|08-19 | 10:00 am|
|08-25 | F|
|09-01 | F|
|09-07 | F|
|09-15 | F|
|09-22 | F/OT|
|09-29 | F|
|10-06 | F|
|10-13 | F|
|10-20 | F|
|10-27 | F|
By: Ed Weaver / October 26, 2013
The Wellsboro Varsity football team used great defensive play and forced three turnovers to defeat the Black Knights 21-14 Friday night.
The win keeps Wellsboro's undefeated season alive at 9-0 (4-0 NTL Division 1), and ties the 1995 team's single-season win record of 9 wins. The win was also the Hornets first over Towanda since 1997, when Russ Manney was head coach.
Friday's game started off in the Hornets' favor, as they used an 8-play drive highlighted by a 29 yard run by Senior Wyatt Covert to jump out to an early 7-0 lead following Junior Jack Chambers' extra point.
On Towanda's opening drive, Black Knights moved the ball behind runs from Quarterback Noah Huff and Tony Daniello down inside the Hornets' red zone. The Wellsboro defense stepped up the first time, holding the Black Knights on a 4th-and-goal from inside the one-yard line to keep them out of the end zone.
That defensive stand sparked another Wellsboro touchdown drive. Following a short run by Covert, Senior Running Back Jermain Brooks broke a 76 yard run to get the Hornets to Towanda's 22-yard line. Two plays later, Junior Quarterback Michael Pietropola threw his first touchdown pass of the night to Junior Kieron Smethers for a 19 yard gain. The score put the Hornets up 14-0.
The Black Knights didn't break. Instead, the used multiple runs by Dan Leljedal and Huff to wear out the Hornets defense. After an 11-play drive capped off by a 29 yard run by Daniello, the Black Nights trailed Wellsboro 14-7. The Knights answered right back and shut down the Hornets' offense and forced a punt, to tie the game at 14-14 on a 36 yard run by Leljedal.
The high-powered Wellsboro offense stalled for the end of the second quarter and early third as Towanda used multiple running plays to grind down the Wellsboro defense. After failing to get off the field on two 4th down Towanda conversions, Senior Dylan Prough interecepted a Huff pass to get the Hornets the football back.
Both teams traded short drives following that turnover before the defense forced a bad punt snap and dropped Tyler Vanderpool for a big 19-yard loss. On the next play, the Hornets scored their final touchdown as Pietropola found Senior Brandon Owlett for a 25 yard touchdown.
Towanda mounted a 7-play drive after that but were forced to punt on 4th-and-19 as time was winding down in the fourth quarter. The Hornets got the ball back and kept the clock running with Covert runs, but fond themselves with a 4th-and-2 with just under two minutes remaining. Instead of punting the ball back to Towanda, head coach Matt Hildebrand dialed up a fake punt run by Sophomore Anthony Cooper to get the first down to keep the ball with the Hornets.
"The guys did a great job on that fourth down play," Hildebrand said. "The players said coach, we know we can get it. Let's put this game away right now.
"It wasn't something I planned on calling when we talked to them during the timeout, but the kids let us know what type of front Towanda was playing, and I had trust in them to execute."
That play was almost for naught as Wellsboro would turn the ball over on downs to Towanda with just under a minute remaining, but the stingy Wellsboro defense forced the final turnover when Owlett made a jarring tackle to knock the ball loose from a Towanda receiver and right into the arms of Covert.
"Towanda did a great job of slowing our offense down tonight," continued Hildebrand. "We talked to the kids during halftime to keep fighting and our conditioning gave us the upper hand down in the final minutes.
"The offense has got a lot of attention for us this year, but the defense has played huge. The second half turnovers were the key to the game to keep the ball away from Towanda."
Offesnsively, Pietropola was 8-13 passing for 87 yards and two touchdowns. Brooks led the team on the ground with 80 yards on three carries. Covert added 59 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown, and Owlett and Smethers each caught three passes for 46 and 38 yards, respectively.
On the defensive side Senior Brian Doty had 22 tackles (12 solo) to lead the team, and good enough for third all-time in a game in the Wellsboro Football Record Books*. Covert added 14 tackles, a sack, and interception, Junior Michael Brostrom added 11 tackles, and Smethers recorded 2 sacks on the night.
"The defense stepped up big tonight," Pietropola said. "We all pushed ourselves on both sides of the ball all night and battled through adversity.
"We haven't been in this situation before and it's a good experience for us heading down the road to Districts," Pietropola finished.
The Hornets now face rival North Penn in the annual Morton F. Jones Trophy game. The squad is looking to keep the trophy for back-to-back seasons after they defeated the Panthers 24-13 in 2012.
"Right now we have a share of the league and we have one game to play and we hope after that we can have the NTL all to ourselves," continued Hildebrand. "We started this journey back in week one and now it's time to finish the job. We know North Penn will come in ready to knock us off, but this game is more than a trophy for us, it's the entire league."
Kickoff for next week's game will be at 7:00 p.m. over at Blossburg's Island Park, with the trophy presentation following.
* - Records may not be accurate to date due to incomplete stats. If you know of a record not currently listed on this page, or have game statistics or film from previous years, please contact us.