LANCASTER — No matter how tall they are, how heavy they are or how fast they are, you would be hard pressed to find any running back in high school football who runs harder and with more determination that Lancaster senior Nic Wood.
And, because of Woods’ energy and determination, the Flying Arrows have clinched the program’s 23rd straight playoff berth with a 20-13 victory over visiting Dodgeville last Friday night.
Friday’s win gives Lancaster a Southwest Wisconsin Conference record of 3-0 and an overall mark of 4-3, and puts the Flying Arrows in a tie with Prairie du Chien atop the league standings with two games remaining.
As he has been in the previous two conference wins, Wood was again Lancaster’s workhorse, carrying the ball 38 times for 277 yards and two touchdowns.
Running behind an offensive line that continues to improve as the season moves on, Wood has shouldered the bulk of Lancaster’s offensive load since taking over the fullback duties from an injured Evan Gates.
In Lancaster’s three conference games, Wood has rushed for 664 yards and nine touchdowns on a whopping 83 carries. That leaves the rest of the Flying Arrow football team with a combined 80 rushing yards and four TDs on 47 combined attempts.
“The thing is, he doesn’t go down easy,” said Lancaster coach John Hoch of his senior fullback. “He’s a small target, and he’s powerful. But he does take a beating.”
On Friday night, Wood accounted for 277 of his team’s 280 rushing yards, leaving 20 for junior wingback Tanner Reuter, while quarterback Drew Reuter had -17 rushing yards on five attempts.
After the visiting Dodgers took a 7-0 lead on just their second play from scrimmage, Lancaster put together a 14-play scoring drive of their own that covered 61 yards.
Following a nine-yard reception by Tanner Reuter from Drew Reuter, the Flying Arrows were faced with a first-and-goal at the Dodger’s five-yard line.
Three straight carries by Wood netted four yards, and left Lancaster with a fourth-and-goal at the one-yard line.
To everyone’s surprise, Drew Reuter pulled the ball from the gut of Wood and walked into the end zone with 3:38 to play in the quarter.
The two-point conversion pass failed, leaving Lancaster with a 7-6 deficit.
Neither team found the end zone again in the first half, and it wasn’t until Lancaster’s second possession of the third quarter that they took their first lead.
Wood scored the first of his two touchdowns with 1:49 to play in the third quarter, capping off a nine-play scoring drive that started on their own 14-yard line.
Again Lancaster’s two-point conversion run failed, leaving the home team with a 12-7 advantage.
On Dodgeville’s very next possession, they used just three plays to score on a 58-yard pass play, and with the failed two-point conversion, held a 13-12 lead with 11:50 to play in the game.
Lancaster answered right back on their very next possession, when Wood broke a number of tackles on a 33-yard touchdown run. Drew Reuter then hooked up with Josh Hentrich on the two-point conversion pass that gave Lancaster a 20-13 lead with 8:53 showing on the clock.
After the Lancaster defense held strong on a fourth-and-10 from their own 17-yard line, the Arrows looked to run some time off the clock, but keep the chains moving.
Back-to-back carries by Wood had gained 50 yards, but on his third carry of the series, the senior fumble the ball away and was recovered by the Dodgers on their own 29-yard line with 4:40 to play in the game.
Again the Lancaster defense held strong, this time on a fourth-and-four from the Flying Arrow 47-yard line, giving the ball back to Lancaster with 3:12 to play in the game.
With the Dodgers having no timeouts, Lancaster was able to run out the clock, but did so in interesting fashion.
Faced with a fourth-and-19 with 5.8 seconds to play, coach Hoch instructed Reuter to take the snap and run backwards until the final seconds ran off the clock. The play resulted in a 30-yard loss for the junior quarterback.
While Wood carried the Lancaster offense on his shoulders, the entire defensive unit played well as a whole, and even got the praise of coach Hoch.
“Except for a few big plays, I thought we played very good defense,” said Hoch “We were very happy with how we played defensively. We shut down their run, but we let them have some big plays with the pass.”
Leading the Lancaster defense with 8.5 total tackles was junior linebacker Matt Withey, while sophomore Garrett Birkett was in on 7.5 stops.
Fellow sophomore Jordan Reuter had a huge interception on fourth-and-five from the Lancaster seven-yard line to keep Dodgeville out of the end zone late in the first half.
In all, the Dodgers managed just 56 yards rushing on 20 attempts, but completed 16-of-29 passing attempts for 304 yard and two scores.
For Lancaster, Drew Reuter completed 3-of-5 passing attempts for 28 yards, as Tanner Reuter had one catch for 16 yards and Wood two catches for 12.
With Wood gaining the bulk of Lancaster’s offensive yards, he is justifiably concerned that his offense at time is too one-dimensional.
“This is not our player’s fault, but we need to start throwing the ball deep,” said Hoch. “As a coaching staff, we have not threatened vertically, and we need to do that just so we quit getting 12 guys up inside there on defense.”
This Friday night, the Flying Arrows (3-0, 4-3) head to Prairie du Chien (3-0, 5-2) where the winner will clinch at least a share of the conference title.
On the injury front, senior center Mikhail Anderson came out of Friday night’s game with a knee injury, but is expected to play this Friday night.
Sophomore John Wagner also exited Friday’s game with a shoulder injury, and his status for this week is yet to be known.
With Friday night’s win, the Flying Arrows also assured themselves of a berth in the WIAA postseason playoffs, which is the program’s 23rd straight year in the playoffs.
Lancaster 20, Dodgeville 13
(from Friday, Oct. 2)
Dodgeville 7 0 0 6 - 13
Lancaster 6 0 6 8 - 20
D - Josh Shepler, 57-yard pass from Jordan Larson (Jordan Olson kick)
L - Drew Reuter, 1-yard run (pass failed)
L - Nic Wood, 9-yard run (run failed)
D - Olson, 58-yard pass from Larson (pass failed)
L - Wood, 33-yard run (Josh Hentrich pass from Reuter)
First downs - D 13, L 15. Rushing - D 20-56, L 49-280. Passing yards - D 304, L 28. Passes - D 16-29-1, L 3-5-0. Fumbles-lost - D 0-0, L 2-1. Penalties-yards - D 6-55, L 8-45.
D: Jordan Larson 2-23, Zack Weber 13-16, Brady Wetter 4-12, Houston Stanek 1-5.
L: Nic Wood 37-273, Tanner Reuter 6-20, Drew Reuter 5-(-17).
D: Jordan Larson 16-28-0, 304.
L: Drew Reuter 3-5-0, 28.
D: Jordan Olson 8-154, Josh Shepler 2-69, Houston Stanek 3-58, Zack Weber 1-13, Brady Wetter 2-10.
L: Tanner Reuter 1-16, Nic Wood 2-12.