Tigers tame Red Knights
WELLSVILLE – The Wellsville football team won its 13th-straight home football game on Friday night with a 24-7 win over Toronto.
That streak doesn’t matter to Tigers coach Rich Wright. The past in the past. As far the second-year leader is concerned, the streak is just at one game for the 2014 campaign.
“Is that what he is now, 13?” he said after downing the Red Knights. “I do know we like to play here. All that matters is we started the season off with a win.”
Nicholson Field was once home to Toronto coach Eric Meek, but lately its been a house of horrors for his team.
“We got out-played; probably out-coached,” said Meek, who spent eight years as the Tigers’ head coach in the late 1990s. “I’m disappointed, but I’m not going to give up on these kids. We’re going to get better.”
Toronto has fallen in the openers of the past two seasons, both to Wellsville. Two touchdowns on back-to-back possessions in the first quarter ensured The Tigers of a third consecutive triumph over the Red Knights.
“We knew we were in for a challenge and we had to play our best,” Wright said.
Joven Householder and Donnie Starkey helped recover a fumble on the first possession, but Wellsville opened the scoring on a 14-yard pass from Alik Bradford to Frank Jackson at the 3:34 mark. After stopping Toronto on its ensuing possession, Zack Mellott ran 76 yards for a score on the first and only play of the Tigers’ next possession.
The Red Knights defense forced back-to-back three-and-outs before getting on the board on a Blaze Glenn six-yard run at the 1:40 mark of the second quarter to take a 12-7 score into halftime.
When asked if he thought the tide was turning in Toronto’s favor, Meek said, “absolutely.”
“We sure thought so,” he said. “That’s why we deferred (on the coin flip). We wanted the ball first in the second half. Coming in at half, 12-7, I felt pretty confident. I thought we were going to do some things and get ahead.”
The Red Knights did get the ball after half, but gave it right away after a botched hand-off was recovered by Tigers defensive end Xavier Washington on the first play of the third quarter.
Glenn was able to settle in at quarterback after the mishap, completing his first three passes of the second half. The junior finished 13 of 28 through the air, amassing 179 yards. His longest was a first quarter, 41-yard bomb to Ty West. Charles Ross III caught four passes for 51 yards and Drew Lowery caught three for 10 yards.
Danny Zdinak, Donnie Starkey, Blaine Rawson and Nate Stewart also caught passes from Glenn. The running game was certainly not as efficient as the passing game.
Toronto was limited to just 16 rushing yards on 25 attempts. The Tigers made nine tackles for a loss.
“I didn’t expect that,” Meek said. “Not to make an excuse, but we had a big senior tackle and three sophomores and a freshman on the line – they’re going to be good, they just need to keep working.”
Meanwhile, the Wellsville ground attack was powerful.
Zack Mellott led a unit that totaled 327 yards on 43 attempts with 123 yards, himself. He ran for a 26-yard score early in the fourth quarter, then Bradford capped the scoring later with an 81-yard touchdown. Bradford, the junior quarterback, finished with 163 yards on 23 carries. He was also 2 of 7 passing for 41 yards.
“We got beat in a lot of areas,” Meek said, “probably every thing but maybe special teams.”
The Red Knights did stop the Tigers on all four of their two-point conversion attempts. Freshman punter Nolan Clegg also booted a 40-yard punt late in the fourth quarter after the long snap got away from him. Clegg was able to secure the ball, run seven yards away from a defender and kick it downfield with his left foot.
Glenn hobbled for some of the second half, but remained in except for the final minute when backup Blaine Rawson took over in the final two minutes. Tigers fullback and linebacker Vinny Giordano also fought through injuries.
“Those are two warriors giving their all and showing some heart,” Wright said.
Ross III went down late in the fourth quarter “with some cramps,” Meek offered.
“We won’t play anybody if they’re hurt, obviously,” Meek said.
Wellsville will play Youngstown Christian at Poland High School next week, while the Red Knights look to bounce back on the road at Bridgeport.