PENINSULA — Woodridge and Coventry have developed a bit of a rivalry over the past few years.
When the two teams met Friday at Lahoski Field, both knew victory was critical if either wished to remain in the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division race.
Early on, Woodridge was a bit too generous a host to the Comets, but the Bulldogs would adjust and rally for the win.
After a bad punt snap and a pick six gave Coventry 14 first-quarter points, Woodridge clamped down came back to win 21-14 Friday. Woodridge improved to 3-3, 2-1 in the Metro Division, while Coventry dropped to 4-2, 1-2 in the Metro.
Woodridge coach Jeff Decker said his team showed poise after its early mistakes.
“It was a couple of fluke things,” Decker said. “Those are two mistakes we haven’t had all year. After it happened, no one was panicking. That’s a credit to our senior leadership. We just adjusted and battled back.”
Coventry coach Ed Egan could only lament his team’s missed opportunities.
“We should have been up 28-0 and then we let them sneak back into the game,” Egan said. “It’s all about opportunities. You’ve got to take them when you have them, in the game and in life. We didn’t do that.”
Coventry went up 14-0 thanks to a pair of calamitous plays by the Bulldogs.
First, a high snap on a punt set the Comets up on the Bulldog 10-yard line. Three plays later, Brendan Longwell broke tackles on his way to a 10-yard touchdown run with 5:23 left in the first quarter.
Then Comets defensive back Kenton Duty stepped in front of a pass from Woodridge quarterback Andrew Mekeal and ran it back 60 yards for a touchdown.
However, the turning point of the game may have come on Coventry’s next drive. The Comets’ longest drive of the game had Coventry with first and goal at the Bulldog 6. However, Longwell fumbled inside the 5-yard line, and it was recovered by Woodridge’s Martin Ashbaugh with 9:16 left in the second quarter.
Longwell led Coventry with 19 carries for 89 yards and a touchdown, but the Comets’ offense waned as the game went on. Woodridge finished with a 343-152 edge in total offense.
“We had two big injuries,” Egan said. “We had our starting right tackle go down and then our right guard. When we had those guys down, they were teeing off on us.”
The Bulldogs’ offense was inconsistent in the first half. However, on fourth and four at the Coventry 34, Mekeal rolled left and threw a rainbow pass to Josh Mally. Mally shook his defender and ran in a 34-yard touchdown with 49.5 left in the half.
Mekeal went 16-of-28 for 272 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Down 14-7 at halftime, Woodridge marched the second-half kickoff down the field. Dohntay Williams capped the drive with a 24-yard counter run for a touchdown, tying the game at 14-14 with 9:03 left in the third quarter.
Williams led all rushers with 109 yards on 29 carries.
“We put the ball in his hands a lot tonight,” Decker said. “He’s done what he needed to become a good running back.”
Coventry’s offense was stuck in neutral for most of the second half, but Duty was able to slow the Bulldogs down when he snagged his second interception late in the third quarter.
However, the Bulldogs kept coming, as a 50-yard bomb from Mekeal to Brandon Albright set the Bulldogs up with first and goal early in the fourth quarter.
Albright snagged seven catches for 153 yards on the night.
The long ball set up Woodridge to take a 21-14 lead when Ben Lahoski took a snap from the Wildcat formation and ran in a 1-yard touchdown run with 7:27 left.
“We wanted to keep the ball on the ground,” Decker said. “We thought, even though they stopped us early, they were good plays and they’d be there once their legs started going away a bit.”
Woodridge was unable to run the clock out, but Mekeal executed a perfect quick kick, which rolled out of bounds at the Coventry 5 with under three minutes left.
Coventry’s last chance evaporated when Albright picked off Duty at midfield on fourth and nine.