THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Buy This Photo
PEMBERVILLE — With title ramifications off the board for last night's nonleague matchup between host Eastwood and Patrick Henry, what was on the line was playoff positioning and a litmus test for where each team stands through nine weeks of the football season.
After Patrick Henry's impressive 35-0 road victory, Ohio's top-ranked Division V team nailed down a first-round home playoff game, while Eastwood of the Sububan Lakes League had its D-IV postseason aspirations derailed.
The Patriots (9-0), who have won or shared eight straight Northwest Ohio Athletic League titles, basically moved the ball at will behind sturdy line play. They racked up a convincing 379-92 advantage in total offense and got four more scores from touchdown machine Justin Buenger.
The senior running back carried 20 times for 132 yards and scored on runs of 1, 2, 5 and 10 yards as PH moved closer to a second consecutive 10-0 regular season. Buenger, the leading scorer in Northwest Ohio, now has 31 TDs on the season.
But Buenger had plenty of help, as quarterback Luke George had 80 yards on 17 rushes, and fullback Bill Miller added 81 yards on 13 totes, including a six-yard TD burst.
“What we like about our spread offense is that Justin Buenger can run the ball at any time, and it's hard to defend the quarterback,” PH coach Bill Inselmann said. “Luke George is a tremendous athlete, and we had excellent balance tonight. Bill Miller did a nice job at fullback as well.
“When you control the line of scrimmage you can run a lot of things, so the credit goes to our line play.”
As for Eastwood (7-2), which will drop from its No. 8 spot in the Region 14 computer rankings, the Eagles bore witness to Patrick Henry's seminar on efficiency.
PH racked up 14 first downs before the Eagles could manage one through their first three possessions.
Buenger got things rolling by returning the opening kickoff 49 yards to the Eastwood 46. The Pats then reached the end zone in nine plays, the last being Buenger's one-yard TD 3:33 into the first quarter.
PH next marched 61 yards on 12 plays, with Buenger providing a 14-0 lead with 1:22 left in the first quarter. The Pats added a 63-yard surge capped by Miller's TD 5:21 before the break.
“As a team we played great,” Buenger said. “Our line fired out and stuck with their blocks downfield. Our receivers played good and our running backs held onto the football.
“We played a good run team tonight and we played a good spread team [Archbold] last week. We shut them both down, so I think we're going to be ready for playoffs. We're all clicking. We just don't want to let the person beside us down.”
Eastwood found some offensive rhythm on the half's final possession, moving 63 yards to the PH 2, including a key 13-yard pass from Clayton Ruch to Clay Rolf on fourth-and-1 to the PH 8.
But, with the clock winding down and Eastwood out of timeouts, Ruch fumbled the center exchange on third-and-goal from the 2 and was tackled, ending the half.
The Patriots' fourth scoring journey covered 65 yards, and the final one served as an exclamation point — a monster 14-play, 97-yarder that consumed 7:18 of the clock.
“You can't get down 14-0 against this team,” Eastwood coach Jerry Rutherford said. “We had to be able to put some drives together right away. You have to get their offense off the field, and we couldn't keep them off.
“Their defensive line and linebackers were the key. They stepped up. We thought there were some things we could do, but there was always somebody there. They're well coached.”
Back Pernell Conner topped Eastwood with 34 yards on 15 rushes. Ruch was 6-of-17 passing for 56 yards, but was intercepted once and was sacked three times for losses totaling 24 yards.
Contact Steve Junga at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6461.