Athens edges Wellsboro 27-26 in final seconds
By: Ed Weaver | WellsboroFootball.com | October 3, 2015
The Athens Wildcats handed the Wellsboro Varsity Football team their first loss of the year with a 27-26 defeat on Friday, October 2.
With the Hornets leading 26-20 with time running out in the fourth quarter, Athens stopped the Hornets on a fourth down play from their 10-yard line to get the ball back and go to work. A 21-yard pass from Aaron Barry to Bill Bennett gave the Wildcats some breating room out to their own 30-yard line. A 15-yard run by Kalen Keathley got the ball out to midfield before back-to-back passes to Keathley and Austin Lister got the ball into Wellsboro territory.
Bennett capped the drive with 32 seconds left on a 5-yard pass from Barry and Lister's extra point gave the Wildcats the one point victory after their defense intercepted a pass from sophomore Quinn Henry.
"It was a tale of two halves tonight," said head coach Matt Hildebrand. "We didn't play very well in the first half and did about everything wrong that we could do with a lot of mistakes. We gave them great field position and had terrible field position. They (Athens) had the ball twice inside the 10-yard line and there's two touchdowns right there."
After holding Athens to a three-and-out on their opening drive, Henry scrambled to find junior Parker Jones wide open down the Athens sidelines for a 68-yard gain to set the Hornets up with a first down on the Athens 15-yard line. Sophomore Chase Moser then got the Hornets on the scoreboard on the next play on a 15-yard run, and after sophomore Nic Ingerick's kick, the Hornets led 7-0.
Athens was unfazed as they took advantage of the young Wellsboro secondary with an 11 yard pass to Lister followed by a 44-yarder to get into the red zone. Peyton Lewis finished the drive with 7:58 on the first quarter clock on a two-yard run to tie it at 7-7 after Lister's kick.
The Hornets gave the ball right back to Athens as Moser fumbled on the following kick return, but the Hornets got lucky as Athens' receivers failed to catch three consecutive passes from the Wellsboro 7-yard line to take over. Wellsboro mounted a drive with a 15-yard run by Moser and a 12-yard run by Henry get some breathing room, and with help from an Athens personal foul set Wellsboro up at their own 41-yard line. A 47-yard pass from Henry to senior running back Nick Tremper two plays later got the Hornets down to the Athens 8-yard line where Henry punched the ball in to make it 14-7 Hornets with 1:21 remaining in the first quarter.
Wellsboro got the ball back on Athens' next drive as Keathley fumbled on a pass reception, but the Hornets were unable to take advantage of the turnover. Luckily for Wellsboro, Athens was unable to capitalize on great field position but punted the ball back to the Hornets, pinning them inside their own 5-yard line. The Hornets were forced to punt where Keathley this time returned the ball 35 yards to the Wellsboro 5-yard line. Lewis found the end zone a play later from three yards out after a Wellsboro penalty to tie the game at 14-14 with 7:24 left in the opening half.
Wellsboro's next drive stalled and Athens forced sophomore Collin Pietropola to punt the ball away with the Wildcats taking over at their own 40-yard line. Athens took to the ground with runs from Lewis and Zack Jayne and found themselves with first-and-goal after a 10-yard pass from Barry to Lister. Barry found the end zone on a quarterback sneak three plays later to take the lead. Lister's extra point missed, giving the Wildcats a 20-14 lead with 2:41 left in the half.
Wellsboro's next drive ended with a Henry interception but the Hornets defense held forcing a punt as time ran out in the first half.
All of the momentum Athens had at the end of the first half would be erased as Henry intercepted Barry and returned it 30 yards to set up the Hornets at the 30-yard line. A short run by Tremper moved the ball to the 29-yard line, then Henry found sophomore Johnny Rowland open down the sidelines for a 29-yard touchdown with 7:39 remaining in the third quarter. Ingerick's extra point missed and the game was tied at 20-20.
Wellsboro got the ball back quick after Jones sacked Barry for a 14-yard loss and a short punt gave the Hornets the ball at their own 46-yard line. Three Henry runs and an Athens penalty put the ball at the Athens 10-yard line. A holding call pushed the ball back 10 yards, but Henry found Jones for an 18 yard gain to get the ball to the Athens 3-yard line before Moser caught his first touchdown pass with 4:22 remaining in the third quarter. Ingerick missed the following extra point, but had a second chance after an Athens penalty, but the kick was blocked giving the Hornets a 26-20 lead. Both teams would trade drives for the remainder of the third and fourth quarter before stopping the Hornets on fourth down and taking over on their game-winning drive.
"I liked the way we came out in the second half and responded," Hildebrand continued. "We controlled the ball for the majority of the half and our defense did a great job but it comes down to the little things and we didn't take care of things in all aspects of the game tonight. Moving forward we have things to work on but there is still a lot in front of us."
Henry finished 8-for-19 for 184 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Moser led all Wellsboro rushers with 80 yards on 14 carries. Henry added 52 yards on 12 carries and Tremper finished with 40 yards on 9 attempts. Jones was the leading receiver with 2 catches for 86 yards. Tremper had 66 yards on three receptions, Rowland had one catch for 29 yards and a touchdown, and Moser caught the final two passes for 3 yards and a touchdown.
Tremper led the team defensively with 14 tackles, his thrid consecutive double-digit game, Pietropola made 13 stops, Moser had 8 tackles, and Jones added 5 tackles and a sack.
For Athens, Barry finished 10-for-26 with 182 yards and a touchdown. Jayne was their leading rusher with 75 yards on 15 carries, and Lister was their leading receiver with 4 catches for 72 yards.
Next up for Wellsboro is 5-0 Troy next Friday, October 9 on the road at Alparon Park.
"The road doesn't get any easier for us here in the next few weeks," Hildebrand concluded. "Troy is a good, tough team this year but we need to stick together and learn from our mistakes. One loss doesn't stop our season, we still have a long way to go and a lot of football left to play. We can still achieve a lot and our goals are still in sight."