WAYNESFIELD— Waynesfield-Goshen varsity football coach Gary Spencer did not keep it secret that the Tigers needed to play mistake-free football to win the season opener against Delphos Jefferson Friday.
They managed to do it for a half, but three costly turnovers in the second half led to their undoing in a 38-17 loss.
To compound problems, the Tigers tandem of power running backs, Gabe Hennnon and Gabe Wilcox, battled injuries for most of the second half as the Wildcats slowly distanced themselves.
“Its tough to win football games when you start with your varsity and end with your junior varsity,” Spencer said. “If we don’t have those two in we are going to have a tough time winning football games. But the kids didn’t quit. That was noticeable.”
Wilcox was battling an injured ankle and Hennon suffered with cramps throughout the game, though he managed to break the 100 yard mark on a two-yard carry with about six minutes remaining in the game. He finished with 101 yards on 30 carries.
Jefferson hit the scoreboard first when Zavier Buzard was stopped initially behind the line of scrimmage, but broke off of the pile and went left for 55 yards. The Tigers answered back with a typical Tiger drive, going 69 yards on 14 plays, all runs. The drive ate up 6:45 minutes of clock and tied the game at 7-7 after one quarter of play.
Delphos quarterback Austin Jettinghoff found Ross Thompson for a 43 yard gain, which set up a Quinten Wessell four yard score two plays later to put Jefferson back up at 13-7.
A key penalty allowed the Tigers to take the lead right before halftime. With the Wildcats going for it on a fourth-and-one on the Tiger 44, an offsides penalty made it fourth-and-six and forced the Wildcats to punt. Waynesfield put together a textbook two minute drive, scoring with two seconds remaining on a Gabe Hennon two yard run. The Tigers converted two crucial third down conversions on the drive and quarterback Garrett Miller completed key passes to Lee Turner, Eli O’Leary and Jeron Hennon totaling 50 yards.
In the second half, things didn’t go as planned for the Tigers. The Tigers were in prime position to take control when an offsides play took them out of synch. Jefferson fumbled the initial play of the second half giving Waynesfield good field position at the Wildcat 42-yard line. Gabe Hennon bulldozed his way for nine-yards to set up a short third and one play when both running backs jumped to make it third-and-six. The penalty turned a short yardage situation into a third and long and ultimately resulted in a interception by Thompson on the following play.
“It seemed the game changed from that point,” Spencer said.
Wessell bulldozed his way for a 15-yard score and Drew Kortokrax broke for a 77-yard punt return to quickly turn the mistake into a 25-14 Jefferson lead.
Roope Mettae’s 36-yard field goal at the 2:03 mark kept the Tigers within a score at 25-17, but the offense stalled from that point as the Jefferson defense seemed to play downhill from there.
“They got after us in the first half,” said Jefferson head coach Bub Lindeman. “We regrouped in the locker room and played well on the line both ways in the second half. We felt we were better conditioned going into the game. I think that allowed us to play more downhill in the second half.
Buzard and Wessell gave the Wildcats a double-headed monster of a running attack. Buzard ran for 148 yards while Wessell chipped in with 90. Jettinghoff threw only eight passes, but they were good enough to keep the Tiger defense honest. He completed five for 120 yards.
“I think we showed we are ready to play with some of the better teams,” Spencer said.