Woodstock North explodes for first-ever playoff win
It’s not supposed to be this easy.
IHSA football playoff victories are supposed to be hard to come by. Teams have to grind and claw for success, especially newcomers like Woodstock North High School.
In just their second playoff appearance in the school’s short history, the Thunder, seeded seventh in 5A and hosting a playoff game for the first time, soundly thumped the 10th-seeded Golden Warriors of Sterling High School, 68-20.
In a game they dominated in every phase, the Thunder scored early and often. Senior fullback Ryan Wade led the way for the Thunder offense again, punishing Sterling defenders on his way to 187 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns.
“It’s all the line,” said Wade, who amassed 146 yards rushing on the night. “They were doing such a good job tonight moving guys out of the way for me. I give all the credit to the lineman.”
WNHS used a furious run in the last 1:39 of the first half to put the game out of reach by halftime. After opening up a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter, the Thunder defense finally gave way, allowing Sterling quarterback Tanner Morse to find the end zone on a 6-yard run, making the score 21-7 with 4:20 remaining in the half.
Woodstock North quickly dashed any hopes Sterling had of getting back into the game. Senior quarterback Brian Loftin connected with Wade on a 41-yard screen pass, setting WNHS up at the Golden Warrior 13-yard line. Shortly after, wide receiver Shane Zieman scored on a 7-yard end-around, extending the lead to 28-7 with 1:39 remaining in the first half.
With Sterling pushing for another score before the half, cornerback Jake Schnulle intercepted Morse, setting up WNHS at its own 43-yard line with 1:29 remaining. Two plays later, Woodstock North had tallied again, with Wade scoring from 2 yards out after a 55-yard completion from Loftin to halfback Adam Haimbaugh.
Now leading 35-7, the Thunder still weren’t finished.
Senior Ricky Krenger forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff which was recovered by junior Drake Creighton. With 49 seconds still remaining, the Thunder was in business again at the Sterling 35-yard line. WNHS cashed in again, with Wade scoring again from a yard out, making the score 41-7, and effectively placing the game out of reach.
“Yeah, that was a pretty big deal,” Thunder head coach Jeff Schroeder said of his team’s run. “That helped blow it wide open.”
With a 34-point lead at halftime, the second half became merely a formality. An early third-quarter touchdown by Wade started a running clock, a rule instituted by the IHSA to expedite the completion of one-sided games.
In addition to Wade’s six touchdowns, Woodstock North had two touchdowns from Zieman, and two more tallies, both in the fourth quarter, from Haimbaugh. Haimbaugh rushed for 132 yards.
The 68 points WNHS put on the board were a school record.
The win, the first-ever playoff victory for Woodstock North, sets up a meeting in round two of the playoffs with Marian Central Catholic High School at 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, at George Harding Field. Marian (10-0) defeated Wauconda High School in their first-round game.
Beating the second-seeded and undefeated Hurricanes will be a tall task and the Thunder are preparing for a busy week at practice.
“It’s going to take a lot,” said Wade. “It’s definitely a new experience – we’ve never done this before. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, and we’re looking forward to it.”
Regardless of the outcome in the second round, WNHS continues to write its short history. The senior class has helped lay the foundation for future teams to build on, a fact not lost on senior offensive and defensive lineman, Rich Lucke.
“It’s so awesome,” Lucke said, of his teams’ historic victory. “It’s going to be here forever.”