AKRON — Buchtel looked to its defense for a spark and received all it could have hoped for on a soggy Saturday afternoon.
Two interceptions returned for touchdowns and five takeaways were the right formula for the Griffins (1-2) to earn their first victory, 28-2 over nonleague foe Woodridge at Buchtel Griffin Stadium.
"It was challenging because conditions were not the greatest," Buchtel coach Ricky Powers said. "But it wasn’t great for them either. I thought they were tough. I thought they were well-coached. I’m glad we got up early and we got a chance to make some big plays to kind of seal the game for us."
With the remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon contributing steady drizzle throughout, both offenses sputtered until Buchtel senior O’Rell Williams scored on a 3-yard run on the second play of the second quarter.
Just two plays later, senior linebacker Devon Fox intercepted a pass at the Woodridge 22 and returned it for a touchdown. Dylan West’s second of four extra points made it 14-0 with 11:19 left in the first half.
"I was in the right spot at the right time, [and] I got the interception," said Fox, who continually made plays that thwarted Woodridge drives. "To be honest, I think it’s the best game I’ve had in my high school career."
And midway through the fourth quarter, senior Kirkland Robins provided the dagger with another interception runback, outracing pursuers 84 yards down the left sideline for a 28-0 advantage with 6:37 remaining.
Another apparent 80-yard interception return for a touchdown on Woodridge’s first possession of the game was nullified by penalty.
Woodridge, which suffered four interceptions, completed just 6-of-22 passes and lost a fumble and remains winless (0-3). Last year, the Bulldogs went 9-2, won the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division and made the Division III state playoffs.
The Bulldogs’ only score Saturday was a safety with 1:11 left when sophomore Dayshawn Garr tackled a Buchtel runner in the end zone.
"I was real happy with our line play on both sides of the ball," Woodridge coach Jeff Decker said. "I thought we did a real good job of stopping the run most of the game. We did a decent job of establishing a run game. We just couldn’t do much else."
Senior Denver Cody led the Bulldogs with 75 yards rushing on 14 carries.
Buchtel increased its lead to 21-0 on its first second-half possession when sophomore Robert Young-Jones scored from 16 yards out to cap a seven-play, 43-yard march.
Senior quarterback Mychael Leno had pass completions of nine yards to Robins and 11 yards to Zyeir Keen, as well as two carries for nine yards in the drive.
"It’s a different experience," Leno said of the daylong rain. "I had a little too many mistakes as a quarterback but we did pretty good with the rain. The team played great, the O-line did a great job blocking. You can’t run an offense without them. And our defense played lights out."
Powers said his team still needs to reduce mistakes to take the next step. The Griffins were charged with nine penalties for 70 yards.
"We’ve just got to cut down on penalties, the things that can really hurt us," he said. "Special teams not catching the ball, stuff like that."