Edison stood tall in Toronto

UNDER PRESSURE — Toronto’s Caleb Leasure throws just in time past Edison’s Levi Waggoner on Friday. (Photo by Andrew Grimm)

TORONTO — A close football game usually comes down to one team making a big play on the defensive side of the ball. With the lead on the line late in the game, the Edison defense made four of them consecutively.

The Wildcats hung on to win Friday night’s rivalry game against Toronto, 25-24, to improve to 2-1 on the season. But, if not for those four plays, it could have ended much different.

With the score at 25-22, the Red Knights had the ball on the Edison 1-yard line after a 54-yard run by Kobe Herrick. On first and second down, sophomore quarterback Caleb Leasure ran a quarterback sneak, and both times he was met and stopped at the line of scrimmage. One third down, Herrick tried the right side on a handoff and, like Leasure, was met and dropped by Edison defenders at the 1. On fourth-and-goal, Tristan Thomas lost a yard, and the Wildcats took over.

“Our defense played phenomenal at the end of the game,” Edison coach Shane O’Brien said. “They were running the ball on us all night long. We had no answer and couldn’t stop them. That’s a huge credit to them. They played a great game, but our defense came up big when we needed them to most.

“Those guys stepped up when the time got tough, and that is exactly what we trained them to do. I am proud of every one of those guys.”

The prospective was much different for Toronto coach Josh Franke, who saw his team lose to a rival inside Clark Hinkle Stadium for the second time in his short coaching tenure at his alma mater.

“This one is on me,” he said. “You have the ball four downs on the 1-yard line. We tried to run a 120-pound quarterback twice and tried to run to the right side of our line where we had a backup in. We meant to call a toss play, and it got miscommunicated into a trap. It is one of those things I am going to beat myself up for the rest of my life.

“It was bad play-calling in a key situation. It’s an awful feeling because you cost your kids who fought their tails off the game. As a coach, that is one of the worst things you can ever do. It was a great game that people are going to talk about for a long time but, unfortunately, we came out on the wrong side of it.”

Winning the rivalry in just his third game at the helm is something that had O’Brien — who has now both played and coached in the rivalry — excited.

“It was definitely exciting,” he said. “It is awesome. It is amazing here. It was a huge crowd with a lot of familiar faces. This is what Friday night football is all about. It does not get any better than this.”

The game was far from over after the key stop, though. The Wildcats went three-and-out, Toronto used it’s three timeouts and punter Noah Woods, as instructed by the sideline, ran out of the back of the end zone for a safety with 1:45 left on the clock, making it a one-point game.

After the kick, Toronto got the ball near midfield with 1:43 to work with for one last chance. It came down to a fourth-and-14, and Leasure was flushed from the pocket and brought down after a gain of 5, 9 yards short of the line. Edison took over and ran out the remaining time, with a pair of kneel downs in victory formation to seal the deal.

Another key moment for the Wildcats was the opening drive of the second half, during which Edison drove 73 yards on 19 plays, churning 8:59 off the clock, overcoming six penalties and converting multiple fourth downs to pull within 14-13 (the extra point missed) after Toronto led 14-7 at the half.

Edison converted a fourth-and-19 with a 22-yard Anthony Sinicropi pass to Tyler Shrieve. On fourth-and-goal from the 1, junior tailback Kaleb Waggoner plunged into the end zone.

“We tried to make the right adjustments at halftime, and we knew that drive to start the second half was going to be a big one,” O’Brien said. “It really set the tone for the second half. It was close to a nine-minute drive. It really helped get the confidence back.”

Waggoner led the way with 107 yards and three scores, and was happy to come out on top in the rivalry.

“It feels great,” Waggoner said. “It is a big rivalry, and we came out and played hard. It was a big night for me, but it was all because of the line. We have the best student section in the valley. It was great to look up there and see them so excited.”

The next Toronto possession yielded another key moment. After a holding penalty and a personal foul brought up a third-and-36, the ensuing punt proved to be even more costly. A bad snap led to a pile on, and punter Trent Wright, also a senior offensive lineman, recovered the ball at the 25. In the midst of it, however, he was assessed a personal foul and an ejection, putting Edison on the 10. Waggoner raced into the end zone on the very next play to give the Wildcats a 19-14 lead on the first snap of the fourth quarter.

“He is out punter, kicker, starting right guard and linebacker,” Franke said of Wright. “He is kind of an intrecal part of the team. He was a big part of the reason our run game was so successful. When you lose a key player like that who is a senior and leader, that is going to hurt you.”

Herrick gave the Red Knights the lead back with 8:46 to go with a 17-yard run, a Zack Stackhouse conversion run making the score 22-19. Sinicropi answered right back, though, scampering in from 5 yards out to make it 25-22 after the kick was blocked.

Sinicropi finished 8 of 11 passing for 86 yards and ran the ball 12 times for 63 yards and the go-ahead score.

“He is great player,” O’Brien said of Sinicropi. “He is a competitor and competitors make great plays when you need them to. It doesn’t matter if we ask him to pass or to run — he does whatever it takes to run.”

Leasure, who started for a second straight week in place of the injured Nate Karaffa, finished 4 of 8 for 27 yards and a touchdown, adding 25 yards on eight carries. Herrick finished with 114 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries.

The Wildcats return home on Friday night to face Catholic Central. Toronto goes on the road to face Southern Local.

Edison 25, Toronto 24

Edison 7-0-6-12 — 25

Toronto 7-7-0-10 — 24

T: Sninchak 6 pass from Leasure (Wright kick), 4:32

E: Waggoner 2 run (Montgomery kick), 1:21

T: Stackhouse 3 run (Wright kick), :21

E: Waggoner 1 run (kick failed), 3:01

E: Waggoner 10 run (pass failed), 11:52

T: Herrick 17 run (Stackhouse run), 8:46

E: Sinicropi 5 run (kick blocked), 5:47

T: Safety, 1:45

RUSHING: Edison 36-213-4 (Waggoner 16-107-3); Sinicropi 12-63-1; Clifton 4-36; Shrieve 2-7; Griffith 1-0; McAfoose 1-0). Toronto 52-287-2 (Herrick 17-114-1; Dozier 14-97; Thomas 9-50; Leasure 8-25; Stackhouse 4-18-1; Wright 1-(-17)).

PASSING: Edison 8-11-86-0-0 (all by Sinicropi). Toronto 5-10-31-1-0 (Leasure 4-8-27-1; Wright 1-1-4; Stackhouse 0-1-0).

RECEIVING: Edison 8-86-0 (McAfoose 3-34; Shrieve 2-26; Waggoner 1-13; Higgs 1-8; Woods 1-5). Toronto 5-31-1 (Sninchak 2-10-1; Fulton 1-12; Stackhouse 1-7; Dozier 1-2).

FIRST DOWNS: Edison 10; Toronto 18.

PENALTIES-YARDS: Edison 9-75; Toronto 9-95.

PUNTS: Edison 0; Toronto 1-37.

FUMBLES-LOST: Edison 0-0; Toronto 2-0.