BELLEFONTAINE — Despite a better offensive showing from the Bellefontaine Chieftains compared to their 2011 campaign, the Wapakoneta Redskins were able to cruise to a 49-13 victory Friday night.
After the game, Wapakoneta Varsity head coach Doug Frye said he was happy with how his team played, but said there was still room for improvement after the Redskins 36-point victory.
“You’re on the road, you’re in the opener, and a lot of people have put us on a pedestal and said, ‘We’re going to have a great team this year.’ … There are a lot of green faces for us on that field right now, we have one offensive lineman back, we replaced a number of defensive guys so for us to get a lead and for us to settle in,” Frye said. “I really believe that we’re going to have a good football team at some point, but I don’t know if we’re a good football team yet or not.”
Carrying most of the offensive bulk was junior running back Zach Schmerge, who had 133 yards on 15 carries Friday.
“Zach Schmerge is just a super kid, what a hard player, hard-nosed kid,” Frye said. “Zach really exemplifies everything I’m looking for in a football player.”
Schmerge also played linebacker on defense for the Redskins.
Wapakoneta netted 470 yards of total offense, 388 yards on the ground and 82 through the air. Bellefontaine netted 216 total yards of offense, 123 on the ground and 93 through the air.
Another player that stood out for the Redskins was sophomore running back Adam Henderson. Playing an important role with three running backs out due to injuries and a suspension, Henderson ran for 45 yards and put two touchdowns on the board.
“We’ve been through a gauntlet of situations, it’s been a crazy situation here in the backfield, the backfield will take a major step forward with two of our three kids that are out, returning next week,” Frye said. “Adam (Henderson) has really emerged and really been a solid kid for us. That’s asking a lot out of a sophomore that hasn’t been up, up to this point, and he plays with a calm demeanor to him.”
Senior quarterback Kyle Gibson led the Redskin offense like a science he has been practicing for three years now. Gibson had 44 yards of rushing, 82 yards of passing and had two touchdowns on the day — one through the air, the other on the ground.
With only one returning starter on the offensive line and defensive line, Frye said he had mixed emotions with how the lines played Friday.
“Tarzan and Jane,” Fyre said of his offensive and defensive lines Friday. “There were times I’d call them Tarzan, and the next moment I’d call them Jane. I think a few more Tarzan’s than Jane’s … There gotta be a lot more Tarzan’s than Jane’s if we’re going to be a good football team.”
Friday’s game started unconventional, as the opening kickoff from the Chieftains was an onside kick. The kick, however, was recovered by the Redskins as junior Mason Sidey fell on it on their own 45-yard line.
The Redskins drove down the field quickly and scored on an 18-yard run by Henderson. Henderson on the sweep took it up the left side of the line all the way to the end zone.
Following a more conventional kickoff from the Redskins, Bellefontaine’s offense came out struggling.
Sophomore quarterback Jake Kennedy fumbled the first snap of the game for a 5-yard loss. Then, sophomore running back Jordan Baughman found no gain on a run up the middle. And on third down, Kennedy threw a ball to the right side that was picked off by junior cornerback Colt Place and returned for a touchdown.
“It was good in this situation to get out to a quick lead,” Frye said.
After a disappointing first drive, the Chieftains took the following kickoff and drove down the field for a score, converting on two fourth downs along the way. A bootleg pass from junior option quarterback A.J. Gorham to senior receiver Ryan Rogan from six yards out cut the Redskin lead to seven.
Bellefontaine varsity head coach Chris Schmidt was happy with how his team responded after going down two quick scores.
“The kids did a tremendous job,” Schmidt said. “To fall down after that pick-6 by two touchdowns, and then to respond like they did and come back down and score, I thought it was huge for our kids to say, ‘Hey, maybe we’re not the same team we’ve been the last couple years’ ... I was proud to see that.”
On the next Redskin possession, an offensive pass interference penalty stalled the drive around midfield, and Wapakoneta was forced to punt. At the end of the first quarter, Wapakoneta led, 14-7.
In the second quarter, the Redskins drove down the field and from six yards out, Adam Henderson got his second touchdown on the day to extend the lead, 21-7. After a lost fumble from the Chieftains, the Redskins drove down the field and added another touchdown on a 1-yard sneak from Gibson. The Redskins went into the half leading, 28-7.
The Chieftains started the second half on fire as Gorham takes the opening kickoff all the way to the Wapakoneta 17 yard line. Three plays later, Baughman took it into the endzone from four yards out to cut the Redskin lead, 28-13. The point after snap was fumbled and resulted in a six-point drive.
Fyre said the Bellefontaine program is improving, and with Schmidt’s offense in place and his players starting to shine, he said they are close to being a good football team.
“Their program is on the rise, I really believe Chris (Schmidt) is doing a really good job here at Bellefontaine,” Frye said. “If the people give him time, and they are patient with him, he’s going to give them a good football program.
The Redskin offense started the second half with a three-and-out on three straight running plays netting three yards. Junior Zerrick Brannan then booted a line drive 57-yard punt to put the Chieftains inside their own 20 yard line.
Brannan, one of the tailbacks out of the game, was cleared to play, but Frye said he wasn’t going to play him unless he was absolutely needed. Brannan did, however, punt for the Redskins, and Frye said he’s going to continue that role.
The Chieftains, bested by an illegal formation penalty, were forced to punt and senior Johnny Crawford returned the punt up the right side, all the way to Bellefontaine’s 36-yard line.
On the back of Schmerge, Wapakoneta drives 36 yards for another touchdown on the evening. Schmerge took it in from six yards out to extend the Redskin lead, 35-13.
Later in the third, the Redskins took over around midfield and decided to try and air it out on two straight plays, but Gibson was sacked on both second and third down, and the Redskins were forced to punt again. At the end of the third quarter, Wapakoneta held a comfortable lead, 35-13 over the Chieftains.
Desperate on their first drive of the fourth quarter, the Chieftains found themselves with a fourth down and about seven yards to go around midfield, when Kennedy aired it out and was picked off by Wapakoneta’s Alex Greve around the 25 yard line.
After two long runs, one by Gibson and one by Schmerge, Gibson aired it out down the right side to Crawford for a 30-yard touchdown pass extending the Redskin lead, 42-13.
With seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Wapakoneta drove to the Chieftains one line, but a bad exchange on a handoff caused a lost fumble, and Bellefontaine took over from its own one.
With five minutes to go in the game, the second-team offense takes over to finish out the game. Sophomore quarterback Kodi Morgan came in to run the second-team offense, and on a handoff to Colton Brown from six yards out Wapakoneta extended its lead, 49-13.
“Morgan is a kid we brought up a year ago as a freshman,” Frye said. “He’s a playmaker, he’s cool under pressure, and for a sophomore, he’s playing bigger than a sophomore right now.”
In addition to playing back up quarterback, Morgan played receiver and defensive back. He had two receptions on the evening for 23 yards.
Both teams traded possessions late in the fourth quarter to close out the game.