Coach Rob Woodward and his Wheelersburg Pirates are prepared to square off against the region 17 number four seeded West Lafayette Ridgewood Generals on Friday night, Nov. 13 at Logan Chieftain Stadium in Logan, Ohio. The contest, which has a 7:30 p.m. kickoff, will determine who will advance to the regional finals.
“We’re extremely excited to be here, in the second round of the playoffs,” said Woodward. “Our players have worked really hard, and continue to work hard.”
In the opening round of the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) Football Playoffs, Wheelersburg (11-0) soundly defeated conference rival Ironton 38-7. The Pirates also defeated the Fighting Tigers in a Week 1 matchup, giving them two wins over their rival on the season.
The ‘Burg has created a massive wave of momentum rolling into the regional semi-final round this week. The Pirates not only finished the regular season undefeated, but were also crowned Southern Ohio Conference (SOC) Division II Champions. That momentum has spilled over into this week’s practices.
“We’ve had one of our best weeks of practice that I can remember,” said Woodward. “In eight years of coaching, a lot of playoff game practices that we’ve been a part of, but this group has fun together playing the game of football, and it is continuing into this week.”
The Generals have had a tremendous season thus far, just like the Pirates. Ridgewood ended their regular season with only a single loss, to Waynedale (Apple Creek, OH) during Week 2. They had a perfect record in their conference, solely claiming the Inter-Valley Conference Championship.
“They line up in a variety of formations, and really try to run the football,” said Woodward. “They’ve only got about four or five key plays that they do out of a lot of different sets. They are very run heavy with how they attack things.”
The Generals have amassed a total of 309 points in their 11 games so far this season, including their close win, 13-10, over Harrison Central, last week in the opening round of the playoffs.
Woodward also complimented the Generals’ defense, that has only given up 93 points to their opponents over the last 11 weeks, an average of just under eight and a half points per game.
“Defensively, they really fly around, and bring a lot of hats to the football,” said Woodward. “We’ve got to do one of the best jobs, fundamentally, that we’ve had to do all year, in terms of blocking and tackling.”
The main focus for Wheelersburg’s practices this week has been football fundamentals.
“We’ve been able to make some very successful plays, but we’ve really focused in on the fundamentals this week,” said Woodward. “I hope we see that out of our players on Friday night.”
The Pirates and Generals should match up really well against each other according to Woodward.
“Both teams have really stout defenses, which at this stage of the game in the playoffs, you’ve got to have really good defenses,” said Woodward. “We both have some speed in the backfield and I like our size a little more on the offensive line.”
Both teams have similar defensive lines, that rely on quickness and not as much mass on the front line.
“I just really think it’s going to be a great football game,” said Woodward. “We’re at a great facility at Logan, it’s a bit of a drive for us, but I got a chance to see it this week, and I think it will be a great atmosphere for Friday night football.”
While the Pirates feel much more at home on their turf, Woodward spoke very highly of the decision to play Friday’s game at Chieftain Stadium.
“The thing I like the best is there are 3,500 seats on the home side,” said Woodward. “We bring a nice crowd, so there will be plenty of seating for that.”
Woodward has several goals set for his team on Friday night, which he believes will put the Pirates in a great spot to walk out of Logan Chieftain Stadium as victors over the Generals.
“At this stage in the game, you’ve got two great football teams that are going to be competing, so it comes down to mistakes that are made, and who makes the least amount of mistakes,” said Woodward.
Fundamentally taking care of the football, blocking on the line of scrimmage, and minimizing yards after contact will be pivotal for both teams according to Woodward.
“I hope to see our defense be able to take the ball away, and our offense be able to hold it,” said Woodward. “We also want to see a plus three in the turnover ratio Friday night.”
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931 or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82