MOGADORE: The Woodridge football program has a long list of achievements in coach Eric Ervin’s 10 seasons.
Missing was a win at Wildcat Stadium.
But thanks largely to a stellar defensive effort, the Bulldogs were able to cross that victory off their to-do list Friday, topping Mogadore 27-13 in a Portage Trail Conference County Division game.
“This is absolutely huge,” Ervin said. “This place is really special. They take football very seriously. It’s the kind of place we love to play at because they do take it so seriously, and we had to get it.”
Senior defensive linemen Tom Morehouse and Mason Hilling, along with junior linebacker Brandon Williams, were the leaders in Woodridge shutting down Mogadore’s vaunted running game.
“They’re a pretty special group,” Ervin said. “At the end of the season last year, I talked to our defensive coordinator and said, ‘The days of scoring 50 points are over. You’re going to have to win some games for us.’ Our defense has been playing some outstanding football.”
The Bulldogs (3-2, 2-0) limited standout Mogadore junior running back Brandon Berry to 87 rushing yards and one touchdown on 22 carries. Berry came into the contest averaging 186 yards per game.
“We really stepped up in the second half,” Morehouse said. “Our defensive line handled them and played really physical. I thought we dominated the line and our linebackers were filling the whole time.”
Mogadore (4-1, 0-1) was held to a season-low 11 first downs and lost for just the second time in its last 19 games, after going 13-1 last season.
“They kind of owned us upfront and took away a lot of our inside running and the things that we’re normally able to do,” Mogadore coach Matt Adorni said.
Trailing 13-7 at half and struggling to run the ball, the Wildcats resorted to a perfectly executed trick play when sophomore wide receiver Zed Pollock bluffed a sweep and threw a 32-yard rainbow scoring pass to junior Alec Tarter at 4:52 of the third quarter.
A miscue short-circuited the extra point and the score was tied 13-13.
Woodridge answered in less than one minute with junior quarterback Tom Finegan lofting a 37-yard touchdown strike to junior wide receiver Anthony Thurman. Christian Owens kicked the extra point and the Bulldogs led 20-13.
The fourth quarter was played on Mogadore’s half of the field. The Bulldogs went on top 27-13 after senior running back Dalevon Davidson scored his third touchdown — a 1-yard run — with 4:23 left. Davidson carried 30 times for 171 yards.
Woodridge sophomore Joe Novak then sealed the win with an interception.
“[The Woodridge counter play] was perfect against us because we’re aggressive [defensively] and come hard,” Adorni said. “I was proud of our effort. It was a classy game, a hard-hitting game. We have to regroup.”
Tarter kept Mogadore in the game in the first half with a tough 39-yard catch and an interception.
Is this the best defensive unit Woodridge has had in recent memory?
“I’d like to think so,” Hilling said. “My brother will say his was, but I’d like to think so. We’ve got athletes all over the place at every position.”
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