WOOSTER — Wauseon quarterback Elijah McLeod threw for 351 yards and six touchdowns and Sam Smith was on the receiving end of three Friday. It was all part of a 41-7 win for the No. 11 seed Indians over sixth-seeded Wooster Triway in the opening round of the Division IV, Region 14 football playoffs.
“We wanted to have a good showing,” said head coach Shawn Moore after the game. “Playing on turf, I think that plays into our strengths. We got the ball to Sam, finally, and he made some big plays for us on offense. It was nice to see that too.”
Smith, who caught six passes for 220 yards on the night, recorded his first touchdown of the game on the first play after a Triway turnover on downs. On first down from their own 37-yard line, McLeod completed it to Smith over the middle and he did the rest, elluding tacklers and racing 63 yards to paydirt.
The point after by Tyson Rodriguez was no good to make it 6-0 just past the halfway mark of the opening quarter.
Wauseon was able to add to their lead before the end of the quarter. They worked their way down to the Triway 31 where on a third-and-10, McLeod got it to Smith along the left sideline and he kept his feet in for the score, extending the Indian lead at 13-0 after Rodriguez’ point after.
“It’s all thanks to my quarterback,” said Smith on his dominant night. “Elijah threw really, really good balls. Other receivers getting me open. They (Triway) were keying on a lot of other guys.
“I think we just took advantage of what we had. The line blocked great. It was a really good night for us tonight.”
The Indians made it 20-0 just 20 seconds into the second quarter by way of a 34-yard strike from McLeod to Jude Armstrong.
Triway threatened to score twice in the second quarter, coming up short both times.
On one drive they picked up a fourth down at the Wauseon 15 thanks to Seth Vizzo’s 15-yard run. But after losing three yards on the next play, Zack Miller’s pass to the end zone was picked off by Armstrong with 6:21 remaining in the half.
The Titans got the ball again before the end of the half, driving it all the way inside the Wauseon 10. However, on fourth down with seconds remaining, Rodriguez was there in the right corner of the end zone for the interception of Miller’s pass.
“It was kind of a bend but don’t break type of mentality out there,” said Moore of his squad’s defense. “We got to work on getting off the field on third and fourth, they had a lot of conversions there. We did really good on first and second down, we just got to be able to get off the field on defense. We can’t give the teams down the road those kind of opportunities.”
Each team went three-and-out on their first possessions of the third quarter.
Jonas Tester’s punt return across midfield, plus a Triway late hit out of bounds set the Indians up at the Titan 28-yard line.
They would put it in the end zone on a screen pass that Rodriguez took in from 10 yards out for a 27-0 lead less than four minutes into the third.
Triway once again threatened on the ensuing possession. They got into Wauseon territory but Armstrong ended that drive with an interception at the seven.
The very next play, the Indians called Smith’s number again as he ran down a deep ball up the left sideline and raced 93 yards for the score, making the difference 34-0 with 6:11 left in the third.
“Just get going,” Smith said on what was going through his mind on the 93-yard score. “I saw the ball and I was like, ‘hey, I think I can get this.’ I ran, caught it, I was like ‘aw shoot I got to get going.’”
“They just had a good connection,” added Moore on the play of McLeod and Smith. “We were able to finally hit a deep pass and hit him (Smith) in stride. He made a couple of short catches and made some moves. It’s always different when you’re playing teams from far away, you don’t really know what to expect until you actually get on the field. It was a good showing offensively and defensively by our guys.”
Closing out the scoring in the fourth was Vizzo’s three yard run for Triway, and Ethan Borton’s 24-yard TD reception for the Indians.
Wauseon (8-3) has a tall task in front of them for its second round matchup. They stay on the road against defending D-IV state champion Van Wert (10-1) this Friday.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010.