WOODWARD — The plan was as simple as it was daunting: stop, or at least limit, Class 1A leading rusher Cale Anthony. Do that, Woodward-Granger head coach George Ashman told his team, and the Hawks would have a Homecoming victory to celebrate.
They did, and then they did, winning 20-0 to remain tied with Friday opponent Pella Christian for the lead in District 7.
“You are not going to completely stop a kid like that (Anthony is listed at 6-1, 215 pounds), but we felt if we could keep him from breaking loose for long runs we could stay in the game, and that our offense was going to score,” Ashman said. “Thanks to some outstanding play by our defense, and by our offensive line, that is exactly what we did.”
W-G (5-2, 3-0) held a 6-0 lead at the half, with Pleasantville (4-3, 1-2) lucky their deficit was not much larger. A dropped pass on what would almost certainly have been a touchdown and two other drives that stalled in Trojan territory keeping the guests within easy striking distance.
“We were a little frustrated at the half,” Ashman admitted. “The kids knew we should have been up by another two or three touchdowns and were determined to score more in the second half.”
Anthony, a senior, entered the game with 1,171 yards and 18 touchdowns on 131 carries, with W-G’s Tate Lettow — an entirely different style of back listed at 5-9, 170 — having 917 yards and 12 TDs on 139 rushes.
The Pleasantville standout continues to lead 1A at 1,285 yards but was held Friday to just 114 yards on 35 tries while Lettow, the fourth-leading 1A rusher (1,061 yards on 167 totes) gained 144 yards and scored once on 28 carries in their match up. Lettow had 1,069 yards and five TDs on 197 yards as a junior.
Hawk quarterback Reese Jamison had trouble finding his receivers in windy conditions, hitting on just 5-of-20 passes for 106 yards. Most of those connections, however, paid big dividends, including a juggling, 40-yard completion to Bryce Achenbach to the 1-yard line in the first quarter.
Lettow dove over from there for a 6-0 lead, the only scoring in the first 24 minutes.
Jamison found Achenbach for a 20-yard scoring pass with 8:38 to play in the third period, with a Lettow conversion run pushing the score to 14-0. Achenbach, a senior, is the school’s all-time career leading receiver, having caught, to date, 59 passes for 1,359 yards and 11 scores.
The hosts salted the game away with 2:09 remaining in the third quarter when fullback Kade Polich burst free over the right side and outran the defense for a 69-yard TD and a 20-0 lead.
Polich finished with 121 yards on 11 runs, with Jamison losing five yards on two carries. Achenbach caught three balls for 76 yards and Cale Pritchett two for 30 yards.
Jamison had 13 tackles to pace the defense, with Achenbach and Garrett Burkhart each making six stops. John McKeever and Jamison each had a sack, with Burkhartt recovering a Trojan fumble.
Caylor Clark was 7-of-17 for just 30 yards through the air for the guests, with Anthony misfiring on a half-back pass.
W-G travels to Pella Christian (3-4, 3-0), a 2018 semifinalist, Friday. The Eagles opened with four losses, but those were to Oskaloosa, Van Meter, Iowa City Regina and PCM, a deliberately tough slate meant to test the team. They own district wins over Woodward Academy (59-16), Pleasantville (54-13) and Colfax-Mingo (56-14).
“We will have to be mentally ready for the challenge,” Ashman said of the upcoming showdown. “I think we know we can play with them, it is just a matter of playing our game and not letting them get comfortable. I know our guys are looking forward to the chance to prove what they can do.”