PDT Sports Writer
NELSONVILLE — There were more than a few differences between Wheelersburg and Columbus Bishop Hartley in Saturday night’s Division V, Region 17 Championship.
One was looking for its first trip to the state semifinals since 1998 while the other was still on the path for its second state title in four years. Another was the size and talent lining up on the opposite sides of the ball.
Unfortunately, the Pirates’ chances to advance to the final four came to a halt Saturday night as the Hawks, behind Sam Mackowiak’s 240 yards on 24 carries and five touchdowns, proved to be too much in a 42-20 outcome.
“They just did a great job of working inside (and) outside,” Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward said. “When we felt like we were stopping some things inside, they got outside on us and made some big plays. We were trying to counteract that outside and they were obviously pounding it inside, we just couldn’t get them stopped.”
Last week, the Pirates rolled the dice on their first kickoff against Martins Ferry and succeeded with an onside kick. Saturday, Wheelersburg almost went 2-for-2 on the start but Hartley recovered on its 49. The Hawks chewed up 51 yards on seven plays and took the only lead they needed on a 2-yard run by Mackowiak.
Woodward felt the reasoning was to create opportunities.
“We coached our kids up all week to be ready for that and an opportunity posed itself,” Woodward said.
Christian Ellis mimicked Mackowiak on the Pirates’ first response with a 2-yard touchdown run. However, the snap between Tristan Browning and Travis Sifford went awry and his pass for the 2-point conversion failed.
Mackowiak expanded the lead to 14-6 with 2:15 on a 7-yard plunge. Wheelersburg was in the process of answering but Jordan Howard was ruled to have fumbled the ball on the Hawks 31 with a second left in the quarter.
“We’ve got to take that blow and respond,” Woodward said. “We’ve got to make sure we don’t cough the ball up at any time at this level of play.”
The turnover proved costly for the Pirates as Mackowiak found pay dirt for the third time in the half, this time on a 25-yard run as he was relatively untouched. At the half, he had 147 yards on 15 carries.
“We were trying to throw everything but the kitchen sink at them as best as we could,” Woodward said. “It just didn’t happen for us tonight.”
Wheelersburg’s second turnover came on its ensuing possession. A jet sweep by Austin May transitioned into a halfback pass but the strong winds knocked the ball down and allowed Hartley’s Alanzo Saxton to intercept it in the end zone.
Quri Hickman entered the scoring column with a 1-yard dive. Needing a score, the Pirates started on the Hawk 46 thanks to a Dylan Miller return with 3:14 remaining.
But while Eddie Miller finished with 69 yards rushing in the first half, he needed that 70th yard to trim into the 28-6 deficit going into the locker room. His run on the last play of the half was stopped right on the goal line.
“We knew that we were doing things right offensively and moving the football, it just wasn’t meant to be tonight,” Woodward said. “Those little things you’ve got to have go your way in the game didn’t go for us.”
Wheelersburg was able to punch the ball in on its opening possession of the second half thanks to a 1-yard run by Camron Parsley but Daylor Lewis’ kick on the extra point bounced off the upright.
Mackowiak extended the lead to 35-12 on a 56-yard run, his longest of the night. The Pirates responded with a 5-yard run by Ellis and Eddie Miller kept the 2-point conversion to bring the score to 35-20 with 1:25 left in the third.
Dylan Miller was able to recover his own onside kick but Wheelersburg was unable to capitalize when Saxton came up with his second interception on the night on the first play of the fourth quarter. Mackowiak capped the night on a 1-yard run with 5:55 to go.
Wheelersburg will now look to find those who filled the production of 10 seniors off this roster. Eddie Miller finished his high school career with 110 yards on 23 carries and was 7-of-10 passing for 55 yards and an interception.
The Pirates will also lose Ellis, Parsley, Sifford, Dylan Miller, Tyler Claxon, Sam Robinson, Conner Stone, Michael Staggs and Tim Adkins to graduation.
“They’ve been impact players for us for a number of years and have laid a ground work for the kids below them to really set the stage for the Wheelersburg football team,” Woodward said. “I’m so thankful for them for that.”
Cody Leist can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking sports news, follow Cody on Twitter @CodyLeist.
W 6 0 13 0 — 20
H 14 14 7 7 — 42
H — Mackowiak 2 run (Barringer kick) 9:02
W — Ellis 2 run (pass failed) 5:22
H — Mackowiak 7 run (Barringer kick) 2:15
H — Mackowiak 25 run (Barringer kick) 9:16
H — Hickman 1 run (Barringer kick) 3:26
W — Parsley 1 run (kick failed) 7:10
H — Mackowiak 56 run (Barringer kick) 5:31
W — Ellis 5 run (E. Miller rush) 1:25
H — Mackowiak 1 run (Barringer kick) 5:55
First Downs 20 27
Rush Att.-Yds. 54-235 50-405
Pass Att.-Comp.-Int. 7-11-2 2-2-0
Pass Yds. 55 29
Total Yds. 260 434
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 0-0
Turnovers 3 0
Penalties-Yds. 3-36 6-65
Punts-Avg. 0-0 0-0
RUSHING: W — E. Miller 23-110, Ellis 22-92, May 3-15, Parsley 2-4, Howard 1-5, D. Miller 1-3, McAllister 1-2; H — Mackowiak 24-240, Hickman 15-66, Saxton 7-63, Mercier 3-39, Brandewie 1-(-1), Smith-Davis 1-(-3).
PASSING: W — E. Miller 7-10-1 55, May 0-1-1 0; H — Brandewie 2-2-0 29.
RECEIVING: W — Claxon 3-26, D. Miller 2-16, May 2-13; W — Saxton 2-29.
Records — Wheelersburg 11-2; Columbus Bishop Hartley 12-1.