WHEELERSBURG — Three times before the midpoint of the fourth quarter on Friday night, the Minford Falcons found the end zone.
And, in all three instances, the Wheelersburg Pirates fired their cannon right back with an immediate answer.
That was until, finally in the third quarter’s final two-and-a-half minutes, Case Dyer put the visiting Falcons in dire straits.
As a result, Wheelersburg’s winning streak in the Southern Ohio Conference Division II stretches onward — and upward.
In a good old-fashioned high-scoring SOC II shootout, the Pirates posted 21 third-period points in a matter of six-and-a-half minutes —and went on to capture a 42-28 victory over Minford inside a spacious, and spaced out, Ed Miller Stadium.
The bout marked this season’s second game as both won in their openers —as it also, as always, lifted the lid on conference competition.
While Wheelersburg’s noteworthy home venue is usually filled to the max with some of the state’s most supportive football fans, the current Ohio Department of Health order is restricting statewide stadiums attendance to only 15-percent capacity.
What those not in attendance missed, if they didn’t view the matchup on its livestreams, was a keep-pace in a fast-paced contest — in which the Pirates, prior to eventually wearing the Falcons down, made Minford’s touchdowns a short-lived impact.
The Pirates, celebrating Senior Night on Friday night, erased an early 7-0 deficit only three minutes in — to the point where they doubled up the Falcons (42-21) with only nine seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Minford made one final push — an impressive 10-play, 70-yard, three-minute scoring drive that although was aided by a pair of pass interference penalties, still made it 42-28 with six minutes to go.
The Falcons then attempted on onside kick, and actually recovered, but were whistled for being offsides.
On the ensuing onside rekick, the ball went of out bounds —and gave the Pirates possession near midfield.
The Pirates punted after a three-and-out series, but over the next 19 seconds starting with 3:45, all Minford managed was three incomplete passes prior to a 56-yard punt.
With that, Wheelersburg ran its SOC II win streak to 27 games, as the six-time defending division champion began its latest title defense.
As superb as the Pirates’ defense played in their opener at Chillicothe by pitching a 31-0 shutout, Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward agreed that its offense matching Minford’s scores — and quickly — is what spearheaded Friday night’s triumph.
“We got our offense going tonight. As good a defensive performance as we had last week, we struggled this week against a very good team. I thought Minford did a nice job, had a nice scheme, and utilized their playmakers very well. We’re definitely going to have to look at some things and play better defensively, but our offense kept us right in this game with some of the big-strike plays were were able to make,” he said. “Several guys got involved running the ball and keeping those chains moving. In the second half, I thought our defense did tackle a little better, but our big plays on offense answered them every time and were the key.”
Indeed, the Falcons’ spread offense — headed up by the left-handed Division V all-Ohio quarterback Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis —is an upgrade from what the Pirates faced against the Cavaliers.
Minford amassed exactly 400 total yards and 24 first downs on 71 plays from scrimmage, with Vogelsong-Lewis rushing 23 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns, while throwing for one and 210 yards on 37 passes with 15 completions.
The multi-dimensional fast-paced Pirates countered with 57 plays, as 10 different individuals carried the ball at least once —with Wheelersburg rushing 42 times for 260 yards.
The Pirates tallied three rushing touchdowns, although Dyer’s dash of 76 yards with 2:26 remaining in the third proved to be a breaking point.
The Falcons — following a massive 14-play, 80-yard, three-minute and 21-second march — scored to make it 28-21 at the three-minute mark.
But Dyer delivered a quality counter-punch on an isolation call, as Braxton Sammons’ fifth of six successful extra-point kicks made it a two-touchdown lead again in a matter of 36 seconds.
Dyer dialed up 105 rushing yards on only five attempts, as Derrick Lattimore (46 yards) led the way with nine carries, while Eli Swords (22 yards) was next with six.
“Case hit a seam and turned on the after-burners with that run,” said Woodward. “We had several guys running the ball, and with the personnel we have and the ability to run multiple guys in, it really keeps the defense on their toes.”
Minford coach Jesse Ruby’s biggest worry was Wheelersburg’s ability to strike fast —and/or with explosive scoring plays.
In addition to Dyer’s run, quarterback Jake Gregg threw three touchdown passes of at least 20 yards — including a 34-yarder on a slant to Swords with nine seconds left in the third and sandwiched between a pair of Falcon three-and-outs.
Sammons’ sixth and final of six extra-point tries made it 42-21.
Gregg completed 11-of-14 passes for 133 yards, as Matthew Miller —who had five receptions for 58 yards —made it 14-7 on a 28-yard hookup with 2:53 remaining before halftime.
That capped, by far, Wheelersburg’s longest scoring drive — a dozen-play, 91-yard march that consumed five minutes and 16 seconds off the second-quarter clock.
“They scored on some big plays. We wanted to be able to play fast, score fast and put points on the board, but Wheelersburg was able to answer each time and match us score for score. Hats off to them, they are a fast team and they did a good job,” said Ruby. “We gave it our best shot and our kids fought hard and battled and never quit. We just came up a little short and made too many mistakes.”
The mistakes mentioned indirectly were mostly defensive, as they pertained three times to being unable to keep the Pirates from answering.
Vogelsong-Lewis engineered a seven-play, 85-yard, three-minute game-opening drive — that he capped off with a 13-yard touchdown run.
Adam Crank kicked four of four extra points —the first of which gave the Falcons the 7-0 lead.
But bolstered by Dyer’s 68-yard splashy return of the ensuing kickoff, Wheelersburg was in business at the Falcon 22.
Three plays, and only a minute later, Swords scored from five yards out — and Sammons made the PAT kick for the 7-7 tie.
Minford then punted on its next three possessions while Wheelersburg went three-and-out, but Vogelsong-Lewis — with the Falcons now trailing 14-7 — led a five-play, 80-yard drive and plunged in from a yard away at the two-minute mark, which was 50 seconds following the Gregg-to-Miller TD.
But, that 14-14 tie lasted a mere minute and six seconds to the 57-second mark.
Wheelersburg went 74 yards in five plays, as Dyer rushed for 22 yards and Eric Lattimore another 26 — setting up Gregg rolling left and finding a wide open Casey Doerr from 20 yards out in the back corner of the end zone.
The Pirates finally made it a two-touchdown lead with six-and-half minutes left in the third —and capitalizing on the game’s only turnover, which was Swords stepping in front and intercepting a Vogelsong-Lewis pass.
Needing nine plays, 36 yards and only three minutes, the Pirates made it 28-14 after backup quarterback Kenny Sanderlin scored from four yards out.
In fact, the sophomore Sanderlin — a 6-2, 220-pound starting linebacker — “snuck” the ball for 11 yards on a fourth-down and inches situation at the Falcons’ 26-yard line.
Woodward kept him in for the remainder of the series, as he toted twice more for five yards apiece and attempted his only pass —prior to his TD run.
That set up the Falcons with their third scoring drive —only to be offset in a matter of 36 seconds by Dyer’s dart.
Eric Lattimore added 27 yards, part of the Pirates’ total of 393.
Of Vogelsong-Lewis’ 15 completions, Devin Parker caught four for 96 yards, as Matthew Risner (57 receiving yards) — who rushed for 37 yards including a one-yard score — tied Skaggs (55 yards) with five catches.
Skaggs, with six minutes to play, secured a 24-yard touchdown reception —as Cranked kicked the PAT to make it 42-28.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, that was their final score —as they last defeated the Pirates over a decade ago in 2009.
“We played four quarters all the way to the end. We actually recovered that onside kick, but were called for an offsides on the other side of the field,” said Ruby. “That was unfortunate, but I was proud of our players for staying on the field and improving their conditioning and giving it their all tonight.”
Minford will host West next week in the SOC II, while Wheelersburg welcomes Oak Hill for another division tilt.
The Oaks, by an identical 42-28 count, defeated Valley on Friday night to also open the league.
“We have to continue to evaluate and get better,” said Woodward. “Oak Hill is always a physical football team, so we have to make sure we get ourselves physically ready to go.”
* * *
Wheelersburg 42, Minford 28
Minford 7 7 7 7 —28
Wheelersburg 7 14 21 0— 42
M — Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis, 13-yard run (Adam Crank kick), 8:58, 1st (7-0 M)
W — Eli Swords, 5-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), 7:57, 1st (7-7 tie)
W — Matthew Miller, 28-yard pass from Jake Gregg (Braxton Sammons kick), 2:53, 2nd (14-7 W)
M — Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis, 1-yard run (Adam Crank kick), 2:03, 2nd (14-14 tie)
W — Casey Doerr, 20-yard pass from Jake Gregg (Braxton Sammons kick), :57, 2nd (21-14 W)
W — Kenny Sanderlin, 4-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), 6:26, 3rd (28-14 W)
M — Matthew Risner, 1-yard run (Adam Crank kick), 3:02, 3rd (28-21 W)
W — Case Dyer, 76-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), 2:26, 3rd (35-21 W)
W — Eli Swords, 34-yard pass from Jake Gregg (Braxton Sammons kick), :09, 3rd (42-21 W)
M — Drew Skaggs, 24-yard pass from Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis (Adam Crank kick), 5;58, 4th (42-28 W)
First downs 24 18
Plays from scrimmage 71 57
Rushes-yards 34-190 42-260
Passing yards 210 133
Total yards 400 393
Cmp-Att-Int. 15-37-1 11-15-0
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-0
Penalties-Yards 12-88 7-90
Punts-Ave. 6-41.7 5-36.8
RUSHING —Minford: Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis 23-119 2TD, Jeffrey Pica 6-34, Matthew Risner 5-37 TD; Wheelersburg: Derrick Lattimore 9-46, Eli Swords 6-22 TD, Case Dyer 5-105 TD, Carson Williams 5-18, Jake Gregg 5-9, Eric Lattimore 4-27, Kenny Sanderlin 4-25 TD, Matthew Miller 2-4, Casey Doerr 1-4, Caleb Arthur 1-0
PASSING — Minford: Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis 15-37-1-210 TD; Wheelersburg: Jake Gregg 11-14-0-133 3TD, Kenny Sanderlin 0-1-0-0
RECEIVING — Minford: Devin Parker 4-96, Matthew Risner 5-57, Drew Skaggs 5-55 TD, Jeffrey Pica 1-2; Wheelersburg: Matthew Miller 5-58 TD, Eli Swords 2-40 TD, Carson Williams 2-11, Casey Doerr 1-20 TD, Josh Clark 1-4
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved