WAYNESFIELD — All week, Waynesfield-Goshen head coach Gary Spencer said that Friday's contest with Sidney Lehman would likely come down to how the Tigers strength, matched up against the Cavaliers strength, their defense.
"Something had to give," Spencer said.
It was the Cavaliers defense that won out in a convincing 21-7 win. A week after Waynesfield seemingly had emerged as the team to beat for the NWCC title, Lehman came in with its best performance of the season to throw the conference race into a free-for-all.
"It is not often you get second chances," Lehman head coach Dick Roll said after the game. "This was our second chance. You don't get a second second chance. This is the best game we have played in two years. This is the type of football we like to play.
The Lehman team looked small coming out of the locker room, boasting only six guys not heir roster that even touched the 200-pound mark. But they packed a punch like 300-pound all-pros over the entire course of the game.
"Watching films I was worried about this team all week," Spencer said. Fort Loramie beat them 35-0, but you couldn't tell it watching the film. Lehman fumbled four time when they were close to scoring. They came in here tonight and hit harder and played harder. They brought it to us.
After it had seemed the Tigers had solved their turnovers woes from its early season games by not turning over the ball last week, they reverted to their old ways, turning the ball over six times. Quarterback Garret Miller was intercepted five times and the Tiger fumbled three times, losing the ball once. The turned the ball over not heir first three possessions and netted only 21 yards of offense.
"We are not a team that can turn the ball over that much and get away with it with our style of play," Spencer said.
After punting on their next possession, it seemed the Tigers may have finally broken out of their slump on their fourth possession. Miller hit receivers for two long passes, a 21-yarder to Eli O' Leary and then a 56-yard scoring toss to Lee Turner that gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead to take into halftime. For a half, the Tigers had survived a half in which they turned the ball over four times and and punted twice in seven possessions.
However, on Lehman's second drive of the second half they were able to take advantage of good field position to tie the score. Starting on the Waynesfield 46-yard line, Andrew Girardi and John Husa took turns tearing off chunks of ground yardage on an 11-play drive that took up more than seven mints of the clock.
After forcing Waynesfield to punt after six plays, Lehman used the quick method for their second score when Nick Rourke hit Andrew Westerheide for a 64-yard pass to make it 13-7.
Waynesfield drove the ball down the field on the ensuing possession to the Cavalier 39-yard line, but Husa's interception thwarted the drive. Lehman ran off another four minutes that climaxed with a Girardi eight-yard score.
Lehman's Mitch Slater intercepted the ball not he first play of the answering drive to seal it for Lehman.
Spencer said his team simply just has to bounce back from the performance and get ready for Ridgemont for next week's game. Ridgemont has been the surprise of the NWCC, sporting the league's best mark at 5-1. They are tied in a three-way lead with the Tigers and Fort Loramie at 2-1 in the league while Fairbanks and Perry are a half-game behind at 1-1.
"I told the kids in the locker room that this one is over and they have to get over it in their minds," Spencer said. "I hope it hurts a little so they get back to doing what they need to do.
The Cavaliers were the first team to keep Tiger running back Gabe Hennon under 100 yards, as he was held to 83 yards on 19 carries. The Tigers 154 total yards was by far their lowest output this season.
The Cavaliers, however, had no problems moving the ball. Gilardi ran for 143 yards and Rouurke passed for 123 as Lehman finished with 328 total yards.