Equally so, there is little doubt that one must also be able to start well.
That ultimately proved the critical difference in Ashland’s 56-28 victory over visiting Wooster, Sept. 16, as the Arrows shot out of the gate to a 14-0 lead, putting the Generals on their heels in the opening Ohio Cardinal Conference game for both schools. That was an advantage Ashland never relinquished.
“After watching the film, it’s obvious Ashland is really good,” said Wooster High coach Mike McCreary. “In the second quarter, it was 21-21, the third quarter was scoreless and it was 14-7 in the fourth quarter until they scored a last-minute touchdown.
“We just started bad and when Ashland got a 14-point lead, we couldn’t surmount that. That being said, we were trading points. When people look at the score, it looks like we got killed. But, if you look at it in the grand scheme, if you take away the first quarter, it’s a different story.”
Wooster (2-2, 0-1 OCC) didn’t come out of the gate strong the week before against Akron Ellet, as a 39-14 victory covered up a 14-14 halftime score. There was no such luck against the pass-happy Arrows, who finished with over 500 yards in total offense, getting nearly 300 through the air as Zach Bernhard completed 18-of-24 passes (297 yards) and rushed for 113 to account for nearly half of the Arrows’ 238 stripes.
That balance added to Wooster’s woes, and Bernhard was at the heart of it. He scored on a 1-yard run to open the scoring before handing off to his favorite weapon, running back Marquise Jones, who scored from 16 yards out as the quarter wound down. That gave the Arrows a two-score advantage, one they kept virtually the entire game.
“We got down 14-0 a few years ago and it was almost reminiscent of that,” said McCreary. “We got the ball first in a hole at the 10-yard line, made some positive plays and then had a penalty. We punted, they got the ball on their 35, so they were in great shape. On our second series we dropped a third-down pass or we would have been on their 35 first and 10. If we score and it’s 7-7, we’ll trade touchdowns all the way. We didn’t make the play, it’s 14-0 and then we’re always down at least a touchdown. We can’t stop them, they can’t stop us.”
Wooster bounced back to make it 14-7 on a 2-yard DeVonta Anderson run, but that marked the teams’ trading scores through the rest of the quarter. Bernhard made it 21-7 with a 34-yard scoring strike before Wooster counterpart Devin Daugherty scored on a 12-yard run. Bernhard (2 yards) and Daugherty (11 yards) both scored again as the Generals made it 28-21 with only 1:52 left in the half.
However, the Arrows’ quick-strike offense pushed that lead back to two scores by covering 75 yards in just over a minute as Jones – who rushed for 90 yards and had 101 receiving yards on six catches - scored from a yard out to make it 35-21 with 40 seconds to play.
“We didn’t get the pressure we needed (on Bernhard),” said McCreary. “If you don’t get pressure on (New England quarterback) Tom Brady, he’ll pick you apart. The Ashland kid was good, the Lexington kid is good, the Orrville kid is good. We can’t just let them sit back there. Those are things we’ve got to work on.”
After a scoreless third quarter, Ashland then got the game under control by scoring first in the fourth quarter (11:20), pushing its lead to 42-21. Wooster tantalized its fans once again when Daugherty teamed up with Darrian Owens for a 31-yard scoring play to make it 42-28, but the Arrows capped the scoring with the final 14 points of the contest and kept the Generals off the board.
The Arrows hemmed Wooster in on the ground, as Anderson finished under 100 yards for the first time this season (59 on 14 carries). Daugherty also had 59 yards while throwing for 144 (11-25-1) as the Generals finished with 264 yards in total offense.
“The other thing we saw on film was either great on their part or disappointing on ours,” said McCreary. “Anything we did to them (offensively) broke down in one area. In the area where we broke down (defensively), they attacked. It was amazing. That’s what we tried to show the kids. You have to do your job and do it well. It only takes one guy, one guy here, one guy there (breaking down). (Ashland) is just too good.
“We have to become a better unit. You can have great athletes, but if you don’t play as a unit, you’re in trouble. A good unit is better than a team with great athletes. Offensively we’re cohesive as a unit, but defensively we’re not there yet. We’ve got to get 11 guys on same page – that’s how we’ll get better.
“I look at our experience on offense and you can tell; on defense, we have a lot of the same guys, but we’re trying to learn. We’re not perfect. You can tell the difference between offense and defense that we have a lot more experience. On offense, we can be down 21 and not bat an eye; they believe they can score. The defense will bat an eye. We’re not as confident. We just have to settle down and regroup.
“People will look at the score and think it’s horrible and it’s not. We’ll take care of this. This game was different. In the first three we had to figure out how to stop the run; here we had to stop the pass. We’ve given up some yards (before). Against Garfield we substituted… and we gave up some yards and scores because we substituted. Number one, that was to get some experience and, number two, the kids play harder knowing they have an opportunity to play. If you are winning 40-0 and can’t substitute, that ridiculous. I could have ran up DeVo’s stats if I would have kept him in there, but he was out in second quarter.
Wooster hosts Mansfield Madison (3-1, 0-1 OCC) Sept. 23 for Homecoming and McCreary is expecting the team to bounce back from the Ashland disappointment.
“The kids didn’t quit,” said McCreary. “They played hard. If we learn anything from this game, it’s that we’ve got to play like a unit on defense, special teams and offense. Anyone of those can affect you. We have to learn to be more cohesive.”
Published: September 22, 2011