MALVERN — East Mills running backs Colby Jennings and Josh Hopkins ran for a combined 250 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Wolverines over Woodward-Granger, 20-0, in their Class A First Round contest Oct. 30.
Rain, mist and soggy conditions favored the ground games of both teams and limited the effectiveness of the passing games, with W-G rushing 37 times for 125 yards while Hawk quarterback Cole Ashman was 5-16-1 for 62 yards.East Mills quarterback Logan Currin fared little better, finishing 2-9-0 for just 28 yards. Both quarterbacks were plagues by dropped passes and balls that slipped from their hands as they threw, putting a premium on the ground game.
Jennings ran 19 times for 152 yards and all three scores, with Hopkins adding 98 yards on 16 rushes while Lane Stortenbecker ran four times for only five yards. The rest of the Wolverines were held to minus-50 yards on eight tries.
“I thought we played well enough on defense and were only down 7-0 at the half,” W-G head coach George Ashman said. “I told the team at half ‘Guys, we are fine. This is a playoff game and nobody is going to win 7-0’ but we just could not hold onto the ball.
“We lost two fumbles and had several instances where we dropped passes when the ball hit us right in the hands,” he continued. “We just kept hurting ourselves. They (East Mills) were good enough that they didn’t need to be helped and it ended up costing us.”
Jennings scored on two short runs and on a 42-yard burst, the longest play from scrimmage in the game. The Wolverines led, 13-0, at the end of three periods before adding a final score in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.
Marshall Nieland led W-G (6-4) with 66 rushing yards on 19 carries while catching one pass for 15 yards.
Michael Connor ran six times for 33 yards, Dylan Garland five times for 17 yards and Ashman five times for 13 yards, with Race Brant rushing twice for minus-four yards.
Tanner Canova (1-16), Seth Noel (1-17) and Brant (2-14) caught passes for the Hawks.
Connor finished with 18 tackles, with Dylan Nixon in on 13 denials while Ashman and Dyllan Rosenbaum tallied 10 stops apiece. Connor had three tackles for a loss and Canova and Nixon two apiece, with Rosenbaum and Lane Kooiker also making stops behind the line of scrimmage.
Canova had the lone sack for W-G, with Drew Jacobson falling on a Wolverine fumble.
The Hawks were playing in the postseason for the sixth consecutive season and were doing so after entering the year with only three starters — Canova, Nieland and Nixon — who played on both sides of the ball.
“We had to, more or less, replace eight guys on both sides of the ball,” coach Ashman said. “This year we will lose those three guys plus Jimmy Harney, Seth Noel and Dyllan Rosenbaum out of the starters, but we have 16 juniors coming back and most of them either started or had plenty of playing time, so we will start next year ahead of where we started this year.
“We had some kids step up and do some nice things for us this year,” Ashman said. “We knew that everyone would be coming after us but we would rather have it that way — it is always better to be the hunted than the other way around.”
Teams will be reassigned districts in February for the 2014 and 2015 seasons, and Ashman said it “could break either way” for his squad.
“I have heard some things about teams dropping down to eight-player and that will have an effect on Class A and 1A for sure,” he said. “It is hard to say in November how things will look, but I just hope that whatever happens we are not put somewhere with long travel. Of course, everyone says that, so we will just have to wait and see how it plays out.”