FOOTBALL: Wapak remains unbeaten

The Wapakoneta Redskins used a second-quarter outburst to take a three-touchdown lead, then took advantage of Celina miscues to preserve a 41-20 win over the Bulldogs in a Western Buckeye League football game Friday night at Harmon Field.
Wapak remained undefeated at 4-0 on the season and 3-0 in the WBL.
“We won. That’s positive,” Wapak coach Doug Frye said. “We didn’t turn the ball over. That’s positive. The rest of it needs a heck of a lot of work if we’re going to be any good.”
With the scored tied at 6-6 after the first quarter, Wapak scored on all three of its second-quarter possessions to take a 27-6 lead into the half.
Celina (0-4, 0-3 WBL) lost two fumbles inside the Redskins’ 3-yard line in the third quarter.
“That’s awful,” Celina coach Jared Rolfes said.
How costly were the Bulldogs’ turnovers? Consider this — they scored on every possession in the second half, except the two fumbles.
And those came on top of another red-zone fumble in the first quarter and an interception in the second.
Senior running back Connor Pickens rushed for 191 yards on 33 carries (5.8 per carry) with four touchdowns to bring his season total to 10.
And perhaps the most encouraging number for Pickens: after fumbling four times in Week 3 he didn’t put the ball on the turf once Friday night.
Pickens carried the ball on Wapak’s first four plays from scrimmage as the Redskins marched 52 yards on nine plays, scoring on a 10-yard run by Josh Windle.
Kicker Bailey Hinegardner hooked the extra point wide-left and Wapak led 6-0.
Celina responded with an eight-play, 77-yard drive capped with a 14-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Braden Billger to Derek Waterman. But Windle blocked the PAT, his second of the year, to keep the score tied at 6-6.
“We played a little harder after that and got after it a little bit,” Frye said. “We’re still riding the roller coaster here a bit and I’m not real happy about that.”
The two teams traded turnovers and terrible punts until Wapak cranked out a 13-play, — all runs — 75-yard scoring drive. Pickens carried the ball eight times on the drive and punched it in from three yards out to put Wapak on top 13-6.
After a Celina three-and-out, Pickens added his second three-yard touchdown run to make it 20-6.
Three plays later, Wapak linebacker Brandon Miller picked off Billger’s pass over the middle and returned it 28 yards to the Celina 14.
On a third-and-goal from the 2, quarterback Kyle Gibson and halfback Kevin Kraft, who had just been moved over from wide receiver this week, had a miscommunication on a handoff. The ball squibbed into the end zone, where Gibson dove on top of it for the third Wapak touchdown of the quarter.
Kraft, who has produced some of the most exciting plays of the season for Wapak, replaced Jensen Merricle at halfback and made his presence felt. He rushed for 56 yards on nine carries and had a key upfield block on Pickens’ 43-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
“You’re going to see a lot more of him in different ways,” Frye said.
The high-octane Bulldogs, who came into the night averaging 30 points a game, had little trouble moving the ball, picking up 20 first downs.
Billger was ultra-efficient, completing 82.5 percent of his passes (33 of 40) for 302 yards and three touchdowns.
On the second play of the third quarter, Billger hit Eric Welch down the right sideline for a 53-yard touchdown to close to within two scores, 27-13.
But that momentum was short lived.
Connor Metz returned the ensuing kickoff to the Celina 45 and on second-and-eight Pickens broke two tackles, bounced outside and raced 43 yards to make it 34-13.
Then the wheels really fell off for the Bulldogs as they watched back-to-back sustained drives end in disaster just shy of the goal line.
“It’s 34-27 if we get the ball in the end zone,” Rolfes said.
“We’re doing some little things to win,” Frye said. “We did a better job taking care of the football tonight. It just seems like when we get one thing cleaned up, we’re working on something else. I’m used to pretty good football and I’m not overly pleased right now.”
Pickens’ fourth touchdown, another 3-yarder, made it 41-13 with 6:59 to play.
Billger added one more touchdown, an 8-yarder to Zach Hembree, with 3:05 to play. But it was too little, too late.
There was an extended injury timeout early in the fourth quarter. Celina’s David Giesige lay on the turf for several minutes and was taken of the field on a stretcher and to a Lima hospital. The initial report was “spinal tenderness and a concussion,” Rolfes said.
Celina is 0-4 on the season, 0-3 in the WBL.