LIBERTY CENTER – In what was certainly an odd experience for both teams playing football on Saturday afternoon as a result of constant lightning in the area Friday night, the hometown Liberty Center Tigers got the best of Wauseon, 35-29, in a battle between two undefeated teams.
In the end it was turnovers and mistakes that ultimately did the Indians in, as the visitors had three giveaways to just one by the Tigers.
“I’m not so sure that they stopped us, we stopped ourselves,” said Wauseon coach Shawn Moore after the game. “The opening possession we were able to march it down and kind of coughed it up there on that play. That was a huge play for us. A couple interceptions.
“I thought offensively we were able to move the ball down the field on them. Cody made the right reads 95 percent of the time. We did good. Our guys didn’t quit. We played hard the whole game.”
After turning Liberty Center over on downs to start the game, Wauseon used a combination of quick passes to Connar Penrod and Noah Tester, plus runs by Tyson Britsch to advance the ball inside the Tiger 20 yard line. But, on second-and-6 from the 15, Isaac Wilson surged ahead for a few yards before he was stripped by the LC defense who recovered the ball to halt the drive.
That led to a six yard touchdown run from Zach Bowers at the 11:27 mark of the second quarter, and an Asa Killam extra point put the Tigers ahead 7-0.
Later in the period it was the Wauseon defense making the big play.
With a light rain falling and LC backed up near their own end zone, Wilson stepped in front of Camden Krugh’s pass and galloped into the end zone with 6:19 left before halftime. The Indians faked the point after kick where the holder, Penrod, got the ball and rolled to his right, finding Krue Powers in the back of the end zone to give them an 8-7 lead.
Each team was able to reach the end zone in the final minute of the half, allowing Wauseon to enter the locker room up 15-14.
The Tigers used the highly-effective ground game to work the ball down the field. Max Phillips would break through the line for a score from 12 yards away, which at the time put the Tigers on top 14-8.
However, on the ensuing kickoff that was booted with 33 ticks to go, Penrod picked up the ball near the Indian 15 yard line, racing into Tiger territory at the 25. Cody Figy then found Sean Brock over the middle and the senior got to the LC four with six seconds left. Following a pair of timeouts by the Indians to get the play they wanted, Figy connected with Penrod who eluded his defender in the end zone.
Wauseon looked to extend their lead to start the second half but a turnover stopped them once again. They got it down to the LC 16 on a 41-yard catch and run by Noah Tester and a four yard completion to Penrod. However, on the second down play from the 16, a miscommunication between quarterback and receiver led to Liberty Center’s Aaron Shafer hauling in a jump ball in the end zone to give the ball back to the Tigers.
LC later cashed in on a 21-yard run from Phillips at the 5:04 mark of the third quarter, retaking the lead at 21-15.
The Indians picked up a fourth-and-2 just across midfield on a run by Figy to keep the drive alive, then a short reception by Tester and a late hit after the play set them up at the LC 30. Following a run of six more by Figy, the senior signal caller then hit Penrod on a loft to the end zone and Samuel Blanco’s extra point made it 22-21 late in the third.
That lead would be short-lived, as the Tigers’ Connor Keller misplayed the ensuing kickoff but after going back to get the ball, he proceeded to race up the left sideline 91 yards to paydirt. This gave LC a 29-22 advantage with 2:11 left in the third.
“Not coming up with a touchdown on that first possession hurt us. And then again moving the ball down at the beginning of the second half and not getting a touchdown there. Those are key drives where those should have been points for us. Then giving up the long kickoff after we went down and took the lead. That was a big momentum change again,” said Moore of his team’s missed opportunities.
Wauseon tied it up again on a 26-yard strike to Penrod – his third score of the game – 1:06 into the fourth, but the Tigers would have the answer.
On the first play of their drive, Bowers tried the right side where he found a hole, cutting up field and racing 65 yards for a score that gave the Tigers a 35-29 lead with 10:34 remaining.
The Indians then carefully matriculated the ball down the field using runs from Wilson – including a 25 yarder that put them at the Tiger 26. A holding call on a first down catch would set them back, and on third-and-23 from the Tiger 40, Figy overthrew his intended target and was intercepted again by Shafer who took the return to the Wauseon 47.
The Tigers were able to run out the rest of the clock as they marched the ball down to the Indians’ one yard line.
“We were moving the ball down the field and we tried to take a shot. Miscommunication from our guys out there. Probably not the play call that we should of had. Just gave them a pick in the end zone. And then our last possession, we had a play and we made a check, and Cody didn’t see the check and you know threw to the wrong spot,” explained Moore of the Indians’ second half interceptions.
The Tigers controlled possession for a lot of the game, finishing with an advantage in time of possession by six minutes. They outrushed the Indians 345-118, led by Bowers who racked up 133 yards and three scores on 17 carries. Karter Kern added 101 yards on 14 carries, while Phillips had 99 on 14 carries to go along with his two scores.
For Wauseon (4-1, 1-1 NWOAL), Figy completed 23 of 29 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns but also had two interceptions. Penrod caught 12 passes for 119 yards and three TDs.
Wauseon next welcomes Swanton (1-4, 0-2) for Homecoming this week.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010