WHEELERSBURG – The Thanksgiving holiday is a day designated for people to think about what they are thankful for, and for Pirates coach Rob Woodward, one of those things is for his team to still be in the hunt for a state championship. The Wheelersburg Pirates will sail to Xenia, Ohio on Black Friday, in pursuit of their ultimate treasure, the OHSAA Division V State Football Championship.
Only four teams remain standing in Division V, Milan Edison, Canton Central Catholic, Coldwater, and of course, Wheelersburg.
Friday evening, at Doug Adams Stadium in Xenia, Wheelersburg will face off against Coldwater, with the winner advancing to the state finals.
“I am extremely excited to be practicing over the Thanksgiving holiday,” Woodward said.
The Pirates (13-0) will face their biggest threat yet on Friday. The Coldwater Cavaliers (13-0) have an extensive history in the OHSAA football playoffs. They boast a 63-15 playoff record, and have advanced to the finals for the last six seasons. Coldwater has dominated the last six years, picking up three state titles, and three state runner up titles in that six year period.
“We’re matched up with an outstanding opponent,” Woodward said. “They’ve been at this stage for multiple years, and they bring a great football team, offense, defense, and special teams.”
Woodward feels the two teams are mirror images of one another, when not accounting for Coldwater’s experience at this level of the playoffs. Both teams bring a balanced offense, neither solely relying on their rushing or passing game. The defensive units on each team are very physical, and have tended to dominate their foes throughout the regular season, and on into the playoffs.
“We both have very versatile offenses, and defenses that can adjust,” Woodward said. “We both have a lot of different things that we can bring to the table, sound tackling, and blocking, those kinds of things. I feel like it’s a great matchup.”
Limiting mistakes will be key for the Pirates according to Woodward; a message he has continuously told his team throughout the season.
“It’s going to be a game that is going to come down to really how well we can control the line of scrimmage from both sides, from a defensive line perspective in regards to us, and an offensive line perspective,” Woodward said. “I think that is going to be a key factor in the game.”
The Pirate offensive line has been stellar all throughout the playoffs thus far. They have created large holes for Pirates running backs, and the quarterback to run through and gain maximum yardage, while also providing great pass protection.
“Coldwater does a very good job, and have faced a lot of very good opponents who had very good offensive lines, so they are going to look to do some things to try and nullify our guys up front,” Woodward said. “We have got to be able to react to that, in terms of coaching staff, and offensive unit, to utilize what the defense gives us.”
Woodward said his team will have to constantly adjust to the Coldwater defense. They will look to create the best holes they can against the Cavaliers defensive line.
“If we’re able to create some holes up there based on their defensive scheme, then we’ll look to do that,” Woodward said. “If they try to take that away from us then we’ll have to adjust, and get the ball out to the perimeter or down field. It’s going to be a chess match of what one team tries to do, versus what the other team tries to do.”
Practices have gone great the Pirates this week.
“Our guys are ready to go, it was cold there on Monday, but started to loosen up a little bit, and our kids are just excited to be practicing this time of year,” Woodward said.
Woodward was able to make the two hour drive to Xenia earlier this week to scout out the location of the game.
“It’s a nice turf field,” Woodward said. “We’re just excited to go out and compete.”
Woodward also said fans from this area will want to take exit 48 when they head out to the game, and go down to Allison road.
Those who are making the journey to Xenia on Friday will want to arrive early. Parking and seating will be limited, as both teams have a strong following.
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931 or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.