Rivals Wauseon and Archbold will meet on the gridiron Friday night in Wauseon with more on the line than just bragging rights for the next year. The victor will get at least a piece of the Northwest Ohio Athletic League title depending on the outcome of Liberty Center (8-1) and Evergreen (4-5).
“This will be a huge week,” said Wauseon coach Shawn Moore. “It has been a long time since this game has been played week 10. For the regular season to end like this, with a league championship on the line between two rivals will be something special.”
Archbold, who has won the last two games of the series, will be looking to play spoiler on the Indians’ home field.
“The Archbold-Wauseon rivalry is one surrounded by great tradition and very passionate fan bases. This is a game that is circled on both team’s schedules each year so a win would obviously mean a lot. Not only for the rivalry itself, but also gaining momentum moving into the playoffs,” said Blue Streak coach David Dominique.
Both teams enter the game fresh off blowout wins in week nine. The Blue Streaks (8-1) routed Swanton 42-7 at home, while Wauseon (8-1) won at Delta 48-14.
Archbold got the win behind a strong rushing attack, now with tailback Noah Gomez back and healthy after missing games earlier in the season due to injury. The Streaks ran for 309 yards against the Bulldogs as Gomez tallied 137 yards and three rushing touchdowns.
Archbold would like very much to get him and the rest of their running backs going in this all-important contest.
“If we are going to be successful on Friday night, our ‘O’ and ‘D’ lines are going to have to control the line of scrimmage,” said Dominique. “They have some big guys up front so it will be critical for us to get them moved off the ball to open lanes for our skilled guys. Obviously, getting Noah back is big for our team but I have really liked the way our offensive line has improved all season long and hope to see continued improvement as the game goes on Friday.”
“Noah is a good back that runs the ball hard and has great vision,” said Moore of Gomez. “We must be gap sound each and every play in order to limit and contain their run game throughout.”
Outside of Gomez, who has accumulated 548 yards and eight TDs on the ground, the Streaks can also turn to two other rushers who have over 450 yards this season. One of those is quarterback D.J. Newman who has 487 yards rushing to go along with seven scores.
Newman has also passed for 1,255 yards and 12 TDs to four interceptions. Caleb Hogrefe has the most TDs for the Streaks at 10, rushing for 459 yards on the season.
The Indians will try to contain the Blue Streak playmakers as best as possible, and on the offensive side take advantage of their opportunities.
“Defensively we need to continue to swarm to the football,” said Moore. “They have some athletic players, so we cannot assume the other guy is going to make the play. We must continue to play to the whistle, and limit their big plays. Making them earn it down the field will be key to our success. Offensively we need to continue to take what teams are giving us. We cannot force the ball into places causing turnovers.”
Wauseon’s offense will likely come from its passing game. In fact, the Indians’ leading rusher is quarterback Cody Figy at 341 yards for the season.
However, through the air they have a pair of receivers close to 50 catches each and a combined 14 scores. Connar Penrod currently has 49 catches for 780 yards and 10 TDs, while Noah Tester has made 47 grabs for 580 yards and four TDs.
To his credit, Figy has accumulated 2,110 yards passing and 18 TDs to eight interceptions.
“In order for us to be successful on Friday night, we are going to have to limit their big plays on offense. They have shown that they have the capability of scoring on any given play with the number of athletes they have so we must tackle well in space and force them to drive the length of the field,” said Dominique on keys to the game for his defense.
Similar to Moore, Dominique says offensively they will need to avoid turnovers.
“Offensively, a main key will be taking care of the football and getting points on the board whenever we get the opportunity,” he said. “Their defense is one of the best in the area so we must force them to cover us from sideline to sideline and execute our game plan.”
As mentioned, Wauseon has the benefit of playing on its home field. And, with everything at stake, a raucous crowd is to be expected.
“This will be the biggest game our team has been in,” said Moore. “I believe the atmosphere will be electric. I am expecting a lot of people to be at the game. We have had great support throughout the season from the community, and I believe there will be even more for this game. It is games like this that our players have been working hard all year long for.”
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010