Swanton scored an incredible 30 points in the first quarter in building a 44-0 halftime advantage before going on to crush the visiting Woodmore Wildcats, 51-8, in Swanton’s final non-league game at David W. Hansbarger Stadium Friday night. If it had been a boxing match the referee would have stepped in, whistled the fight over in the first round and raised the hand of the fighter wearing the purple trunks with the white trim. It was astonishingly and effectively over just that fast.
Backed by a defense that forced four punts with no first downs in the opening quarter, the Bulldog offense delivered several devastating body blows with such lightning quickness and surgical precision that only 13 plays from scrimmage and one punt return was required to put four touchdowns on the board.
Following Woodmore’s first punt, the Dogs put together a five play drive starting at the Wildcat 48 yard line. Michael Lawniczak went up the middle for eight yards before Bryce McComb found Gunnar Oakes deep down the right sideline for 31 yards and a first and goal at the nine. After two rushing plays netted three more yards, McComb dumped a quick toss to Robbie Gilsdorf on the left side who took it into the end zone for the first score on the night.
Deciding to go for two, McComb hit Zach Leahey just over the goal line for the conversion and Swanton was on top 8-0 with 9:01 to go in the first.
Woodmore returned the ensuing kickoff to their own 18 and could only manage two yards of offense before being forced to punt for a second time. Gilsdorf fielded the kick at the Wildcat 47 and sprinted to the right, hugging the sideline all the way to the house for his second touchdown. McComb ran the ball into the right corner of the end zone for two more and the Bulldogs had a 16-0 lead with more than half the first quarter still to be played.
Another three and out by the Woodmore offense gave Swanton the ball at the Cats’ 40 after an Oakes seven yard punt return. This time it took all of eight seconds for McComb to find Gilsdorf wide open at the goal line for touchdown number three. Letting up on the gas just a touch, Bulldog coach Mike Vicars sent in place kicker Nick Koback who split the uprights for a 23-0 advantage with four minutes and 52 seconds remaining.
After Woodmore’s fourth punt of the evening, Swanton started a seven play drive, all on the ground, beginning with a Lawniczak five yard gain and finishing with a Lawniczak 32 yard dash up the gut and into the end zone. The Koback kick made it 30-0 at the end of one quarter.
“First of all we knew their program was a little down and the game has been on the schedule for a while,” said coach Vicars. “But I thought in the meantime our guys did what they needed to do. Start fast.”
In the second quarter the Wildcat offense finally came to life. They went on a long 19 play drive, highlighted by two big Connor Bringman to DJ Wellons pass completions, taking the ball all the way down to the Bulldog 11 yard line. On fourth and one, however, Crew Oberheim stuffed Bringman for a one yard loss and the Dogs took over on downs.
Sitting 88 yards away, Swanton reeled off three runs and four pass plays, the last pass being a forty yard catch and run from McComb to Oakes, to reach the end zone and extend the lead to 37-0.
Offensively and defensively, this was total domination. “Everything was clicking,” remarked McComb. “The offensive line was doing their job. The receivers were making catches. I was putting it where they were. The backs were hitting their holes really hard. It was all just clicking tonight.”
Just prior to the end of the second quarter Lawniczak went in from 16 yards out and Koback’s extra point made the halftime score 44-0. The plus 30 point differential ensured, for the third time in as many games, Swanton would be playing with the OHSAA mandated running clock in the second half.
With the lopsided score and the damp weather a lot of fans headed for the exits during halftime. Vicars emptied his bench to start the third quarter and had Marek Spiess behind center to run the offense.
With the clock running nonstop, the second half flew by. Cameron Hitchen found the end zone from 20 yards away in the fourth quarter and the Wildcats finally broke into the scoring column on a seven yard run by Donavan Reyes to make the final 51-8.
“Special teams were big. Our kickoff team played well again. The punt return team did well again. We played well defensively and turned them over quick,” said Vicars, listing just some of the high points of the blowout win. “Our running game is getting better. Our backs are becoming more seasoned. We know we can throw the ball but we need to do other things, too.”
The Bulldogs rang up 388 yards of total offense, a number held down thanks to the short field the defense provided. Lawniczak led the stable of running backs with 74 yards on six carries with two touchdowns and Leahey had 35 yards on seven rushes.
McComb was an efficient seven of eight passes for three touchdowns, with Gilsdorf hauling in four for 88 yards and two TDs and Oakes three for 81 and one score.
The defensive effort was led by Noah Johnston, Dean Sego and Gage Pachlhofer who registered four tackles each.
Swanton begins league play this Friday as they travel to Archbold to take on the Blue Streaks.
Bill O’Connell can be reached at [email protected]