BY J. PATRICK EAKEN | MIRROR SPORTS — At Perrysburg’s Steinecker Stadium last Friday night, nothing was going to get in Anthony Wayne’s way, not even an all-night rainstorm.
The way it worked out, the storm fit perfectly into AW’s game plan.
The Generals ground out 287 yards rushing on their way to a 33-0 shutout victory over Perrysburg in a Northern Lakes League contest pitting two of the league’s pre-season favorites against each other.
“We love the rain. This is perfect for football right here,” said AW’s 6-foot-4, 220-pound defensive end Bryce Boyer.
“We were in the locker room – we didn’t know what was going to happen. We were hoping to play this game and we were glad we got the chance.”
Anthony Wayne, ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press Division II state poll, stays undefeated at 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the NLL, while Perrysburg falls to 3-2 and 1-1.
“I will accept this as a statement,” said AW coach Andy Brungard. “That was just a good win against a good team.”
Even though the Generals are undefeated, Boyer and senior running back Ezra Scott say their team has come a long way since they struggled to get a 14-7 season-opening win over Findlay.
“I think we’ve found our identity and we’ve got to keep it rolling. We’ve got to keep doing it,” Boyer said.
“Week one, we played hard, but it wasn’t like this time because I know Perrysburg played them week two and I think they beat them by a high score (42-16) and we beat Perrysburg like this,” Scott added.
“Week by week, we’re getting along with each other even more. We’re understanding more and more and with that comes continued success.”
Even Brungard has noticed a difference – one he has a hard time defining.
“Week one to now is kind of hard to describe,” he said. “We are who we thought we are, honestly. Our offensive line is strong up front, our defense plays really fast, so I’m just proud of some of the kids we’ve had to move to different positions.”
AW senior quarterback Mason Alberts ran for 163 yards on 28 carries (5.8 yards per carry) and three touchdowns and Scott covered 119 yards on 30 carries and two TDs.
Brungard said running the football was not just his decision – his players wanted it that way, too.
“We roll into a timeout and our huddle situation and the line tells me they want to run,” the coach said.
“They want to run this or that and it’s hard to deny them when a couple of those kids are your captains and going to Navy or Hillsdale or different places.
“Kudos to Mason and Ezra for toting as many carries as they did tonight and doing that job in the rain.”
Meanwhile, the Generals’ defense pitched its second straight shutout against an NLL opponent, and so far, it has not allowed a single point in league action, outscoring two opponents, 75-0.
“It’s always awesome to get a shutout,” Boyer said. “These are our rivals.”
“I was glad we pitched a shutout tonight,” Brungard added. “That’s a really good offense. The rain definitely helps our side of the ball and on top of that, our kids put in a lot of film study this week.”
Anthony Wayne scored on all three first-half possessions, all sustained, time-consuming drives that kept the Yellow Jackets offense off the field.
AW finished with 33:43 of possession time, more than doubling Perrysburg’s 14:17.
On their first possession, the Generals marched 80 yards on 16 plays, including two fourth-down conversions. The drive was capped by a 3-yard TD run by Scott with 2:02 remaining in the first quarter.
The Jackets managed three first downs on their next possession, but AW senior defensive back Will Dalagiannis intercepted a pass thrown by senior quarterback Drew Sims at the 10-yard line on the first play of the second quarter.
Anthony Wayne proceeded to march 90 yards on 15 plays, capped by a 1-yard scoring run by Scott.
Sims threw two incompletions on Perrysburg’s next possession and the AW defense forced a three-and-out.
Taking over at the 50 after a punt, the Generals timed their final drive perfectly as Alberts scored from a yard out with 13 seconds left in the half.
The 50-yard drive took nine plays and included a conversion on a fourth-and-1 when Alberts scampered for 15 yards.
After a botched point-after, AW went into the locker room ahead 20-0 and suddenly what remained of an already sparse crowd due to weather got even sparser.
Anthony Wayne looked very much like the same team, on offense and defense, in the second half, eventually getting a big enough lead to force a running clock late in the game.
The Generals mounted a nine-play, 61-yard drive to open the third quarter, with Alberts finding his way into the end zone from 4 yards out.
The big play of the drive was a 29-yard run off left tackle by Scott on the second
AW’s final score was generated off an interception of a Sims pass by senior cornerback Bobby Miller at the Generals’ 15-yard line.
It was the second time that Perrysburg showed some life on offense, finding the ability to move the ball, when a defensive back stepped in and cut the drive short.
The Generals proceeded to march one more time – this time for 85 yards on 14 plays, capped by a 1-yard score by Alberts.
Junior kicker Zain Hamid added his third conversion kick, putting AW up 33-0 with 3:04 to go in the game.
The only issues left were keeping the shutout intact and getting some second and third stringers in the game.
The Jackets were able to drive from their own 13 to the AW 5 in five plays, thanks to three completions by Sims that covered a combined 64 yards.
At the 5-yard line with six seconds remaining, Miller batted down a Sims pass so that the defense could celebrate in the traditional way – with donuts while watching film on Saturday morning.
The Generals’ rushing attack was relentless, even though Perrysburg knew what was coming, but when Alberts had to, he threw the ball, and he did so well, completing 7-of-9 passes.
For the game, AW was 5-for-5 on fourth down conversions and 8-for-17 on third down. The Jackets were 3-for-8 on third down and failed on their only two fourth-down attempts.
Senior wide receiver Kyle Ray was Alberts’ favorite target this time, catching four passes for 36 yards.
Senior tight end Bryce Boyer had a catch for 37 yards, Scott caught one for 16 yards and senior wide receiver Ben Wyrick had one 5-yard reception.
Anthony Wayne accumulated 381 total yards to Perrysburg’s 221 and the Generals had 25 first downs to the Yellow Jackets’ 12. In addition, AW’s offense never turned over the football.
For Perrysburg, Sims completed 11-of-25 passes for 255 yards, including two to junior wide receiver Aidan Pratt for 43 yards.
Senior Nic McBride caught three passes for 34 yards and senior Kameron Vidales had three for 30 yards.
In addition, freshman running back Connor Waldenzak caught one pass for 25 yards, senior tight end Lincoln Bockbrader had one for 14 yards and senior back Caleb Gerken caught one for 9 yards.
Gerken carried the football 13 times for 57 yards and three other Perrysburg backs covered 9 yards on three rushing attempts.
The Generals return to NLL action this Friday to face Bowling Green (2-3, 1-1), which fell to Northview, 23-15, last week on Friday.
“Bowling Green is going to roll into our place next week and Dirk Connor always has his players ready to play and we have Napoleon after that,” Brungard said.
“Obviously, it’s one week at a time, but we still have tough football games to play against some tough teams.”