The weather cooled down for Friday’s week six Western Buckeye League clash between Defiance and Elida at Fred J. Brown Stadium, but for Travis Cooper’s Bulldogs, things are just heating up.
Defiance seized control early, taking their opening two drives for points and holding Elida to 178 yards of offense in a 31-14 victory, the third in a row for the Blue and White.
Now 4-2 (3-2 WBL) on the year with the first three-game win streak since 2013, Defiance nearly recorded double 100-yard rushers for the second straight week in a physical contest.
“Tonight was the first night we scored on our first offensive possession of both halves and it really squashed any momentum that teams get,” said DHS coach Travis Cooper of the league triumph for the best six-game start in four seasons. “To go down there and punch it in right away was really big … and I thought our defense was then able to feed off of that. Any time you beat a team 31-14, especially a team as well-coached as Elida is, it’s a great night.”
Following a 32-yard kick return on the opening play of the game, Defiance needed just four plays and 54 seconds to find the endzone thanks to a 22-yard TD run from Brogan Castillo sparked by a 25-yard carry on the first-play from scrimmage by Craig Nichols.
After an Elida three-and-out, the Bulldogs then proved they could extend a drive, winding 6:07 off the clock with a 12-play march that ended in a 28-yard field goal from Branden Gmutza.
With both teams leaning on tough defensive play, a bit of deception put an early dagger in Elida’s confidence as DHS quarterback Brez Zipfel lofted a play action pass down the middle of the field to speedster Anthony Wilder for a 69-yard touchdown to put Defiance up 17-0 with 7:26 left in the first half.
From there, the Bulldogs leaned on Elida with the Castillo-Nichols counter-punch. Elida did find a spark with a 66-yard touchdown drive midway through the second quarter as sophomore quarterback Ryan McGue, in his first varsity start, heaved a 40-yard TD pass on third-and-15 to Jackson Covault to get the Allen County Bulldogs on the scoreboard with 2:47 until halftime.
Nichols got the Bulldogs back on track to start the second half, capping a nine-play, 69-yard drive with a 16-yard TD run to put the Bulldogs back up 24-7 with 6:46 in the third quarter.
“I really like our team and the dynamics of our team” said Cooper. “We had a two-way starter (tight end/linebacker Christian Commisso) out tonight and the people filling in for him didn’t miss a beat. That’s what’s great about a team is when you get guys, when they get their opportunity, they rise up and make plays.”
Castillo finished with 95 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries while Nichols found the endzone twice and tallied 89 yards on 14 carries after both went over 100 yards against Kenton a week ago. Zipfel tallied 170 passing yards on 10-of-17 throwing, recording two interceptions along with the TD toss to Wilder. Brian Phillips tallied four catches for 71 yards in the win while Gavino Gomez and Phillips each recorded interceptions for a DHS defensive unit missing leading tackler Christian Commisso due to injury.
The Defiance defense has also been noteworthy, allowing just 14 points in the last 10 quarters of action and 26 total points in the last three full games.
“It was just a great four-quarter game for us … we’re playing really well right now and we’ve got a lot of confidence,” said Cooper. “But like I told our guys, we’ve got bigger goals and four wins isn’t going to get us anything. We get to be happy about this but we’ve got to continue what we’re doing.”
With win number three in the books, the Bulldogs have a shot at the first four-game win streak for the program since 2006 with a trip to winless Lima Bath (0-6, 0-5 WBL) on Friday. Elida will look to regroup from their second straight loss with a tough home test against WBL-leading Wapakoneta (5-1, 5-0 WBL) on home turf.
First Downs 11 19
Rushing Yards 26-63 37-164
Passing Yards 115 170
Total Yards 178 334
Passing 9-17-2 10-17-2
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties 10-65 5-50
Elida 0 7 0 7 — 14
Defiance 10 7 14 0 — 31
D — Castillo 22-run (Gmutza kick).
D — Gmutza 27-field goal.
D — Wilder 69-pass from Zipfel (Gmutza kick).
E — Covault 40-pass from McGue (Hardeman kick).
D — Nichols 16-run (Gmutza kick).
D — Nichols 1-run (Gmutza kick).
E — Hawkey 5-pass from McGue (Hardeman kick).
RUSHING: Elida — McGue 9-(-8); Carter 6-32; Etzkorn 5-26; Kirk 5-13; Lopez 1-0. Defiance — Castillo 20-95; Nichols 14-89; Zipfel 3-(-20). PASSING: Elida — McGue 9-17-2-115 Defiance — Zipfel — 10-17-2-170. RECEIVING: Elida — Hawkey 5-58; Kirk 4-57. Defiance — Philips 4-71; Wilder 2-76; Castillo 2-25; Nichols 2-(-2).