With playoff implications on the line Friday, the Woodgrove football team wanted to prove it was worthy of being considered among the elite teams in the Virginia High School League’s Group 4A West Region.
Senior Charlie Clewis and junior Mike Kovich combined for 288 yards rushing and six touchdowns as the visiting Wolverines did that and more with a dominant 49-7 non-conference victory over previously unbeaten Heritage in Leesburg.
Heritage (6-1) entered the game ranked fourth in the 4A West Region in the VHSL power point ratings, while Woodgrove (6-1) was ranked seventh. But on Friday, the Wolverines showed they are prepared for what it takes to win in the postseason.
Clewis rushed for 163 yards on just 13 carries while Kovich had 125 yards on 14 rushes as each scored three times on the ground. Kovich added a 33-yard touchdown pass to junior Mason Gryniuk as Woodgrove had 467 total yards, 384 on the ground.
“We knew [Heritage] was coming in undefeated and we had a pretty big task ahead,” Kovich said. “We just tried to come out with a lot of energy, come out fast and not let them get close. The run game definitely was working. We barely passed because the run game was so awesome.”
The senior offensive line of left tackle Addison Jennings, left guard Hunter Smith, center Jake Wernle (committed to Bryant University), right guard Josh Shourds and right tackle Brad Hoffman makes Woodgrove’s ground game formidable. The Wolverines demonstrated their game plan on the opening play of the game as Clewis took a handoff from Kovich and burst through a hole up the middle to race 57 yards for a touchdown.
“Our offensive coaches have done such a good job with formation adjustments, motion and such,” Woodgrove head coach Mike Skinner said. “We’re hard to defend because we’re pretty good up front. If you don’t load the box, like they didn’t do on the first play of the game, we’re pretty good.”
“Our [offensive] line was just phenomenal,” Clewis said. “Mike was running the ball, I was running the ball and we were passing well. I don’t think we’re that predictable and when we are, teams still can’t stop us.”
Clewis added a pair of 6-yard scoring runs in the second quarter as Woodgrove raced to a 42-7 lead by halftime. Kovich also showed he’s no slouch in the run game as he scored on runs of 28 and 17 yards in the first half. He added a 4-yard touchdown to cap the scoring in the third quarter as the game went to a running clock in the second half.
“Coach Skinner always says give them 48 minutes of hell,” Clewis said. “A lot of games we come out and stutter in the first quarter, but we know no one can compete with us if every single play we are playing our best.”
While the offense was doing its thing, the Woodgrove defense was shutting down the high-powered Heritage offense, which averaged nearly 45 points per game entering the contest and had scored fewer than 41 just once.
Heritage’s lone bright spot on offense came midway through the first quarter when junior D.J. Hutcherson recovered a fumbled punt at the Woodgrove 20-yard line. Two plays later, junior quarterback Alex Carlin (12-of-22 passing for 95 yards) connected with senior Cole Miller for a 17-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 7-7.
From there, the Wolverine defense dominated as senior linebackers Zack Lockhart and Kyle Branch repeatedly found ways to disrupt the Heritage offense and forced three turnovers. The Pride was limited to just 175 total yards, with 75 of those yards coming on one late burst by senior Brandon Crockett.
“[Miller] is a talented guy who gave us a lot of trouble last year,” Skinner said. “We were going to try to make somebody else beat us. We got some good pressure on the quarterback. We played a man short in the box and weren’t sure how that would go. I thought our linebackers and the two linemen in the box did an excellent job.”
“It was one of those nights,” Heritage head coach Reed Prosser said. “We haven’t turned the ball over all year. That’s uncharacteristic of us. But hat’s off to Woodgrove. They executed and played really well. Coach Skinner had a great game plan.”
While disappointed with the loss, Prosser feels it was just a momentary blip in the Pride’s drive toward its first playoff berth since 2011.
“This is not who we are, but I think we learned how to play in a big game,” Prosser said. “It’s a different environment when you play a big game and you need to learn how to handle the pressure, the excitement and the energy. It’s a good learning tool for us.
“We talk about just playing to our standard,” he added. “We don’t talk about wins and losses, but playing to our standard. If we do that, we’ll be fine. We’re going to be a playoff team and we’re going to play teams of that caliber. This is a great learning environment for us.”
WOODGROVE 49, HERITAGE 7
Woodgrove (6-1) 21 21 7 0 -- 49
Heritage (6-1) 7 0 0 0 -- 7
WOOD – Clewis 57 run (Gieseman kick), 11:39
HER – Miller 17 pass from Carlin (Villalon kick), 6:00
WOOD – Gryniuk 33 pass from Kovich (Gieseman kick), 2:18
WOOD – Kovich 28 run (Gieseman kick), 1:02
WOOD – Clewis 6 run (Gieseman kick), 9:26
WOOD – Kovich 17 run (Gieseman kick), 3:40
WOOD – Clewis 6 run (Gieseman kick), 0:33
WOOD – Kovich 4 run (Gieseman kick), 7:51
RUSHING – Woodgrove, Clewis 13-163, Kovich 14-125, Wunder 9-75, Walker 5-16, Burke 3-7, Bryant 2-7, Sheehan 2-4, Kpaduwa 1-0, Team 3-(minus-13); Heritage, Crockett 4-81, Westbrook 6-9, Kern 1-4, Schaub 3-2, Carlin 5-(minus-16).
PASSING – Woodgrove, Kovich 6-8-0-83; Heritage, Carlin 12-22-0-95.
RECEIVING – Woodgrove, Bryant 3-27, Gryniuk 2-44, Blackwell 1-12; Heritage, Sylvain 6-53, Miller 2-26, Wooden 2-15, Moss 1-3, Westbrook 1-(minus-2).
MISSED FIELD GOALS – None.