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One particular number caught Wilmington’s Mike Wolfe by surprise.
Not his 22 carries, or the 18 for fellow Wildcats running back Chris Tworek. Those numbers hardly are unusual for the balanced Wilmington attack.
But Wolfe’s 182 yards?
“That’s a very big day,” he said. “I didn’t notice, honestly.”
So did Byron.
In Wilmington’s 31-14 first-round Class 3A playoff win Saturday at Byron, most of the eye-popping Wilmington plays belonged to the slighter of its senior ballcarriers. Wolfe had an 18-yard touchdown run to put the Wildcats ahead for good in the second quarter; a 41-yarder for the last touchdown of the day; and his 33-yard, stiff-arming symphony of a burst in the second quarter set up a 6-yard scoring run for Tworek (106 yards).
The end result sent 11th-seeded Wilmington (8-2) to the second round for 14th time in 17 straight playoff berths under coach Jeff Reents. It’ll host the winner of Aurora Central/St. Joseph-Ogden next weekend. Byron finished 7-3.
Byron’s big back, Zack Pattat, might have been the pregame favorite to post big rushing numbers. But Pattat, who entered with 1,516 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns on 217 carries, managed only 51 yards on 16 carries.
“You could tell, game-plan wise, they were prepared for Pattat,” first-year Tigers coach Jeff Boyer said. “We just couldn’t move the ball up front against their line. That was the difference in the game.”
And it may have been the difference in the Wolfe/Tworek 1-2 punch. Tworek entered the game with 839 yards on the season to Wolfe’s 736.
Normally, the 5-foot-8, 150-pound Wolfe plays full-time on defense, as does the 6-0, 186 Tworek. Reents went with more size on the field to bottle up Pattat, meaning Tworek was on the field more often than Wolfe.
“Mike’s legs were a little fresher,” Reents said.
And Tworek was a key to the defense blanking Byron in the second half. He had two sacks in the final two quarters, in which Tigers quarterback Nick Elsbury passed for 22 yards after throwing for 118 and two touchdowns in the first half.
Wilmington’s other scores came courtesy of quarterback Sean Liaromatis’ one-yard run in the first quarter and Nick Anderson’s 26-yard field goal to cap a six-minute, third-quarter-opening drive.
“A lot of credit goes to our offensive and defensive lines,” Reents said. “We were facing a fine team. To come to their place and do this, that’s a big win for our program.”