2013 Woodward High School football team
The Blade/Jetta Fraser
Nobody wanted to talk about it.
53 games. 53 losses.
When Woodward opened the football season Friday night against Cardinal Stitch at Clay, it had been a long time since the Polar Bears tasted victory.
Now they have.
Woodward rallied for a 20-14 win as senior quarterback Darius Fleming threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to freshman Vedel Williams with 1:46 left in the game.
"As coaches we really didn't talk about the streak," Woodward second-year coach Sean Wesolowski said. "We focused on getting better. The kids already know about the streak."
If the the victory is any indication of Woodward's improvement under Wesolowski's, then the Polar Bears appear to be heading in the direction.
At least they won’t be chasing Youngstown North's Ohio record 64-game losing streak. The 53-game skid tied for third longest in state history.
"To be honest, we're excited about the win, but we've started working to get ready for Toledo Christian," Wesolowski said.
After the defense stopped Stritch to secure the win, the celebration began, sending the Woodward players and fans into a frenzy.
The last time Woodward enjoyed a victory was the sixth week of the 2007 season when it topped Waite 30-13 in a City League game.
"It was just exciting," Fleming said.
"I've received a lot of calls and on Facebook congratulating us for our win,"
Fleming didn't play last season after being a member of the team as a freshman and sophomore.
Surprisingly, the short bus ride back to Woodward wasn't overflowing with emotion. Wesolowski credits this to the maturity of this year’s team.
"You can see something changed, but we still have a long way to go," he said.
The Polar Bears prevailed in a game marred by mistakes and miscues and won. But they left the field with no complaints.
"If you come out on top with a game like that, it’s seen as a work of art," Wesolowski said. "If you lose a game like that, it could be a bitter pill to swallow."
He felt encouraged heading into the season that a victory was within their reach. Performances in scrimmages with Springfield, Delta, Fostoria, and Lakota offered signs to the coaching staff that this year's team had improved.
Wesolowski said several parents and fans from opposing teams at scrimmages came over to say how much the Polar Bears had improved.
"When opposing fans who come over and say something, it's like, 'Oh, thanks, we must be doing something right,'" Wesolowski said.
Claiming victory only seemed like a matter of time.
"I knew we had a legitimate shot [at winning] because I know we've got some players," Wesolowski said.
"It was all about can we finish a game."
The Polar Bears figured out how to finish on top.