SIDNEY — The Waynesfield-Goshen Tigers celebrated a team win Saturday night in a chess match of a game.
With injuries depleting his corps, Tiger varsity coach Gary Spencer credited his entire team for Saturday’s exciting victory over the Sidney Lehman Catholic Cavaliers — a game which came down to the final seconds.
As Spencer watched two-way starter Gabe Wilcox and then Cody Baker go down to injury, his coaching staff shuffled in and replaced tired or nicked up players.
“We held together as a team and we held together just long enough to get the win,” Spencer said after capturing a 26-24 win and turning back two Cavalier attempts for a comeback win. “This game was really just a chess match. They would overload to our tight end side so we ran away from that, and then they would adjust to that and it would take a few plays for us to realize we needed to go the other way.
“They are very well coached and our coaches upstairs did a great job,” he said. “With everything that was going on, the game just went back and forth.”
The Tigers struck twice in the first half to hold a 12-2 lead, before the Cavaliers mounted a comeback bid with 22 second-half points. Two Tigers scores in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference as they held on in the waning moments for the win.
“That was a good high school football game,” Cavaliers varsity coach Richard Roll said. “Our kids played hard the entire game and I think we are going in the right direction. You have to give them credit — they are a good football team that may make the playoffs.”
The closing moves spanned the final six minutes, with the tension climbing to a crescendo during the last 2:28 when the coaches watched 13 plays as both teams tried to secure the win.
The crucial series began at the 6:12 mark, the Tigers drove to the Lehman 39-yard line and faced a fourth-and-1 situation with 4:05 on the clock. Hennon busted through for a first down. Three plays later, the Tigers faced fourth-and-1 again, but this time the Cavaliers turned him back.
“I was praying that what we called was going to work,” Spencer said. “When you talk about that chess match, they would overload to our tight end side and we would try to go away and the time we didn’t get it, we failed to recognize they overloaded to the tight end side and we didn’t check back over.”
With the Cavaliers getting the ball back, the Tiger crowd held its collective breath. Davis, who had been 3-of-12 with an interception through three quarters, was a perfect 5-for-5 in the fourth quarter. The Tigers defense then rose to the occasion when Khory Kesler stepped in the flight of a Davis pass for an interception.
But utilizing his timeouts, Roll managed the clock and his defense forced the Tigers to punt with 46 seconds left. Davis looked to have some magic, completing a 6-yard out to Kane Pickrel, but the Tigers then forced three consecutive incompletions.
“We made plays when we had to make plays,” Spencer said.
Leading the team on defense Ron Jarvis with 13 tackles and Deryk Plapp with 10 tackles, while Gabe Wilcox and Lee Turner each collected eight tackles.
Waynesfield-Goshen opened the chess match of a game quickly. Starting at the 36-yard line, sophomore running back Colton Miller carried the ball twice for 54 yards, before senior running back Gabe Hennon carried the ball twice for the final 10 yards and a 6-0 lead at the 10:19 mark.
Miller, who would gain officially only 34 yards on 15 carries, rushed 14 times for 87 yards in the contest. A snap over his head near the end of the first quarter officially resulted in a loss of 53 yards.
The Tiger defense withstood four attempts to get into the end zone, giving Waynesfield-Goshen the ball at the 1-yard line. On the next play, a blitz by the Cavaliers caught the Tigers’ Hennon two yards deep in the end zone.
After the free kick, Tiger cornerback Lee Turner stepped in front of Cavalier quarterback Dan Davis’ pass and provided a spark for Waynesfield-Goshen.
After two plays yielded little ground, on a third-and-8 at the 8:03 mark, Tiger quarterback Garrett Miller found receiver Eli O’Leary streaking down the Cavalier’s sideline for a 93-yard touchdown strike.
Miller finished the game 3-of-12 with two interceptions for 130 yards.
Roll said his coaches knew they had to keep the Tigers running game in check to win.
To neutralize the Tiger rushing attack, the Cavaliers often blitzed their inside linebackers to thwart sweeps and off-tackle plays. Holding the Tigers to 30 yards on 16 carries in the first half, Roll and his coaches decided not to alter their game plan, noting “we had the defense we wanted.”
“We have to be aggressive, we are not very big and we can’t pound it out with people,” Roll said.
It failed as the Tigers switched to quick hitters gaining 106 yards on the ground on 28 carries.
Despite the yardage, the momentum switched at the half — but quickly became a see-saw affair offensively.
The Cavaliers, who managed 73 yards on 22 carries in the first half and 31 yards passing, started the second half with a 46-yard, 12-play drive to cut the lead to 12-8.
Two series later, the Tigers used the last 4:17 of the third quarter to drive from their 46-yard line to the 1-yard line where Hennon scored again with 11:22 left in the fourth.
Two plays later, Davis found Cavalier receiver Joe Vondenhuevel for a 55-yard touchdown pass at the 10:27 mark to match the Tiger score and tighten the score to 18-16.
Davis ended the game 9-of-22 with two interceptions for 182 yards.
The Tigers answered the score with quick hits by Hennon, who gamed 33 yards on the next two carries. They continued down the field until Hennon scored from 4-yard out at the 7:16 mark to extend the lead to 10 points again. Hennon ended the game with 77 yards on 22 carries.
The Cavaliers checked the move with a 1-minute drive, capped by a 25-yard pass from Davis to Andrew Adams before the final moments of excitement.
With a tough, physical game behind him, Spencer said he is looking out for the welfare of team on Sunday.
“I have concerns about everybody,” Spencer said. “My best friend tomorrow (Sunday) is going to be the trainer.”