WAYNE — Come playoff time, the teams that dominate the line of scrimmage tend to be the ones who have the most success.
Wayne's physical play up front opened the door for the Blue Devil ground attack, which really came to life in the second half to help 11th-seeded Wayne upset No. 3 seed Ashland-Greenwood 28-13 in the Class C1 quarterfinals Friday at Wayne State College's Cunningham Field.
Wayne's defensive line was disruptive in flushing Bluejay quarterback Hunter Washburn from the pocket several times, and the offensive line helped Wayne keep the Ashland-Greenwood offense off the field with a ball-control attack that ate more than three-fourths of the clock in the second half.
"We've really come along with our line this season," coach Russ Plager said after the win. "We have two sophomores along with two seniors and a junior, and they've come a long ways and they pride themselves on being physical. We've developed an identity as an offense from earlier in the year, and that identity is to run the football."
Wayne used an interception to set up its first score of the game. Tanner Walling picked off a pass to set Wayne up at its own 40, and the Blue Devils used a seven-play drive to get on the board, capped by a 4-yard run by Reid Korth to make it 6-0 with 8 minutes, 7 seconds to go in the opening period.
The Bluejays came right back with an eight-play, 89-yard drive to take the lead on a 1-yard run by Bryce Kitrell, then added another score early in the second on a 1-yard run by Hunter Washburn to make it 13-6.
The Blue Devils' line began to assert itself after that. Wayne used a 10-play, 76-yard drive at the end of the half that ended with no points but got a second chance after the Bluejays fumbled at their own 46-yard line. On the ensuing play, Korth raced 43 yards before being brought down at the Bluejay 3 and scored two plays later. Victor Kniesche ran in the two-point conversion for a 14-13 Wayne advantage that proved to be the game's momentum-changing play.
"It made us feel so much better, and we knew when we came out (in the second half) we had to keep our foot on the gas," Korth said.
Wayne's front line controlled the game in the second half, as Wayne possessed the ball for more than 18 minutes in the final two periods.
The Blue Devils took the second-half kickoff down the field and scored on a nifty reverse by Kniesche, who found a seam and beat two Bluejay defenders to the end zone for a 32-yard run that made it 21-13 early in the third.
A shanked punt late in the third period gave Wayne fantastic field position at the Ashland-Greenwood 11, and Wayne cashed in the opportunity five plays later with Korth's third score of the night, a 1-yard plunge.
From there, it was up to the Wayne defense, which frustrated Ashland-Greenwood's balanced attack and ended any hopes of a fourth-quarter comeback with an interception by Korth with 5:44 to go. Wayne's offense picked up three first downs and never let the Bluejay offense back on the field to seal the victory.
"We feel confident in our run game right now, and we feel we can be physical with people," Plager said. "These kids are working hard and getting better every week."
Korth, who finished with 148 yards on 31 carries, agreed.
"We just came out and stuck to our game plan and rammed it down their throat," he said. "We wanted to be more physical than they were and just came out and showed it."
It is the first time in school history that Wayne has won two playoff games in a season. Before the season, the school had won just two in its entire history, in 1983 and again in 2017.
"It feels great," Plager said of what is arguably the team's best overall season in school history. "I'm just really proud of these kids. They're a high-character group who have a lot of fun with each other, so this is a really great feeling."
And now, all that stands between Wayne and a trip to Memorial Stadium in Lincoln are the No. 2-seeded Wahoo Warriors, who blasted the Blue Devils in a season-opening 47-0 shutout to open the season and will host them again on Friday in Wahoo.
Korth thinks the second matchup with the Warriors will be different from the first.
"We're a 100 percent different team," he said. "We held them pretty well the first half and then came out and shot ourselves in the foot a lot. This time is going to be different. We're going to come out with everything we've got."
"Wahoo has a really good football program," Plager added. "I hope our kids believe in the changes we have seen, and hopefully we can go in there and fight."
Class C1 quarterfinal
Wayne 6 8 7 7 — 28
Ash.-Green. 7 6 0 0 — 13
WAY: Reid Korth 4 run (run failed)
A-G: Bryce Kitrell 1 run (Julian Brown kick)
A-G: Hunter Washburn 1 run (kick failed)
WAY: Korth 1 run (Victor Kniesche run)
WAY: Victor Kniesche 32 run (Yair Alcantara kick)
WAY: Korth 1 run (Alcantara kick)
First Downs 16 13
Rushing-Yards 46-205 23-78
Passing Yards 44 146
Comp.-Att.-Int. 4-9-0 19-33-2
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 3-2
Punts-Avg. 6-29.5 2-22.0
Penalties-Yards 7-44 4-40
RUSHING — Wayne: Bartos 8-30, Korth 31-148, Eischeid 2-(-9), Kniesche 3-38, Team 2-(-2). A-G: Kitrell 11-46, Butler 1-5, C. Washburn 1-5, H. Washburn 8-21, Team 1-(-1), Brown 1-2.
PASSING — Wayne: Eischeid 4-9-0, 44. A-G: Zimmerman 0-1-1, 0; H. Washburn 19-32-1, 146.
RECEIVING — Wayne: Kniesche 3-36, Korth 1-8. A-G: VonRentzell 1-14, Kennedy 1-12, Kitrell 8-43, Novak 2-24, Zimmerman 3-11, Jacobsen 2-33, Book 1-0, Comstock 1-14.