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Halftime adjustments led Weir’s big comeback

WEIRTON — It was what Weir High coach Tony Filberto called an “old school 50 gap stack” that turned a lackluster first half into an outstanding second half for his Red Riders in their thrilling 28-27 comeback win Friday in overtime over Frankfort.

The Falcons almost dominated the first half. Had they not lost three fumbles, it could have meant disaster for Weir High instead of building their record to 2-1 with the most thrilling win since the new Jimmy Carey Stadium opened in 2013. Frankfort out-gained the Red Riders 238 yards to 40 in the first half.

In his weekly Herald-Star/Daily Times preview, Filberto predicted the Falcons would primarily run the football. Even with the improved second half performance by the Red Riders, the Falcons amassed 485 total yards on the ground. Coach Kevin Whiteman called on senior quarterback Jansen Knotts to pass the football only twice in the game. Both were incomplete.

“We couldn’t get the adjustments in during the first half because we had so many kids going both ways on the line,” Filberto said. “It took us till halftime to get the adjustments in and we shut down their run game. We just compressed our 4-4 and brought another lineman into the line of scrimmage and I think we confused their block schemes and our kids executed.”

Another adjustment that Filberto and his staff made was inserting freshman Jamari Bass into the backfield. In his first varsity appearance, Bass had 14 carries for 41 yards and a touchdown.

“Jamari is a freshman back that did a great job,” Filberto said. “We used a couple freshmen tonight because we have a couple kids that were hurt and not capable of playing. So, we called on the next man up and our kids did it.”

They did it in thrilling style coming from a 14-0 halftime deficit to tie the game with an opportunity to win it in regulation. Senior safety Sebastian Spencer tackled Frankfort senior running back Nick Marley on a Falcon fourth down and 11 attempt with 59 seconds remaining in the game. The stop came at the Weir High 35 with 59 seconds showing on the clock.

Anthony DiMatteis, the Red Rider junior quarterback, scrambled for 18 yards to open the drive and later did it again, this time for 31 yards to the Frankfort 2 with 10 seconds left in the game. Filberto called Weir High’s final time out to set up a play.

“A pass was called there instead of going for a Reitter field goal because the ball was at the left hash mark giving him a bad angle,” Filberto said. “We thought that 10 seconds gave us plenty of time to execute a pass play and still have time for the field goal if it failed. Sebastian saw an opening and ran it but the officials didn’t think he got into the end zone.”

The Red Riders didn’t have time to kill the ball before the clock expired sending the game into overtime.

“A pass was called, but I thought I saw a lane,” Spencer said. “I made a mistake there. It wasn’t the smartest play. I should have gotten rid of the ball, but I had to make up for it in overtime.”

In the end, he did. Frankfort won the toss to start the overtime and elected to have Weir High get the ball first from the Falcon 20-yard line. After a couple of runs by Bass and Spencer netted just four yards, Spencer hit Gillette with a 10-yard pass for the first down at the Frankfort six. On the next play, Spencer started up the middle, cut to his right and with his speed, out-ran the Falcon defense to the corner of the end zone. Again, Reitter split the uprights giving Weir High a 28-21 lead.

On the Frankfort turn with the ball from the 20, Marley blasted for runs of 13 and 6 yards to put the it at the 1. The Rider defense stuffed Knotts on a sneak attempt, but Marley found a hole over the right side of his line for the touchdown that cut the lead to 28-27.

Frankfort coach Kevin Whiteman elected to go for the win rather than use his sure-footed kicker junior Brady Aldridge, who had kicked three conversion points after touchdowns. A successful boot would have sent the game to a second overtime.

He called on Marley for his 30th carry of the game, but he couldn’t escape a swarm of Red Riders led by junior Ethan Cummins. Marley finished the game with a total of 216 yards on the ground with three touchdowns.

Talking about the second half comeback, perhaps senior Mike Zias said it best.

“Honestly, we just realized we got to go,” he said. “So we just dug deep and between huddles kept saying let’s keep it up, keep the pressure on them. On defense we made a few adjustments at halftime and we kind of tore them up with it. I mean the last play of the game, we ran the exact adjustment we made and stopped them.”

Weir High opened the second half with a 15-play, nearly six-minute drive that ended when Spencer put them on the scoreboard with a four-yard dash through the left side of his line. Gage Reitter added the extra point cutting Frankfort’s halftime lead in half at 14-7.

“I think it was our toughness and grit,” Spencer said about the second half comeback. “We were down at the half and we had done it before so we knew how to make a second half comeback. We said if they can put up 14 points, we can put up double that so I think it was our determination.”

Frankfort’s senior tight end/quarterback, Jansen Knotts partially blocked a Elijah Gillette punt from the Falcon 42 and two plays later Marley broke through the middle and dashed 56 yards for a touchdown that could have broke the back of the Red Riders. The Aldridge boot put his team up 21-7 going into the fourth quarter.

Undaunted, the Red Riders came back with the help of a Frankfort personal foul penalty on a Gillette punt. That gave the Riders a first down at the Falcon 33 and four plays later, Spencer faded to pass, found no one open, tucked the ball and zigzagged through the Frankfort defense, 33 yards to paydirt. Reitter’s kick made it 21-14.

On the next Falcon possession, the Red Rider defense forced Frankfort’s only punt of the game with the ball going out of bounds at the Weir High 45.

Sparked by a Spencer to Anthony DiMatteis pass of 42 yards to the Falcon 2, the Riders tied the game as the 170-pound Bass plunged through right guard for the first touchdown of his promising high school career. Reitter was true on his kick tying the game at 21 with 4:10 left on the clock.

The Red Riders take their 2-1 record and modest two-game win streak to Keyser next week.

Weir High 28, Frankfort 27

Frankfort 7-7-7-0-6 — 27

Weir High 0-0-7-14-7 — 28

F: Blank 29 run (Aldrige kick)

F: Marley 21 run (Aldrige kick)

W: Spencer 11 run (Reitter kick)

F: Marley 44 (Aldrige kick)

W: Spencer 33 run (Reitter kick)

W: Bass 1 run (Reitter kick)

W: Spencer 6 (Reitter kick)

F: Marley 1 (run failed)

RUSHING: Frankfort: 56-311- 4 (Marley 30-216-3td; Moreland 1-13; Blank 8-39; Shanholtz 13-30; Knotts 4-13). Weir High: 30-205-4td (Spencer 15-97-3td; Bass 14-41-1td; Walters 4-12; DiMatteis 6-57; Yobaggy 1-(-2).

PASSING: Frankfort: 0-2-0 (all by Knotts). Weir High: 10-20-103 (Spencer 8-17-89; DiMatteis 2-3-14).

RECEIVING: Frankfort: (0-0) Weir High: (Yobaggy 1-13; Gillette 6–43; Walters 1-0; Reitter 1-5).

FIRST DOWNS: Frankfort: 16; Weir High: 13.

FUMBLES-LOST: Frankfort: 2-2; Weir High: 3-3.

PENALTIES: Frankfort 9-84; Weir High 3-25.

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