recovered a fumble. The Eagles started show some life, battling for a more even playing field.
With just two minutes left, the Royals crushed Eastwood’s confidence with an interception leading to a 99-yard touchdown return down the left sideline for Arnold, making it 28-7.
Elmwood tried to kick a field goal in the last minutes of the game to seal the deal, but the score settled at 28-7.
Adam Meyer had nine solo tackles and one assist and Mason Oliver had six tackles and four assists to lead Elmwood defensively. Adam Mohre had six solo tackles, Allen Sterling had five solo and one assist, Frank Blair had five solo tackles and Zach May had three tackles and two assists.
Eastwood coach Craig Rutherford said that he hoped his team, especially the seniors, learned a very important lesson from the loss.
“It’s not easy,” Rutherford said. “Winning is never easy and you have to prepare.”
The standout players of the game were Elmwood’s tough defense, and coach Gary Bishop could not be more proud of their efforts.
“The defense played their tails off tonight,” Bishop said. “It’s so awesome to see our kids dialed in.
“Our kids — we challenged them all week. We had a great week of practice. Our kids came out and we played like we should. I’m super proud. All week we heard the noise on how good Eastwood is, and they are a great football team. Our kids game out and responded and played one of the best games they have every played.”
Elmwood will face the Liberty Center next Friday after the Tigers beat Coldwater Friday, 34-0. The location of the regional finals against the Tigers is to be determined.
Elmwood, 12-1, had one of its best seasons in school history.
“Last year we set the record (wins) and we beat it again this year, and we just have to get better and better,” Arnold said.
Eastwood, the Northern Buckeye Conference champions, saw its season end at 12-1.”
“We look back to the beginning of the year — it seems like a long time ago and it also seems not that long ago, and in 13 weeks we did some special stuff,” Rutherford said.
“We are only the second team in school history to win 12 games and we got another league championship. We got to see a bunch of guys step up. Maybe we didn’t think we were going to play a big role and that is always fun. We had some seniors who found a way to come together for one year and really do some great things.
“Tonight is going to hurt. It should because we care and its over, but I think they are going to look back and have some really great memories on what they were able to do this year.”