ELMORE - How much of an impact did the cold, rainy and windy weather conditions have on last night's pivotal Suburban Lakes League football matchup between visiting Eastwood and Woodmore? That depends on which coach you talk to.
There was, however, no doubt that the inclement weather prevented either team from going full throttle with their high-powered offenses.
There is also little debate that Eastwood's 14-6 victory puts the Eagles (7-1, 5-0 SLL) in the driver's seat for a third straight league championship.
What remains to be determined is whether or not the Eagles can creep into a Division III playoff berth, even with victories over Genoa (1-8, 1-4) and Lake (4-3, 2-2) to close the regular season.
That point nearly became moot last night thanks to the weather and an inspired defensive performance from Woodmore (4-4, 3-2), which kept Eastwood's All-Ohio quarterback Kevin Leady (19 rushes, 89 yards) from completing a single pass and intercepted two of his four total attempts.
"It slowed us down a little bit," Eastwood coach Jerry Rutherford said of the weather. "You've got to give credit to them, defensively, but also I don't think we played our best offensive game tonight.
"Our defense stepped it up. Last week it was the run against Otsego, and this week the pass against Woodmore. They played a heck of a game."
The Wildcat defensive effort didn't look so probable early on when Eastwood took the game's first possession and promptly marched 68 yards on 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead. Senior running back Andy Stickel capped the drive on a six-yard touchdown burst over right guard just 4:50 into the game.
That quick score seemed to be just a carryover from the explosive Eagles' 56-0 romp over previously unbeaten Otsego a week earlier. Little did Eastwood know at that point how important Kyle Wright's extra-point kick would be.
The Eagles - who managed just 183 total yards after cranking out 524 last week - didn't find that out until 8:46 remained in the game when Woodmore scored on a 32-yard pass from Tyler Rosenberger to Brady Donnell, setting up a potential tie and possible overtime.
But the muddy field conditions played a part in Chris Buck's low PAT kick attempt which fell short of the mark.
"Both teams have got to play in the weather," Woodmore coach Lou Bosh said. "I don't think that really had an effect on either side of the ball. I didn't feel the weather was a factor for us. We were going to throw the ball and we were going to run the ball."
Woodmore would get two more chances to win or tie, but the first drive stalled, and a high punt snap over Zach Floro's reach led to a 15-yard Wildcat loss which set Eastwood up 19 yards from the goal line with 4:34 to play.
"We got stronger by halftime," Bosh said. "Our defensive line kept getting stronger, and we felt good coming in at halftime. But you can't give the ball up in a short field. A good team is going to take advantage of that."
Four plays and two minutes later, all runs by Stickel (26 carries, 81 yards), the SLL's leading rusher and scorer popped in from the 2. Wright's PAT capped the game's scoring.
"Guys stepped up and we just made plays," Stickel said. "Weather's weather. We've just got to play through it, and I think we did that tonight. It's just one of those things you have to deal with.
"Not being able to throw the ball really hurt us some tonight. But we fought back and everybody contributed. It don't matter if we win by eight or 50, as long as we get the W."
Rosenberger (12-of-24 passing, 146 yards) made the Wildcats' last chance interesting, moving Woodmore to a fourth-and-1 at the Eagles' 38 with a scrambling 23-yard completion to Jeremy Harpel. But the Cats' senior QB threw incomplete on fourth down with 56.7 seconds remaining, and Eastwood ran out the clock.
Woodmore, which had 154 total yards, rushed 25 times for a net of just eight yards. All seven of the game's fumbles were recovered by the offense, but each QB was intercepted twice.
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