BRYAN – With an inspiring performance, Wauseon came just six yards short of possibly forcing overtime Friday night at 3-1 Bryan, falling to the Golden Bears 14-7 in Northwest Ohio Athletic League football.
On a night where their offense struggled, the Indians relied on their defense as they limited Bryan to one offensive touchdown and 214 total yards.
“We had extremely high effort from all of our players the entire game,” said interim coach Shawn Moore, filling in for suspended head coach Travis Cooper. “We had, I think just a couple of bad plays in the whole game, and (if not for those) I don’t even know if they’re gonna score. We had a couple bad penalties the first half that got us deep in our own end zone. We had to punt, they (Bryan) got a short field, and were able to score. Then the second half, they got that opening kick-off (for a score). I thought our guys responded pretty good after that. We didn’t get our heads down.”
The Golden Bears’ Austin Dean took the opening kick-off of the second half 80 yards to paydirt, with Chandler Jackson’s point-after making it 14-0 less than 15 seconds in.
The action went quiet until late in the third quarter, when the Indians showed their sense of urgency.
Joey Shema got the running game going with runs of 20 and 14 yards, to put the ball at the Golden Bear 30-yard line.
On the next set of downs, on fourth-and-7 from the 27, Wauseon went trickeration. Garrett Smith took the hand-off on a jet sweep to the right, but instead tossed a perfectly-placed ball to Noah Tester for the touchdown. Matt Gonzales added the extra point, slicing the deficit in half at 14-7, with 1:40 left in the third quarter.
“Our wide receiver (Smith), former quarterback from a couple years back, threw a perfect ball right over the guy’s head and our receiver caught it,” said Moore of the play. “It was a perfect pass and catch there.”
Wauseon then turned Bryan over on downs at around the six-minute mark of the fourth quarter to set up a chance at the game-tying score.
Starting with the ball near midfield, they calmly marched down the field. Quarterback Connar Penrod had a 12-yard pass to tight end Sean Brock, a 14-yard connection on a screen to Shema, and another 12-yarder to Tester to get them down to the Bryan eight.
After an incompletion on first down, Penrod picked up two on second. Then on third-and-goal at the six, Penrod rolled left and tried to hit Smith in the end zone; however, Bryan’s Conner Arthur came over the top to knock the ball away.
“Their defender, I mean, he had a perfect over-the-shoulder knock down (of the ball),” said Moore. “That guy (Arthur) played it as good as you can play. That was an NFL kind of break up right there.
“We tried to hit our tight end. I think if our tight end would have just stopped. We haven’t worked on that, (but) if he would have just stopped instead of coming across I think it would have been wide open.”
On fourth down, a throw-back screen to the right was unsuccessful as the Indians turned it over on downs.
In the first half, the Bears were able to threaten but could not score until their fifth possession. They cashed in on Dominic James’ one-yard plunge on third and goal with 36 seconds left in the half, giving them a seven-point halftime lead.
Shema paced Wauseon with 69 yards on 11 carries. Tester had a pair of catches for 40 yards and a TD.
Bryan quarterback Nate Miller hit on 17 of 31 passes for 160 yards. Brycen Andrews caught four passes for 49 yards and Arthur five for 48.
Wauseon (1-4, 0-2 NWOAL) next hosts Liberty Center (5-0, 2-0) this Friday for Homecoming.
They will be without coach Cooper for one more week, as he serves the second of a two-game suspension for what the school district called “inappropriate actions related to his coaching duties” the week before during a loss to Archbold.
Moore felt the situation had little effect on how his team prepared during the week leading up to the game.
“Coach Cooper was there all week. The different thing was me calling the plays,” he explained. “Coach Cooper gave me some insight, and we talked about different things. And, obviously, I’ve been coaching with him for awhile. So I’m pretty familiar with the offense.
“I thought practice was really good. I thought the guys responded well. Again, we had the great effort today. I didn’t think it was that big of a change. Obviously, different for me. But I thought the team responded pretty well in the situation we were in.”
They are hopeful they can take it up a notch this week when the Tigers come to town.