By Tom Usher – email@example.com
LIMA — Woodland (Ind.) veteran coach Sherwood Haydock was determined not to give Lima Central Catholic the ball back.
So, leading by three, he went for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 40 with 2:44 to go.
Woodland picked up the critical first down and held off LCC 29-26 in a physical game on a rainy Saturday night at Spartan Stadium.
On the fourth-and-1 play, Woodlan gave the ball to its 6-foot-2, 240-pound running back Mitchell Van Brocklin and had him run behind his 280-pound lineman. Van Brocklin bulled off right tackle and steamrolled his way for 42 yards to earn the first down and give the Warriors the victory.
“I didn’t want No. 6 (LCC quarterback Ethan O’Connor) to have the ball again,” Haydock said. “So right now with our undefeated season on the line, we’ll follow our No. 1 offensive lineman, Jacob Schile (6-0, 281) with our big back. For him to break it like that was unbelievable.”
Added LCC coach Scott Palte, it was fourth-and-1 and we had a little momentum going of offense, and I’d go for it, too, with a 240-pound running back and a 280-pound linemen. I give our kids a lot of credit up front. We really hung in there. We fell down right away, but our kids kept coming back. I’m proud of our efforts. We lost to a really good football team.”
Woodland is 7-0, while LCC is 3-3.
It was another gutty performance for O’Connor who brought LCC back from a 22-0 deficit. O’Connor completed 17 of 31 for 167 yards. He threw four TDs (26, 14, 16, 12) and was picked off twice. On the ground, O’Connor had 14 carries for 89 yards.
O’Connor left the field holding his left arm.
“What a tremendous athlete,” Haydock said of O’Connor. “He’s probably one of the best quarterbacks I’ve faced in a long time. He’s a big-time player because he’s so smart and we knew it.”
Van Brocklin finished with 26 carries for 156 yards with three TDs (1, 2, 17). His fellow running back, speedy Jack Rhoades, had 18 carries for 113 yards.
Woodlan led 22-0 after the first quarter and 22-7 at the half.
Lima Central Catholic moved the ball on its first drive. But the drive was immediately halted when O’Connor was picked off when his pass was tipped by an LCC receiver and intercepted by Ah’Lan Howard. He picked it off at the 35 and returned it 65 yards for a TD. That gave Woodlan a quick 7-0 lead.
Woodlan then recovered the on-side kick. After that, it marched 51 yards in nine plays for a score.
Van Brocklin powered it over from the 2-yard line for a TD. With the two-point conversion, the Warriors took a 15-0 lead with 5:14 left in the first quarter.
The next time LCC had the ball, it lost a fumble on a passplay and Woodlan took over on the LCC 34. Six plays later, Woodlan quarterback Justin Durkes hit Van Brocklin on a screen pass and he went for a 17-yard TD. That gave the Warriors a 22-0 lead with 1:34 left in the first quarter.
LCC got on the board with a 26-yard TD pass from O’Connor to Nick Taflinger. That got the T-Birds within 22-7 with 10:30 left in the second quarter.
Woodlan has a major blunder when punter Dalton Moore’s knee touched the ground when he was setting up to punt. That gave the T-Birds a first down at the Woodland 15.
Three plays later, LCC scored on a 14-yard TD pass from O’Connor to Taflinger. That brought LCC within 22-13 with 7:43 left in the third.
With Woodlan leading 29-13, LCC came back on a 16-yard TD from O’Connor to Thomas Williams. That got LCC within 29-19 with 5:42 left.
The T-Birds then recovered a bouncing, squib kick. O’Connor then hit Williams on a 12-yard TD slant pass to bring LCC within 29-26 with 3:48 left.
LCC’s game next weekend has been moved to Saturday against Bishop Ready at Upper Arlington.