WOODSTOWN -- The Woodstown High School football team gained 100 yards rushing on its first eight plays of the night Friday, resulting in a 14-0 first-quarter lead over visiting Schalick.
The Wolverines wouldn’t gain 100 yards the rest of the night, but saw the defense rise to the occasion multiple times to help secure a 21-7 victory and hand the Cougars their first loss of the year after a 6-0 start.
“We believe both offense and defense will take us far, but our defense, we know we’ve got to play hard, get stops, go three-and-out every time we go out there,” said junior linebacker KC Hildreth, whose fourth-quarter interception and 31-yard return set up Woodstown’s final score. “(We’ve got to) try to be the best defense we can, because that’s what we’re known for.”
“It’s been a rocky road with (defense) this year,” Wolverines coach John Adams admitted. “Last game against Deptford, we couldn’t stop them to save our lives and they couldn’t stop us. Our offense was rolling last week, and we had 402 yards on the ground (in a 38-32 win).
“This game all week we preached we had to play hard-nosed defense. … Hats off to Schalick, their defense is good. … We knew our offense was gonna be in a tough spot trying to move the ball against their defense. … We said play Woodstown defense, that was something this team was missing a little bit. They played Woodstown defense tonight. It was fantastic to see.”
The Cougars actually outgained the Wolverines (5-2 overall) for the game, 267-197, posting 173 yards after halftime. But turnovers and penalties did them in, with Woodstown scoring 14 points off turnovers.
Schalick fumbled on its third offensive play, setting up the home team with the ball in Cougars territory. Five plays and 44 yards later, Christian Smith-Coleman scored from 8 yards out to put Woodstown up early. After a turnover on downs at the Woodstown 39 on the next series for Schalick, junior quarterback Cody Wolf kept the ball and raced 50 yards to make it a two-touchdown lead.
“We do a thing called MOEs, major offensive errors,” said Wolf, who finished with a team-high 88 yards rushing and two TDs. “There’s a certain percentage we (try to stay below), and if it’s under 20 percent then our defense will put us in a position to win the game. I’m pretty positive tonight we were under 20 percent.”
Turnovers, penalties and negative plays are MOEs to the Wolverines and they didn’t have many Friday, in part because they only ran 33 plays which weren’t punts, penalties or kneels. That’s as many as Schalick ran in the first half alone.
It wasn’t until their 65th and final play that the Cougars broke up the shutout with a 21-yard TD pass from Jared Fox to CJ Holmes, but it came with barely a minute to play. They turned the ball over three times, and were stopped after first-and-goal on the 2 just before halftime.
“It doesn’t change what we call coaching-wise (playing with a lead),” Adams said. “I think what it does is relaxes the kids a little bit. They can play a little uptight because so many are younger guys…. Some of these guys don’t have a lot of football experience, and I think when we’re up 14-0 it was OK, we’ve got some breathing room. They were able to relax and just play.”
Schalick actually forced a fumble as the Wolverines were trying to put the game away early in the fourth quarter, getting the ball back at their own 25 with 8:18 left still down just 14-0. Over the next five minutes, the team gained 65 yards but saw it all but disappear thanks to 60 yards in penalties including two unsportsmanlike conduct flags and a personal foul.
On second-and-40 from their own 30, Hildreth stepped in front of a pass and returned the interception to the 8-yard line to set up Wolf’s final score.
“We knew they were 6-0,” Hildreth said. “(Coach) Adams said, what do you want to wake up to tomorrow? Schalick 7-0, or Wolverines upset Schalick? … I just did what my linebacker coach (Zach) Garren told me, dropped into my zone. I saw him throw the ball, and I just went and got it.”
Fox ended the night 21-of-35 passing for 190 yards, while Tyreese Snipe led all rushers with 91 yards on 18 carries. But the Cougars suffered their first loss against a team whose losses have come to defending Group 1 champ Pennsville and perennial Group 2 power West Deptford.
The Woodstown victory further crowds the Group 1 playoff picture heading into the final week before cutoff, and the Wolverines will take on Penns Grove next week with a chance to all but secure a sixth straight postseason berth.
“Our coach told us he was going to give us a hard schedule to prepare us for games like this,” said Wolf. “We’re battle tested, and it’s paid off.”
“It’s interesting in Group 1 this year, because it seems like everybody’s beating everybody,” Adams said. “It’s a loaded field. We went from a loaded Group 2 field to a loaded Group 1 where as long as you get in, anything can happen. … Hopefully this helped us punch our ticket…. We’ll see what we can do against Penns Grove … we’re excited.”
Scott Chappelear writes for South Jersey Sports Digest. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @srchappie.
Woodstown 21, Schalick 7
Schalick 0 0 0 7 -7
Woodstown 14 0 0 7 -21
W: Christian Smith-Coleman 8 run (Frassenei kick)
W: Cody Wolf 50 run (Frassenei kick)
W: Wolf 1 run (Frassenei kick)
S: CJ Holmes 21 pass from Jared Fox (Ethan Long kick)