Lowell leaned on its defense Friday night in its Division 2 distrrct-opening 13-7 win over Forest Hills Central.
Red Arrow defensive tackle Ryan Woodhead made the perfect read on a lean prior to blocking a punt and then recovered the ball in the end zone for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.
“When I saw their center lean in a little I knew the snap was coming,” Woodhead said in explaining his jump. What followed was the defensive tackle spun off a block en route to the Ranger punter. Woodhead then used his right forearm to block the punt before racing into the corner of the end zone where he recovered it for a touchdown. It was the senior’s first career blocked punt and his first-ever touchdown.
“It was the perfect situation to go after a block. You knew they weren’t going to fake it with the ball on the 10,” Lowell football coach Noel Dean explained.
Woodhead’s touchdown gave Lowell a 13-0 half-time lead. It was Lowell’s final score of the night.
“I thought we did a nice job of moving the ball, but we did not finish,” Dean said.
On five occasions Lowell moved the ball inside the Ranger 30 yard line and came away with no points.
The win marked the 12th straight time Lowell has won its first round playoff game and the 13th straight year the Red Arrows have qualified for the playoffs.
Lowell’s only scoring drive came late in the first quarter on a Gabe Dean two-yard run. It capped a nine play, 70 yard drive, giving Lowell a 7-0 advantage.
FHC’s only score of the night came early in the fourth quarter on an 11-yard sweep by Spencer Nehls.
The Rangers got the ball back moments later at its own 10 yard line with one final shot to take the lead. The drive for an upset ended when Jeff Houston intercepted a Justin Chopp pass at the Ranger 32 with 2:42 to play in the game.
“Our kids gave everything out their tonight. We don’t match up physically with Lowell, thus are passing game needed to be sharper and it wasn’t,” said Ranger football coach Greg Ganfield. ‘We haven’t given up a blocked pun t all year. That obviously was a crucial play.”
Forest Hills Central, O-K Black Conference champions, finish its season at 6-4. The four losses have come against opponents (Zeeland West, Grand Rapids Christian and Lowell) with a combined record of 29-1.
“Central is a good football team. Our first game with them was a lot closer than what the score (35-7) indicated,” Dean said.
Lowell rushed the ball for 203 yards. Both Dean and Joshua Addington ran the ball for 107 yards. The senior quarterback was also 7-of-17 for 77 yards through the air.
The Red Arrow defense held Central to 45 yards rushing and 95 yards passing.
Lowell will now spend the next week preparing for Muskegon (8-2), a 40-19 winner over Mattawan. The Big Reds regular season losses came against Rockford (29-26) and Grand Haven (35-21).
The two schools met last year in the Division 2 regional championship with Lowell winning 33-28.