“If you can’t make tackles in space, turn the ball over and have penalties, you’re not going to win many games,” he said.
On each item, Shea hit the nail on the head.
The Hawks (6-2) allowed a season-high eight touchdowns and fantastic performances by Wolcott quarterback Mike Nicol (191 rushing yards, 120 passing yards, five total touchdowns) and running back Joe Lynch (129 rushing yards, two touchdowns).
Woodland turned over the ball four times, doubling the combined total from its first seven games. And the Hawks committed 80 yards’ worth of penalties, including five 15-yarders.
Most of the combined damages came in the second half, where Wolcott outscored Woodland 34-0.
The Hawks had six second-half possessions: One was a three-and-out, two ended with interceptions, one finished with a strip sack and two concluded in turnovers on downs.
“We knew how tough their offense was to defend,” Wolcott coach Jason Pace said. “We just tried to mix things up. At times we sent pressure and at times we dropped into coverage. We changed coverages on every play. We tried to make (Woodland quarterback Tanner Kingsley) uncomfortable as far as his reads and our pressure.”
Kingsley fell three times to Wolcott sacks and tossed three picks, including a pair on the Hawks’ second and third drives after halftime, to put the game out of reach midway through the third quarter.
“We know he’s a very accurate quarterback and one of the best in the league,” said Mike Nicol, who made the last interception in the end zone to cap a tremendous night for himself. “We took a chance on their run and dropped into coverage. We know (Anthony) Scirpo and (Rahmi) Rountree are very good receivers and we had to stay over the top on them.”
The Eagles did exactly that, allowing Kingsley to complete only two passes of more than 10 yards. Scirpo’s two first-half touchdown receptions of 9 and 5 yards were the only Woodland scores.
That 5-yarder, which made it a 13-12 Wolcott lead with 2:07 to play in the first half, looked like it would be the game’s momentum shift, with the Hawks set to receive the opening kickoff of the second half.
But Nicol and the Eagles’ offense had other plans, putting together a six-play, 66-yard drive over the next 1:56 that ended in a 5-yard touchdown pass to Jason Pelletier and made it a 20-12 lead.
“We wanted to waste clock but a touchdown is better than running out of time,” said Nicol, who was 8-of-11 passing for 120 yards and four touchdowns. “I’ll take a touchdown any day.”
Helped by a sound and explosive defense, Wolcott’s offense scored five times after the half on a 35-yard run by Lynch, a 38-yard pass from Nicol to Ryan Caggiano, a 16-yard run by Lynch, a 19-yard run by Nicol and a 16-yard run by Nate Fillipone.
“Everything that could have gone wrong did,” Shea said. “Defensively we were in the right spots but we didn’t execute in that space. Nicol is a very good high school football player and they had a night. They were ready to go.”
Wolcott clinched a Class M postseason berth with the win while Woodland squandered a chance to virtually clinch. The Hawks now need a win over Seymour on Thanksgiving eve and a little bit of help to make the Class S playoffs.