A two-minute, eighty-yard drive put Wheelersburg on the doorstep of a touchdown. They trailed by a point and needed just one more yard for the game-winning score. The ball was snapped with 36 seconds remaining, the Pirate rusher plowed into tacklers at the goal line... and the ball hit the turf.
Fredericktown recovered on the half yard line with 31 seconds left in the game and the scoreboard read 15-14 in favor of the Freddies. It would be the final score of a gut-wrenching loss for the orange and black as Fredericktown ran the clock out with one snap.
“When you have kids that take a game upon themselves and believe in what you tell them, then play as hard as they did to put themselves in a situation to win the ball game down by one point with 30 seconds to go, I mean... those boys wanted the game,” Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward said. “They did everything in their power to win.”
Two fumbles in the contest were costly for the Pirates, aside from their last offensive play there was a fumble at the end of the first quarter that resulted in a safety.
“There were mistakes made throughout the game, players and coaches,” Woodward said. “For some reason it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Wheelersburg took early control in the game with two first half touchdowns to earn a 14-2 halftime lead. The first score came after a muffed punt by the Freddies at their 40-yard line.
The Pirates took advantage of the field position, driving the ball 40 yards with their ground game as Tyler Craigmiles crossed the goal line just six minutes into the game. Craigmiles had only one carry the rest of the night, sidelined by injury.
“We had key players go down in the ballgame, and (we had) players step up,” Woodward said. “That was the best team effort I’ve ever been a part of.”
An interception by Pirate Kyle Horner and two long runs by Scott Walker and Julian Silvey set up the next Wheelersburg score. The nine-minute long drive totaled 19 plays, 87 yards and was capped off by a Tyler Lang quarterback sneak to give the Pirates a 12-point lead.
The Freddies were stagnant offensively until their passing game picked up in the second half. Fredericktown quarterback Thomas Hinkle did damage with his arm and legs, but it was two back-to-back touchdown throws that gave the Freddies the lead and win.
“Fortunately we got the momentum at the right time,” Fredericktown coach Luke Beal said. “We started playing better defense and we had a couple nice plays offensively, big pass plays, and fortunately we were able to hang on.”
Hinkle found C.J. Ruhl for a 25-yard touchdown pass-and-catch at the end of the third quarter. On the following offensive play for the Freddies, Hinkle hit Nate Cubbage at midfield, with no Pirate within 10 yards, for a 79 yard touchdown.
Fredericktown then lead 15-14 after a failed two-point conversion. The lead would not change again despite the near-heroic effort of the Pirates whose fate was sealed on a lost fumble at the one yard line.
Each of the afore mentioned Pirates are seniors along with the game’s leading tacklers Zach Frowine and Ryan Scott (seven apiece) and defensive standout Nick Kemper with two pass deflections and four tackles himself.
“It is going to be extremely tough to lose this group of seniors,” Woodward said. “Even if I coach 20 more years, I’ll remember the 2009 Pirates, their last battle on the field and the effort they gave.”
The Wheelersburg team of 2009 says goodbye to 14 seniors in all. Chase Holbrook, Brandon Hall, C.J. Adkins, each had three tackles on the night. Caleb Leach kicked two extra points while linemen Will Broughton and Caleb French complete the senior class.
Fredericktown will advance to play Ridgewood in the regional finals as Ridgewood defeated Oak Hill on Friday night.
ALI KEATON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wheelersburg 7 7 0 0 – 14
Fredericktown 2 0 7 6 – 15
W – Craigmiles 4 run (Leach kick) 5:59
F – Safety 1:54
W – Lang 1 run (Leach kick) 1:14
F – Ruhl 25 from Hinkle (Smith kick) 1:02
F – Cubbage 79 from Hinkle (run failed) 10:00
RUSHING – W – Walker 6-53, Craigmiles 7-20, Schankweiler 14-48, Lang 16-29, Luster 3-11, Silvey 3-35; F – Ruhl 4-8, Hoeflich 8-25, Hinkle 13-43.
PASSING – W – Lang 2-9-0 63; F– Hinkle 11-21-1 174.
RECEIVING – W – Whitley 2-63; F– Updike 1-6, Hathaway 1-2, Lybarger 4-40, Ruhl 2-34, Cubbage 3-92.
Records – Wheelersburg 9-3, Fredericktown 12-0