A Wapakoneta Redskins senior quarterback-receiver duo answered with a crushing blow of their own each time the Defiance Bulldogs delivered a shot Saturday at Harmon Field .
Wapakoneta senior quarterback Kyle Gibson connected with senior wideout Johnny Crawford on two long touchdowns — one of 60 yards and the second for 35 yards — with each score reclaiming the lead the Redskins surrendered to Defiance.
After Defiance grabbed a 7-3 lead with 1:36 left in the half, Gibson found Crawford cutting across the middle with a 60-yard touchdown pass, which caught Crawford streaking down the middle of the field and outdistancing the defenders.
“I think that play was huge because they had the momentum at that juncture and that enabled us to jump right back into the ball game,” Redskins varsity football head coach Doug Frye said after the 24-10 Western Buckeye League win. “Johnny Crawford is a playmaker and so are a lot of our kids.”
Frye admitted coaches had the match-up they wanted.
“We have been looking at that for awhile, we saw the match-up we wanted to take advantage of and we had the right offense out there,” Frye said.
Defiance varsity head coach Jerry Buti said he had the match-up with Crawford he wanted since their best defender was on him, but he was not pleased.
“It was too easy, it was effortless,” Buti said. “They ran a stop-and-go or something like and we had pressure on the quarterback finally and he throws a strike in there and that was on our best coverage guy — he leads the league in interceptions.
“The match-up was there we wanted, but it was just too easy,” he said. “The easiness of that made a difference to our team.”
In the third quarter after a 5-minute, 14-play drive ended with a Bulldog 26-yard field goal to knot the score at 10, Gibson and Crawford answered again.
Gibson drove the Redskins from their 40-yard line to the Defiance 35-yard line with 50 seconds left in the quarter when he threw a perfect sideline pass catching Crawford in stride down the Redskins’ sideline. The defender recovered only in time to trip Crawford in the end zone.
Gibson ended the game hitting 15-of-23 for 259 yards, the best performance by a Redskin quarterback since Travis Sensabaugh in 2001. He also scored on a 31-yard scamper down the Redskin sideline, navigating through Bulldog defenders near the goal to squeeze in past the pylon.
Gibson rushed 17 times for 99 yards and the one TD. He led all rushers in the game.
“If you would have told me they would have scored two touchdowns through the air like that and one on a fairly long run, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Buti said. “Their quarterback is very underrated and he throws the ball well.”
Crawford hauled in four passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns. On defense, he had an interception and two passes defended. He had a second interception overturned because of pass interference.
Sophomore Kodi Morgan proved to be Gibson’s other favorite target hauling in four passes for 36 yards. Running back Alex Greve caught three passes for 46 yards, and tight end Brandon Christler caught two passes for 48 yards.
A new target is linebacker Brandon Miller, who lined up both wide and in the slot. He caught one pass for 4 yards. Frye explained he wanted to put playmakers on the field.
“Brandon comes over every once in a while — he is just an athlete and we want him out on the field,” Frye said.
Beyond Gibson, the rushing attack until the final two drives of the game when Josh Wendel and Greve handled much of the load. Wendel gained 39 yards on seven carries and Greve rushed for 35 yards on three carries.
While the Redskins ran for 179 yards in the game, Frye, who took over as offensive coordinator after the Elida Bulldogs game, is getting more used to the fling in the wing-and-fling offense.
“With all the changes we have had, I am getting used to the spread part and we are airing it out now,” Frye said. “We also took what they gave us. We took advantage what they were being given and what we could do effectively.”
Defensively, the Redskins held the Bulldogs to 50 yards on 31 attempts. Defiance’s leading rusher was Derek Relyea with 32 yards on 14 carries.
They limited Bulldog quarterback Joe Keween to 135 yards on 13-of-26 passing. He threw for one touchdown and had one pass intercepted.
Keween directed an 11-play drive starting at the 5:58 mark to give the Bulldogs a 7-3 lead. The Redskins’ kicker Bailey Hinegardner hit a 28-yard field goal in the first quarter to give the Redskins the lead, prior to thunderstorms postponing the game from Friday night to Saturday afternoon.
Keween also played well in the drive to tie the score at 10, but Buti, who was satisfied with the effort, said he was not satisfied with the ultimate result.
“Our thought our kids played a really good game against a really good team,” Buti said. “Wapak is very under-rated and we knew that coming in and I don’t think a lot of people give them credit for a really good coaching job and for the athletes they have.
“They have a lost a couple close games otherwise they could very easily be undefeated.”
Buti said the Defiance way is not to accept moral victories but to play for real victories.
Frye praised Buti and his squad and the gut-check his team passed.
“I have great respect Jerry Buti and the Defiance team and I thought those kids played with great spirit and those kids always play that way,” Frye said. “He should be proud of that football team.
“Our kids were more resilient today, they bounced back, they played hard and I was proud of our effort.”