Riders slip past Bears

NEW MANCHESTER – The battle for football supremacy in Hancock County had a little bit of everything Friday night – excitement, drama and emotion – as Weir High and Oak Glen fought it out right down to the final ticks on the clock with the Red Riders holding on for a 27-23 come-from-behind victory.

There is an old saying in sports that streaks follow streaks and the Weir High football team is living up to that adage. The win gives the Red Riders three in a row after opening the season with three straight losses that added to a winless 2012 season. Meanwhile, the Golden Bears were left winless in six games.

The Red Riders came from behind three times with the last one coming with 1:31 left in the game. The Golden Bears, though, marched right down the field and had first-and-goal at the Weir High 5-yard line with 45 seconds remaining in the game.

But the Red Rider defense stepped up to stop the Golden Bears on four plays to take possession of the ball on downs with just 24.7 seconds left.

“We told our kids to continue to play and continue to battle and that good things would happen,” said a jubilant Tony Filberto, Weir High coach, after his team accepted the coveted Carl R. Hamill Memorial Trophy on the field following the game. “And they did there at the end.”

The Riders were led by sophomore running back, Kameron Davis, who introduced a new wrinkle to his team’s offense running the “wildcat” package. Davis carried the ball 15 times in the game for 141 yards and two touchdowns.

“That was just part of the package,” Filberto explained. “Going in our quarterback, William Larch, was hurt and unable to play (Larch sustained a knee injury a week ago against Liberty Harrison), so we wanted to take some of the burden off of our backup quarterback Jake Wypasek. We went with some wildcat with Matt Hartman sitting in there at running back and Kam did a great job with it and so did Hartman.

“And Wypasek did an outstanding job He ran our football team. That’s what we asked him to do and he did a great job of it.”

But it came down to the Weir High defense in the final seconds of the game and they came through.

“Our defense made some minor adjustments after Oak Glen got the early lead, but they weren’t much to talk about. Our kids just played hard, that’s all.”

Oak Glen had scored with 4:22 left in the game when sophomore quarterback Zac Porter circled left end with a keeper from 19 yards out and senior Colton Speece kicked the extra point. That put the Golden Bears ahead 23-20.

The Red Riders put together a 10 play drive that resulted in Hartman plowing over left tackle from the 4.

But on the play before that, Hartman’s number was called over the left side on a 3rd down and two play from the Oak Glen 12. Hartman was hit when he got to the 10 and coughed up the football, but it went directly to Wypasek, who was trailing the play after handing the ball off.

Wypasek caught the ball as if it were lateralled to him and made it to the Oak Glen four giving the Riders a first down.

Oak Glen, riding a four-game winning streak in this annual rivalry game, scored on its first two possessions of the game to arm themselves with a 13-0 lead.

The first score was a 14-yard sweep to the left by sophomore Alec Swiger, who was Oak Glen’s workhorse back gaining 110 yards with 22 carries.

When Weir High went three-and-out on its next possession, Davis shanked a punt from his own 9-yard line that went out of bounds at the Weir 31.

Five plays later, Porter found Speece with a pass that the senior wide receiver took away from a Red Rider defender in the end zone. Speece is the Golden Bear place kicker and his kick after Oak Glen’s first touchdown was blocked, but he split the uprights following his 22-yard touchdown reception.

The Red Riders responded quickly with a score of their own 38 with 45 seconds left in the first quarter. Davis, running the Wildcat for the first time, started the scoring drive from his own 7-yard line with runs of 15 and 16 yards to get the ball out to the 38. After junior Jonathan Rice’s run was thwarted by the Golden Bear defense for no gain, Davis faked to Rice and burst up the middle for a 62-yard touchdown scamper. Alyssa Shingle booted the extra point making the score 13-7.

Earlier in the week, Oak Glen coach, Ian Whittington, who was not available for post game interviews, said his team needed to control the football and eliminate costly penalties that had plagued his Golden Bears especially that last two games that ended in Oak Glen shutouts.

His team did the former running 60 plays to 49 for Weir High, but continued to have difficulties with the penalties incurring nine of them for 90 yards.

The two teams settled down for a defensive struggle through the second quarter and most of the third. Weir High capitalized on an Oak Glen fumble at the Golden Bear 48 and drove from there in six plays scoring on a nifty reverse.

The Red Riders had the ball with second down at the Oak Glen 12 when Davis handed off to Rice, who gave it to senior wide receiver, Clarence Bennett, darting back the other way. The maneuver caught the Oak Glen defense by surprise and when Shingle kicked her second extra point of the game, the Riders had a 14-13 lead going into the fourth quarter.

On its next possession, the Golden Bears’ Aaron Gray, a sophomore special teams member, hauled in Shingle’s kickoff at his own 35 and raced down the sideline finally being hauled down on the Red Rider 26.

The Bears attempted three runs without getting a first down so Speece booted a 35-yard field goal to arm his team with a 16-14 lead with 9:47 left in the game.

But the Weir High offense didn’t waste any time getting the lead back. Swiger kicked off for Oak Glen and Davis pulled in the football at his own 18 and raced 62 yards to the Golden Bear 20 where he was knocked out of bounds by Swiger.

Two plays later, Davis took the snap and burst up the middle for a 22-yard touchdown. A run for the two-point conversion failed, but the Riders had the lead back at 20-16.

The Golden Bears drove to the Weir High 38 on its next possession and as Porter was running the football he fumbled it forward with Bennett finally falling on it at his own 12-yard line.

Two plays into the possession, Weir High’s Wypasek fumbled the football and it was recovered by Oak Glen freshman defensive back, Lance Collins, at the Red Rider 22.

Swiger ran for two yards and on the next play Porter’s 19-yard touchdown and Speece’s kick put the Golden Bears up by three at 23-20 and set the stage for the dramatic finish.

Weir High remains on the road next week with a visit to Magnolia while the Golden Bears continue the home stand with a visit from undefeated Class A power, Williamstown.