Woodland had a hard enough time battling the elements Friday night, with temperatures dipping into the low 50s accompanied by scattered rain and annoying wind, but it was Wolcott’s relentless ground game and ironclad defense that proved too much to handle.
The Eagles held Woodland’s usually high-octane offense to just 7 points during sixty minutes of play. Jack DeBiase led the Hawks with 101 yards of total offense; a week earlier, DeBiase put together 202 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 21-6 win over Kennedy.
Woodland came into the game with a plan to focus on an aerial assault, but Wolcott’s defensive pressure gave them a hard time executing on the offensive side of the ball.
“Wolcott’s defense is quite good in our opinion,” said Woodland head coach Tim Shea. “They are real physical up front. We thought we’d be able to throw the ball and we had people open at times. We just couldn’t protect or execute our game plan on offense.”
The Hawks’ defense, however, proved just as tough, holding onto a 7-3 lead heading into the tail-end of the third quarter. Wolcott struggled to get anything going offensively but got things going with a 24-yard field goal by kicker Thomas Bochicchio, which proved a disappointing end to an opening drive that began with Nieco Christiano’s 77-yard kickoff return.
Woodland responded early in the second quarter when DeBiase hooked up with receiver Rob Johnson on a 16-yard bubble screen for the touchdown.
The Hawks was relinquished the 7-3 lead late in the third quarter, when Wolcott went on its longest drive of the game, 79 yards on eight plays, a drive that culminated with a 2-yard, fourth-and goal-touchdown run by DeVante Bonvillian.
“On that drive, Wolcott was able to spring their back on some long runs,” Shea recalled. “They made a few adjustments at the half, as we did. We just didn’t react fast enough on that drive and that allowed Wolcott to move the ball. We played hard and aggressive all night and we knew we couldn’t stand in front of them, so our plan was to move around and use our speed to get to the ball.”
The Hawks were able to give themselves a chance late in the fourth quarter due to some key stops on defense that forced Wolcott to punt.
The Hawks were stopped on a third and short, forcing a decision to go for it on fourth down around midfield with the clock ticking away to less than three minutes. The play called for DeBiase to take it up the middle on a designed draw, but an apparent injury to the Woodland quarterback led to the play’s failure.
“On the fourth-and-one, DeBiase had been nursing his hand,” Shea explained. “He took a few shots there and fell awkwardly on it once or twice. The kid didn’t think he could take a snap from under center, [but] at that point in the game we had to go for it. He ran the play that was called and we came up a little short.”
Wolcott moves to 3-0 on the season, keeping up its contention for the NVL regular-season crown, while Woodland falls to 1-2 as they prepare to take on Watertown, another undefeated opponent, this Friday at home.
The Hawks’ record may seem like a depressing stat for fans, but to Shea, the season is still young.
“We feel we are still one of the tougher teams in the conference,” he said. “We’ve just had to play two of the top teams within the first three weeks of the season. We lost by a total of eight points and we were in position to win them both in the closing minutes of each game. We will be ready to play this week. It’s just the way the league is this year. Everything will shake out as the season goes on.”