Wauseon used its big-play passing game, at one point going for 20 unanswered points in the second quarter, to erase an early six-point deficit in a 41-18 home thrashing of Bellevue in the opening round of the Division IV football playoffs Saturday.
It was a record-breaking night for the Indians at Harmon Field. Junior Connar Penrod (9 catches, 297 yards, 4 touchdowns) broke the school’s single-game receiving record of 166 yards set by Gordie Frey in 1994, while senior quarterback Cody Figy threw for 396 yards and 5 TDs, surpassing Jason Whitcomb’s single-game mark of 319 yards passing set against Swanton in 2001.
Penrod said he was motivated after not being satisfied with the All-Northwest Ohio Athletic League recognition he recently received, in which he was second team all-league offense and second team all-league defense.
“I work hard at practice no matter what, but a little extra motivation doesn’t hurt anybody,” he said. “This week at practice was just a little bit different. We worked a little bit harder, every single person. A lot of us were disappointed. That went into every rep. It showed on the scoreboard tonight.”
In addition, the entire team wanted to prove they were a lot better than last week’s performance, a 38-0 loss at the hands of their rivals, Archbold.
“We talked all week about responding to some adversity,” said head coach Shawn Moore. “Our guys responded this week. We stuck together. We made some adjustments after seeing how they were gonna play us defensively and we were able to make some big plays.”
“Last week, we faced adversity, we really crumbled,” added Penrod. “Let it get out of hand like it should not have. They’re not that much better than us. Then this week we faced adversity, coach Moore and coach (J.D.) Schnitkey and everybody (displayed) reassurance. ‘We’re good enough, we got this.’ Then the players, we all believe. We never gave up hope.”
Wauseon faced adversity early on against Bellevue when the Redmen took the lead first in the opening quarter. Keegan Ray connected with Preston Ray on a slant route, who took it in from 10 yards out. The two-point conversion pass was unsuccessful, giving the Redmen a 6-0 lead at the 2:57 mark.
The Indians had to punt it away on their first three possessions, finally striking gold on the fourth. On a second-and-five from their own 39-yard line, Penrod adjusted to a ball thrown up by Figy, racing the rest of the way to pay dirt. A Samuel Blanco extra point gave them a 7-6 lead just over three minutes into the second quarter.
“All year, if I get one-on-one coverage, it’s a check we’re going down the field. I kept getting one-on-one coverage, we kept going down the field. Resulted in a few touchdowns,” said Penrod on the success of the Indians’ downfield passing game.
Bellevue turned it over on the ensuing possession when Wauseon’s Tyson Britsch stepped in front of a Keegan Ray pass and advanced to the Redmen 20-yard line.
Figy capped the drive by finding Jonas Tester over the middle from seven yards away on third-and-goal. The extra point was missed, leaving the Indians ahead 13-6 with 6:35 left in the second quarter.
Penrod intercepted a pass with the Redmen approaching the end zone, and the Indians proceeded to go 96 yards for another score, further extending the lead.
Running a deep out route, Penrod made a catch near the sideline, elluding a defender and racing 56 yards for a touchdown. Blanco tacked on the point after for a 20-6 lead.
“With Connar out there, we were able to take advantage with some of those throws. A couple of those were just Cody and Connar making checks at the line. They were in sync tonight,” said Moore.
Bellevue got within 20-12 at the half on a 14-yard pass from Keegan Ray to Caleb Marshall.
However, Wauseon responded just 33 seconds into the second half. They scored in just three plays, on a drive which began at their own 14. On third-and-seven, Penrod went up and snagged a deep ball with a Redmen defender guarding close, kept his feet, and galloped to pay dirt for an 83-yard score and 27-12 lead.
A 15-yard pass to Noah Tester and 25-yard connection to Penrod led to the Indians fifth TD of the game. Figy finished it off when he scored from a yard out, lifting the Indians to a 34-12 lead at the 4:42 mark of the third.
Each team added a score in the next quarter plus as Wauseon cruised to victory. Keegan Ray ran one in from four yards away for the Redmen, while Figy and Penrod connected again for the Indians, this time from 30 yards.
Wauseon outgained Bellevue, 491-328.
The Redmen were led by Preston Ray who caught 13 passes for 101 yards and a score. Keegan Ray threw for 278 yards and two TDs but also had three interceptions.
Wauseon (9-2) advances to take on Ottawa-Glandorf (8-3) this Saturday at Defiance High School in the Region 14 semifinal.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010