By Dan Woodlock
Times-Junction Sports Editor
The Lakers may have made a stop in Willard Friday night, but it wasn’t those Lakers, as the host Flashes played the role of ‘Showtime’ and ‘Kareem’ed Danbury, 61-16, at Flashes Field.
The win not only marked Willard’s fourth in their first five SBC River Division games, but it also produced a season-high in points scored and the team’s second consecutive 500-plus yard week offensively.
Powered by a balanced attack that piled up 268 yards and four touchdowns on the ground and 258 yards and four more scores via the passing game, Willard (5-3) dominated on both sides of the ball, out gaining the Lakers, 526-88.
The Flashes put four first quarter touchdowns on the board and found the endzone six times in the opening half, in building a commanding 40-0 lead--all in less than 18 minutes worth of game time.
Fresh off of his record-setting passing performance at St. Joe a week ago, WHS quarterback Cooper Parrott was efficient and solid again this week, albeit just in one half worth of play offensively. The junior connected on 10-of-14 passes for 242 yards and four touchdown passes without an interception.
Dario Lopez received his first varsity carries of the season out of the Flashes’ backfield and the freshman back lit up the Danbury defense for 110 yards on just 12 carries and a pair of long touchdown runs. Jerett Sowers tacked on 93 yards rushing on just nine attempts and scored the game’s first touchdown on a one-yard run--capping a two play, 47-yard series on the Flashes’ opening possession.
Sowers bolted 46 yards on the first play of the drive, setting the stage for a night in which the Willard offense produced 18 plays of double-digit yardage from scrimmage.
Three of Parrott’s touchdown passes followed in the first quarter, and all three came within a span of two minutes and 15 seconds of each other. Willard’s defense forced back-to-back turnovers and also one of 10 different series of three plays-and-out (or fewer) to set up the three scores.
A Myles Pinkston interception led to a nine-play, 93-yard drive in which Sowers scored from 14 yards out on a short pass by Parrott, giving Willard a 12-0 lead, after both conversion attempts failed.
The Lakers had no answer from there, as a Hayden Meisner fumble recovery set up a short three-play drive, in which the team’s leading receiver, Brevon Polachek, reeled in a 17-yard touchdown from Parrott.
Josh Holida, who kicked for Willard during his sophomore year, returned to place-kicking duties on this night. He booted in seven-of seven attempts, including the one after Polachek’s score for a 19-0 advantage.
“That’s something we’ve been working on for a couple of weeks,” noted Willard Head Coach Britton Devier. “I figure we’re going to need to be able to make these kicks over our last two games.”
Parrott and Sowers connected again on one play, a 60-yard catch-and-run, for the Flashes’ fourth score of first quarter and a 26-0 advantage. Sowers complemented his 93 yards on the ground with 89 more on three receptions.
Willard scored yet again on their first series of the second period, as Parrott found Joey Holida and Polachek for 16 and 52 yards, with the latter ending up in the endzone to extend the lead to 33-0, still with 10:37 to play in the first half.
Lopez capped the scoring in the half with a 35-yard sprint into the endzone to push the lead to 40-0 at the 6:13 mark.
“We’ve been on the opposite end of this kind of game, but it was nice to be able to get our younger guys some experience under the Friday night lights,” said Devier. “I thought everybody ran the ball extremely well from top to bottom, as we continued to sub kids in during the second half. I’m proud of our kids for handling what it’s like being on the other side of that kind of score.”
While the Flashes were rolling offensively in the half with 383 yards, including 137 on the ground, Danbury (2-6, 0-5) was going the wrong direction, courtesy of an inspired Willard defense. The Lakers were held to negative-five yards in the half on 28 plays from scrimmage.
The Flashes piled up all seven of their sacks in the first half, with two apiece coming from Trever Dials and Jon Rothhaar, as the Danbury running game was bottled up to the tune of negative-38 yards on 15 carries. All four DHS first half ball carriers netted negative-two yards or less.
The Laker offense found a couple of sparks in the third quarter, as quarterback Kaden Conrad tossed touchdown passes of 31 yards to Saylor Evans and 11 yards to Kody Sieger. Both scores were capped by two-point conversions from Nate Frattaroli and Everett Overmyer on a reception and run.
Yet the two scores could only help Danbury chip two points off of their halftime deficit, as Willard’s Andrew Bostic returned a kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown and Lopez galloped off for a 62-yard score.
Even with the improved offensive showing in the second half, Danbury still failed to even reach triple-figures in total offense, with their 88 net yards.
“We have been lucky so far, in that while we do have some injuries on our defense, we have most of our key guys out there,” said Devier. “We’re still playing a lot of young kids on that side of the ball.”
Rothhaar received his first career varsity carry in the fourth quarter, and he made the most of it by powering through multiple defenders, on his way to a 29-yard touchdown.
The lone negative on the night for the Flashes came in the penalty department, as Willard was flagged for 10 accepted penalties, covering 93 yards. Danbury only collected five first downs in the contest, with two of them coming via personal fouls on the Flashes.
“We had a few silly penalties and those are things we have to clean up as we head into these last two weeks,” noted Devier. “
The Flashes close out the regular season with their two stiffest divisional opponents in Calvert on the road in Week Nine and at home in Week 10 against Gibsonburg.