WONEWOC — The North Crawford football team traveled northeast last Friday night to face the newest member of the Ridge and Valley Conference, the Wonewoc-Center Wolves.
The Trojans entered Week 6 still in search of their first victory of the season. The game began for North Crawford, as many others have this season, with the Wolves taking the opening drive down the field for a quick score, and a 6-0 lead.
However, the Trojans would not be deterred, as they quickly answered the Wolves' score with a long pass from Tyler Martin to Dallas Hershberger to get them into the red zone. Senior fullback Zach Stluka finished the drive by scoring a 17-yard rushing touchdown on a power play off the left side. The Trojans could not convert the extra point, and the score was tied 6-6.
That's when the Trojans defense took over, limiting the Wolves' rushing attack for the remainder of the half.
Offensively, the Trojans were able to score twice in the second quarter, to take a two-score lead into halftime. The Trojans' second touchdown of the game came off a long drive, capped off by a second rushing touchdown by Stluka.
The turning point came at the end of the first half, when the Trojans got the ball back on their own 30-yardline. With 70 yards to cover, only one timeout, and less than a minute and a half on the clock, the Trojans orchestrated a drive down the field. Then with :00 on the clock, quarterback Tyler Martin completed a pass across the middle to Dallas Hershberger, who found his way into the end zone. The two-point conversion rush by Stluka was successful, and the Trojans took a 20-6 lead into the locker room.
"I thought that drive at the end of the half was key,” Trojan head coach Brandon Munson said later. “For a young team, we showed a lot of poise and patience as we worked our way down the field. We allowed our athletes to make plays in space, and Hershberger was able to make the catch, get a great block in space, and found his way to the end zone."
The Trojans seemingly let the Wolves back in the game, as they fumbled the snap on the first play of the second half. The Wolves recovered the fumble, and a few plays later, punched it in for a touchdown. After an unsuccessful two-point conversion, the score sat at 20-12.
However, the resilient Trojans would answer two plays later on a quarterback keeper off the right side by Tyler Martin for a 38-yard rushing touchdown. The two-point conversion was unsuccessful, and the Trojans led 26-12.
On the very first offensive play of the next drive, the Wolves fumbled the ball, and Trojans recovered. The Trojans capitalized on the turnover, and a few plays later Martin hit Hershberger for another passing touchdown. The extra point was blocked, and the Trojans took a commanding 32-12 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Trojan defense was able to keep the Wolves out of the end zone the rest of the game, highlighted by an impressive one-handed interception by senior linebacker Zach Stluka.
North Crawford was able to put one more rushing touchdown by Stluka on the board. The extra point kick by Dallas Hershberger was good, and the Trojans would end the game 39-12 winners.
"I'm excited to get our first win of the season, but I'm even more excited and proud of our players' resiliency and persistence,” Munson said. “After last week's deflating loss to De Soto, our players could've easily given up on the season. That wasn't the case, as they stayed committed to practice through the week, and worked hard to prepare for the game against Wonewoc-Center. Even after Wonewoc took an early lead, our guys came right back and made some big plays to tie the score, and eventually pull away for the victory.
"We still made some mental mistakes throughout the game, whether they were costly penalties, or a fumble to allow Wonewoc back into the game. However, we were able to overcome those mistakes, and took advantage of our opportunities to get this win. This was truly a team win for us on both sides of the ball. We allowed our athletes to make plays, and they did just that. We have stressed all season that we need to continue to improve and get better. We did that this week, and were able to earn the victory."
The Trojans will prepare this week to host the conference-leading Ithaca Bulldogs. The Bulldogs are undefeated on the season, and are currently ranked #4 in Division 7 in the state. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m., and the Trojans will host Parents Night prior to the game.