Woodward running back Khalfani Rice (32) is hauled down by Waite defenders Allen Fitch (14) and Mike Lucas (1), but Rice finished with 166 yards on 31 carries.
Morrison / Blade photo Enlarge
In the City League's “Most Improved Bowl” yesterday at Woodward the Polar Bears defended their home turf by keeping the ball on the ground and Waite's new air attack grounded in an 18-6 victory.
The Bears, picked to finished 11th by the league's 12 coaches, moved to 3-1 and 1-0 in the CL behind 264 rushing yards on 59 attempts.
Using a heavy pass rush to neutralize the Indi-ans (2-2, 0-1) and quarterback Nick Mauder, Woodward harassed the CL's top passer into a sub-par 13-of-38 effort for 163 yards and four interceptions.
“We realized what they were going to do and we practiced all week against it,” Woodward coach Henry Delffs said. “In a wide-open spread like they run, we just put more people in the middle than they could block, and just rushed. That's how you beat that kind of game.”
Waite's lone score came on Mauder's 15-yard keeper with 2:57 left in the third quarter, the first play after a snap on fourth down sailed over the head of Polar Bear punter Trevor Sutton for a 26-yard loss.
By then, however, Woodward had done enough to secure perhaps its biggest win since the early 1990s.
Senior tailback Khalfani Rice, a fourth-year starter who has seen Woodward develop from low roster numbers the past three years (3-7, 1-8, 2-8 records), led the attack with 166 yards on 31 carries. Steve Coleman added 63 yards.
“The guys wanted this game bad,” Delffs said. “They thought they needed some respect. They ran hard all night and Khalfani was carrying three and four people with him all game. This is a step we needed to take and we're going to carry it on.”
Rice rammed in from two yards out for Woodward's first touchdown 4:42 into the game.
“This is really nice because, back four years ago, there were just 11 of us [freshmen football players],” Rice said. “It's nice to see that all this hard work is going toward something.
“Our line did a wonderful job today, and we came through with some power.”
The Bears' second TD came on a 42-yard bomb down the left sideline from quarterback Nick Stamper to wideout Mitchell Whitfield on the final play of the first quarter.
Woodward, which failed to capitalize on a first-and-goal opportunity from the Waite 6 midway through the second, kept some momentum just before halftime by keeping the Tribe scoreless on four incomplete passes from the Bear 16.
The Bears then used a 28-yard, second-half kickoff return from freshman Makonnen Rice to start at their 45. Four plays later it was 18-0, after DaJuan Leavelle posted a 21-yard scamper and an 11-yard TD bolt around Tracy Smith runs of 9 and 14.
Leading the Polar Bear defense was senior linebacker Torian Rentz, a major factor as Woodward created strong line surges and blitzes at Mauder. The Bears intercepted one Mauder pass in each quarter.
“They wore us out up front,” Waite coach Charlie Delker said. “I've got to give them credit. Their front four came at us and we didn't block very well tonight.
“That touchdown coming out in the second half really hurt us, and I think it gave them confidence.”
Woodward topped Waite 312-176 in total offense.
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