ANTON — Kyle Leoffler jumped the route and delivered a title.
The Arickaree/Woodlin senior had a game-changing interception return for a touchdown just as the third quarter ended, and the Indians used to momentum to seal a title with a 44-26 victory over Eads in the 6-man football championship game on Saturday.
"Honestly, I think that decided the game," said Arickaree/Woodlin senior Garrett Shaffer. "If we wouldn't have gotten that, they could have come back. They did it against Peetz (in the semifinals). They could have done it against us. They're a good football team."
Added Leoffler, who threw two touchdowns and rushed for another for a four-score day: "That kind of took some of it out of them."
But things didn't start well for Arickaree/Woodlin, the top seed in the 6-man playoffs. Even with a 1 p.m. kickoff, conditions were frigid. The temperature hovered around 15 degrees with a wind chill dropping it to minus-2 at times.
The weather affected both offenses early, though No. 2-seeded Eads was able to grab a 6-0 lead on its first drive on Dylan Dixon's touchdown.
The Eagles were threatening to add to that lead later in the quarter when Arickaree/Woodlin made a huge stop on 4th-and-1 at the 9-yard-line.
"That's huge," said Arickaree/woodlin coach David Saffer. "They can put up a lot of points. To get a stop, get a swing in momentum and get things going your way, it makes a difference."
Two drives later — on third and goal from the 25 — Leoffler took a pitch from his brother, Trent, eluded a tackle in the backfield, then lofted a swing pass back to Trent. Trent shot down the left sideline for a score; Kyle added a two-point kick for an 8-6 lead.
That score held up at halftime, which left many scratching their heads.
Arickaree/Woodlin entered the game on pace to break the state record for points scored in a season. Ultimately, after Saturday's win, the Indians finished with 747 this season, one off Hugo's record of 748 set in 1930.
Suffice to say, the first half was out of character for Arickaree/Woodlin.
"We started slow," Kyle Leoffler said. "It was cold."
Said Shaffer, "We came out flat. We weren't paying attention like we should."
At halftime, the adjustments were nothing schematic, Saffer said.
"We just weren't firing off the ball," the coach said. "We were just a little sluggish, I think, and they were taking it to us. We just weren't aggressive enough."
A delicate snow began to fall as the second half opened, but it only added to the atmosphere.
Arickaree/Woodlin scored on its first two drives of the second half, then came Leoffler's pick-six. It was 28-12 at that point, but Arickaree/Woodlin answered every score Eads had from there on out.
Eads' Dixon had a great day, scoring four touchdowns, and was seemingly in on every tackle.
With the four touchdowns Saturday, Kyle Leoffler finished his season with 48 scores. That mark is the seventh-most in state history.
The championship is the first for Arickaree since the school won three consecutive 6-man titles from 1986-88. It's Woodlin's first football championship since winning 8-man in 1974.
"It's great for both of these schools," Saffer said. "It's been a while that both of these communities and schools can get excited, so I'm happy for these kids, happy for both of these schools."