WOODWARD — Unheralded Bedford gave Woodward-Granger an unexpected test in their Class A District 7 finale last Friday by forcing the Hawks to score with four minutes remaining to salvage a 28-20 victory.
W-G (6-3, 5-2) claimed third place in the district, setting up a first round playoff game at Malvern, home of District 8 runner-up East Mills (7-2, 5-2) Oct. 30 (full results, including photos, will appear in the Nov. 8 Perry Chief).
The Hawks played with fire by, as head coach George Ashman admitted, "Relaxing too early" after taking a 20-0 lead at the half.
The Bulldogs (1-8, 1-7), perhaps sensing a lessening of pressure, scored twice in the third quarter and early in the fourth frame to knot the score at 20-all.
"We responded when we had to, but we should never have been in that spot to begin with," Ashman said. "It is almost exactly what happened to us at Audubon (a 15-12 loss) as we got a halftime lead, let up, made a mistake and then could not turn it back on. This time we did, but if we do that in the playoffs we will be going home."
W-G scored in the first quarter when quarterback Cole Ashman bounced off right tackle and walked into the end zone from five yards out for a 6-0 lead.
The margin grew to 12-0 early in the second quarter when Ashman connected with Marshall Nieland on for a 15-yard scoring strike. Michael Connor’s 20-yard burst and two-point conversion run later in the frame gave W-G a 20-0 advantage at the half.
Bedford’s charge back into game began with the longest play the W-G defense has allowed in several years, as quarterback Isaac Weed found Mason Brown for a 90-yard TD to cut the gap to 20-7.
Jonathan Cox broke free for a 25-yard scoring run later in the period, with Quentin Sefrit adding his second PAT kick to bring the score to 20-14.
W-G began moving the ball again on offense but stalled, with Weed finding Deiontae moss for a 25-yard scoring strike four minutes into the fourth quarter. Freshman Sefrit missed the point-after kick, leaving the score knotted at 20-all.
The Hawk offense answered on their next possession, moving sharply down the field before grabbing the lead for good on a 30-yard TD spurt from Nieland, with Ashman hitting Tanner Canova with a two-point conversion pass for a 28-0 lead.
The Bulldogs were eventually turned away on downs on their final possession with slightly more than one minute remaining, allowing the Hawks to run out the clock and preserve both the win and their playoff position.
Nieland finishes the regular season fourth in Class A with 1,366 rushing yards. He carried 29 times for 189 yards and a score against Bedford, with Connor (16-90, 1 TD), Ashman (7-48, 1 TD) and Dyland Garland (8-25) also running the ball.
Ashman was 12-14-0 for 173 yards and 1 score in the air, with Canova (4-97), Nieland (6-63, 1 TD), Connor (1-11) and Seth Noel (1-2) catching passes.
Connor and Jimmy Harney led the W-G defense with nine tackles apiece, with Harney having two sacks and Canova one. Connor had four tackles for a loss, with Lane Kooiker and Dylan Nixon adding stops behind the line of scrimmage while Canova recovered a fumble.
Cox led the Bulldogs with 85 yards and a score on nine rushes, with Justin Folkerts adding 41 yards on nine carries.
Weed finished 7-19-0 for 166 yards and two scores, with Brown (4-119, 1 TD), Moss (2-27, 1 TD) and Noah Thornton (1-20) the pass recipients.
Dylon Davis and Ben Hill had 14 tackles apiece for the visitors, with Thornton recovering a Hawk fumble.
If W-G was a winner over East Mills they would face the victor of the first round contest between Riverside, Oakland (5-4) and host Audubon (7-2). Audubon would again host if they advance, while Riverside would travel to Woodward should they pull the upset.
The other first round games in W-G’s quarterfinal bracket include Guthrie Center (4-5) at Avoca A-H-S-T (9-0) and Westwood, Sloan (6-3) at Madrid (7-2).