Woodlake wears winning stripes in battle of the Tigers

Woodlake takes down Delano 28-14 last Friday to advance to Division VI playoff semifinals

WOODLAKE – Heavy fog made it difficult to get a clear view of the game from the press box, but Woodlake head coach Jeff Johnson saw everything he needed to see from his perch to know his team came ready to play.

“That was the best game I’ve seen this team play in the last five to six years,” Johnson said.

The Woodlake Tigers (No. 4) controlled the line of scrimmage against the larger Delano Tigers (No. 5) on Nov. 12 in a 28-14 win at home. Johnson, who has been in the box since Week 2 for health reasons, credited his coordinators with a stellar game plan to take down Delano. Defensive coordinator Manny Martinez has manned the sidelines in Johnson’s absence and, along with offensive coordinator Bino Guillen, devised a strategy to stop Delano from running the ball and controlling the clock with its own run game. Woodlake’s defense only gave up eight first downs while Woodlake’s offense ran almost twice as many plays.

“I think we had the ball for 35-40 minutes of the 60-minute game,” Johnson said. “My assistant coaches have done an amazing job getting these players ready to play.”

Delano jumped out to an early 14-7 lead before Woodlake came roaring back. While most of Woodlake’s offense came on the ground, quarterback Junior Cervantes kept Delano’s defense honest by completing timely passes. Woodlake tied up the game before halftime on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Cervantes to Michael Chavez. It was the second touchdown of the night for Cervantes who completed 14 passes for 87 yards.

“Our offensive line has steadily gotten better and better and it showed in this game,” Johnson said.

The misty field provided the perfect place for Woodlake’s offensive line to slog their way through the soupy conditions and slide defenders out of the way. Senior running back Hector Rodriguez was the workhorse for Woodlake gaining 160 yards on 31 carries. Rodriguez capped the game with his only a touchdown, 2-yard run in the fourth quarter giving Woodlake its final 28-14 lead. Rodriguez also came up big from his outside linebacker position when he recovered a quarterback fumble as Delano was threatening to score in the second quarter, giving Woodlake a chance to tie the game heading into halftime.

“Delano is used to playing up tempo, spread offense teams,” Johnson said. “We concentrated on good old fashioned, hard-nosed football.”

After opening with two straight home playoff games, Woodlake will now have to travel south to face top-seeded Taft at 7 p.m. this Friday, Nov. 19 in the Division VI semifinals. The Wildcats defeated Lindsay 26-14 on Nov. 12. Taft was led by quarterback Jackson Berry who threw for 92 yards and a touchdown and ran for 33 yards and a touchdown. Johnson said Woodlake’s best chance at taking down the number one seed, and a shot at a Valley title, is to contain Berry and make other players make plays.

“We need to make him do things he doesn’t normally want to do,” Johnson said. “If we can do that, we’ll be OK.”

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