LIBERTY CENTER – Wauseon put themselves back in the race for the Northwest Ohio Athletic League football title, defeating previously unbeaten Liberty Center 35-24 Friday night, spoiling the Tigers’ homecoming.
The win puts the Indians at 5-1 on the season and 2-1 in the league. Liberty Center has the same record.
“No one had us winning this coming in,” said Wauseon senior linebacker Matt Malone, whose pick six put a bow on the Indians’ victory. “(After) the loss to Archbold, everyone was just down on us. We knew if we came in (and) played four quarters, played hard, we knew that we could win the game.”
Wauseon built a cozy 21-7 first half lead, but Liberty Center went on to score 17 straight points from the end of the second quarter into the third.
On third-and-4 at the Wauseon 15-yard line LC quarterback Jarrett Krugh took off, barreling through defenders for a touchdown run with only 10 seconds left in the second quarter. Orry Killam’s extra point made it 21-14 at the half.
The Tigers then took 4:17 off the clock to begin the third period, a drive ending in a Killam 31-yard field goal to get them within 21-17.
Wauseon went three-and-out on the ensuing possession to give it right back to LC.
Caleb Carpenter would pick up 16 yards on a second down play for the Tigers, then Carl Yaney followed that up by picking up 32 around the right end, putting the ball at the Indian 18. Two plays later, Carpenter scampered through a nice hole for a TD from 15 yards out and a 24-21 lead at the 4:09 mark of the third.
“I was hoping at the end of the game that I wasn’t looking back and saying this is gonna be a game of missed opportunities,” said Wauseon coach Travis Cooper after the game. “Because in the first half, we had opportunities to get a fumble on the one yard line to potentially punch it in (the end zone). We get stopped on the goalline.
“So, there were numerous times where I was worried that it was slipping away from us. But it was a different guy that stepped up every time and kind of weathered the storm. That’s what makes it so great about our guys. We don’t have one guy that just blows anybody away in stats, it’s a balanced effort. I think that is what makes us a good football team.”
On the following drive it was quarterback Hunter Yackee and the Indians’ passing game that stepped up.
He found Everett Bueter out of the backfield for 25 yards to get the ball down to the Tiger 40. Xavier Torres then bulled his way for six yards on the next play. Then on second and four, Yackee, with pressure in his face, connected with Torres who turned up field for a TD and Andrew Gray’s point after made it 28-24 Wauseon with 1:44 left in the third.
The Indians threatened again midway through the fourth quarter, but their drive was halted at the one yard line.
The big play on the drive was a 51-yard hook up from Yackee to Owen Newlove on a quick pass that the 6’4” receiver took down to the LC 6. They followed with four straight runs, the fourth a three-yard run for Bueter on fourth down that came up short of the end zone at the one.
However, the Tigers had to go the length of the field in order to take the lead back. A combination of runs from Krugh, Yaney and Carpenter got the ball out near their own 33.
But, on third-and-9 at the 34, Malone stepped in front of an LC screen pass and ran it all the way back for the final points of the game.
“I just saw him (Krugh) dropping back and the lineman were coming up, so I knew it was probably a screen,” said Malone of the play. “I just ran up there, it happened so fast, the ball landed in my hands and I ran as fast as I could to the end zone.”
“We had a lot of guys that stepped up. And at the end, no more than Matt Malone,” stated Cooper. “Our senior linebacker who’s really kind of put in his time to get some action out there. He’s been doing a great job. And he gets a pick six to seal it for us.”
The two teams traded touchdowns in the first quarter but a block of Gray’s extra point made it 7-6 in favor of LC after one. Wauseon’s score was an 18-yard run from Bueter, and the Tigers responded with Carpenter’s six-yard score.
A fumble by Krugh helped set up the Indians’ second TD of the game. Bueter would run it in from 12 yards out to make it 13-7 after the extra point.
Wauseon’s last score in the first half was a 49-yard strike to Newlove and a Torres two-point conversion made it 21-7 with 1:06 left until halftime.
The Indians were outgained by the Tigers 366-355. Bueter led the ground attack with 90 yards on nine carries and two TDs.
Torres had 51 yards on nine carries to go along with his 34-yard touchdown catch. Newlove notched six receptions for 128 yards and a score. Yackee was 9 of 13 for 198 yards and two TDs.
“Our schedule this year has had the most physical teams that we’ve faced collectively in one season,” concluded Cooper. “Between Napoleon and Tinora, these guys and Archbold, week after week it’s a brutal blood bath in the teams that we’ve played. So for our guys to go toe-to-toe with those (teams), and to find a way to come out on top, I think that says a lot about our grit. I think that our guys just, they got to understand that there’s four quarters for a reason. I thought tonight we finally played four full quarters.”
Carpenter had a pair of rushing TDs for LC, racking up 86 yards on 17 carries. Krugh carried 17 times for 82 yards and a TD.
Wauseon has their homecoming game this week when they welcome Swanton (4-2, 2-1), who hung on for a 23-22 victory at Patrick Henry Friday night.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010