SEYMOUR — Woodland’s season ended sooner than the Hawks had hoped.
Woodland faced Seymour in the annual Thanksgiving eve matchup with playoff hopes on the line for both teams. In the end, it was the Wildcats who earned a playoff berth and a 53-7 win over the Hawks.
“Obviously we are disappointed, but you have to credit Seymour,” Woodland head coach Chris Anderson said. “Going into the Seymour game I knew it was going to be our toughest challenge of the season. Their quarterback (Jaylen Kelley) is a really good, strong runner. I thought we had a good plan going into the game, but the better team won that night. They did a great job executing, and they were a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger, and a little bit faster than we were. They are a well-coached team, and it was their night.”
Woodland (7-3) struck first when freshman quarterback Zach Bedryczuk connected with senior running back Sean McAllen in the first quarter for a 12-yard touchdown pass to give the Hawks a 7-0 lead.
Seymour (10-1) responded by scoring eight unanswered touchdowns with Kelley leading the way. The Wildcat’s dual-threat quarterback finished the game with five total touchdowns, 175 yards rushing on 30 carries and 134 yards passing.
McAllen led the way for Woodland with 85 yards rushing on 22 carries. The touchdown catch was McAllen’s lone score of the night as he finished his career one touchdown short of tying the all-time team record placing him behind only Pat Krakowski.
Coby Vaccarelli had a great night at linebacker for the Hawks. The senior recorded 15 tackles and two sacks leaving him just two solo tackles short of the Hawks’ all-time record.
Despite the way the season ended, the Hawks don’t view their season as a failure by any means. Woodland exceeded most everyone’s expectations.
“Anytime you end a season where your kids are crying, that means they enjoyed the season. That they got something out of it. You are either crying if you’re really happy because you are a champion or you’re crying because you loved your team and you don’t want it to be over, and that happened to be the case with us. But I am really, really proud of our kids regardless of the outcome of [the Seymour] game,” said Anderson, who returned to coach the Hawks this season after an eight-year hiatus.
Although they didn’t clear their final hurdle, the Hawks entire season was full of overcoming obstacle after obstacle.
“When I took the job and we came into spring practice we had to overcome a lot. First we had a bunch of kids that quit the team during spring practice that never came back. Then the kids that were still there had to learn about a new coach and I had to learn about them very quickly. We didn’t even know what offense we were going to be in until a week before the season,” Anderson said.
Woodland’s journey didn’t get any easier as the Hawks started the season 1-2 and injuries began to mount.
The rough start prompted a change from the coaches.
“When we were sitting at 1-2 we decided that we were no longer going to be over studying our opponents, but rather we were going to study ourselves. We filmed every practice, watched every practice and graded every practice. We need to up our football IQ and our kids, to their credit, hung in there and believed in me when they really didn’t have to. At 1-2 they don’t know me from anybody else but they stayed the course. Our seniors and our captains did a great job of keeping everybody focused,” Anderson said.
Anderson also credited his coaching staff.
“I ask an awful lot of them. I mean we do 7 a.m. meetings on Sunday mornings that sometimes last until noon time. I ask a lot of guys that have full-time jobs to come to practice well prepared with plans and play cards and everything else under the sun. So Jack Debiase and Chris Moffo, our coordinators, really rose up to the challenges of the season, too. They were special this year,” Anderson said.
The team was resilient and it paid off with a six-game winning streak after the 1-2 start.
The Hawks fought threw injuries, walkouts and a rough start to end the season with their heads held high and the respect of their coach.
“I had fun, the kids made it enjoyable for me and they made me a believer in them. That’s pretty special when the kids can do that for their coach. They could of easily said at 1-2 ‘well that’s it, it’s not our year’ and everybody could have just written the ship off. But we didn’t do that, we rallied and we hope that they take that into their lives. I don’t have enough nice things to say about our team. I think they brought a lot of pride back into the program. I really respect and thank them for all their efforts,” Anderson said.
Looking ahead to next season the Hawks are going to need to fill some awfully big shoes at many positions. McAllen, Vaccarelli, Semir Devisi, David Bobbie, Jon Scirpo, Guy Massimo, John Searles, and Collin Shea are all graduating and leaving open spots at starting positons, some on both sides of the ball.
Anderson said some players will need to step up next year that have never played on a varsity level. However, he knows that he has some good returning players, starting with Bedrycuzk, who went 5-for-12 for 62 yards, two interceptions and one touchdown versus Seymour.
“Zach Bedrycuzk is going to be a sophomore now with ten games under his belt so we are looking to expand on his roles and what he can do. Ben Nuss is going to be a junior, he had a good year scored five or six touchdowns this year and kicked the ball for us. Issac Negron, although undersized, plays with a big heart so we can get him in the weight room. Cody Doyle I think is going to be a good lineman. Scott Lawrence, Quinten Koch; we have some good players coming back for sure,” Anderson said.