ELMORE - It's too soon to start talking about pursuing league championships.
At least Woodmore coach Lou Bosh believes that going into tonight's Suburban Lakes League contest with perennial league power Otsego.
"Obviously, you get a win over Otsego, it certainly gives you one foot forward in front of the other," said Bosh, whose team is 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the league. "But we still have the Genoas, Eastwoods and Elmwoods to play down the line."
Of course, there is plenty of football remaining for a Wildcats bunch off to a surprisingly fast start coming off a 3-7 campaign a year ago.
The Wildcats, who have outscored their opponents 128-72, are coming off an impressive 56-6 triumph over Gibsonburg.
A major reason for an about-face has been steady defense, but the Wildcats' defense faces its toughest defensive test this season in a Knights team (3-1, 1-0) led by league-leading rusher Cody Donald, who has already scored 15 touchdowns and run for 1,060 yards on 128 carries this season.
"They present a great challenge for us," Bosh said. "They've got a quick quarterback [Kenny Rodgers] who throws well and runs with the football well. Certainly with Cody Donald in the backfield he's [a concern].
"We've got a challenge defending against their offense and we'll have to put points on the board."
Woodmore's defensive average of limiting opponents to 18 points a game comes as a surprise for Bosh. Only four regulars are back on defense from last season.
"We didn't have a lot of starters back on defense so I had to have guys step into varsity roles this year that weren't there last year," Bosh said. "They've had to grow up pretty fast. We've thrown a lot at them and they've taken it and grown up."
Ryan Buckner, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound senior, has played a key role. The starting inside linebacker was the Wildcats' leading tackler a year ago and leads the team against with 48 tackles.
"He's been our leading tackler in every game this season," Bosh said. "He's hard-nosed, intense and aggressive. He leads by example and that's why he's one of our captains. He really gets after things."
Cody Smith, a 5-10, 198-pound senior, is a returning starter at defensive end who has also provided leadership for an inexperienced group. He's produced 16 tackles, one sack, one blocked extra-point attempt and two tipped passes.
Buckner and Smith's lead has been supported by their younger teammates. Most notably, sophomores Dan Roepke and Michael Fahle have contributed right away as starters.
Roepke, a six-foot, 180-pounder, has registered 22 tackles, including three sacks, and one forced fumble.
"He's got good strength and good quickness and he's another hard-nosed kid," Bosh said. "We had an idea he could be challenging for a starting position because of his skill level and strength. We are pleasantly pleased with his play."
Fahle, a 5-11, 195-pounder, has 20 tackles.
"He's done a nice job at outside linebacker and has allowed us to spread around some of our players to other positions," Bosh said.
Otsego, which owned a share of the SLL title a year ago, is expected to challenge again.
"It's always a really tough and physical match with Woodmore," Otsego first-year coach Dale Bernard said. "Their defense is pretty strong. They put the pressure on and they do a good job against the run."
If the defending league champions have any edge going into the game, it's a slight one, according to Bernard.
"We're well-matched all the way around," Bernard said. "Obviously, I've got the Donald kid at running back.
"All other things it's going to be equal, other than we're at home."
Curtis Schlea (33-55-546, 5 TDs), Aaron Wright (62 carries for 379 yards, 6 TDs) and Josh Zollinger (18 catches for 366 yards, 4 TDs) have led the way for Woodmore's offense.
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