By Brad Morris
WILLIAMSPORT —Knowing an extra possession could loom large in the midst of a back-and-forth rivalry game on Friday, Westfall coach Logan Stepp decided to seize the opportunity.
Seconds after they had grabbed a 35-30 lead, the Mustangs perfectly executed an onside kick and cashed in the extra possession for the second of their three third quarter touchdowns that shifted momentum in a wild 48-36 win over the visiting Circleville Tigers.
“We honestly did not have that drawn up. I looked out at the field and saw the middle open, and I told Jaden Towler to onside kick it. He did a nice job on the kick and Conor Geer came up with the recovery,” Westfall coach Logan Stepp said. “Thankfully, it worked, but I thought it was a chance worth taking with Circleville and us trading touchdowns.”
Jude Blair opened the second half with a 64-yard touchdown run where he shook off or ran through four tackles to reach paydirt. Jacob Johnson added the two-point conversion run to put the Tigers ahead 30-29.
The Mustangs came back with a 13-play, 64-yard drive that included a pair of key fourth down conversions.
Joey Wright found an open spot in the Circleville defense on fourth-and-seven for a 29-yard reception from quarterback Bryce Wickline that put the Mustangs inside the red zone.
Faced with a fourth-and-six from the 14, Wickline connected with Brydan Gall on a post route to put the Mustangs back in front 35-30.
“Bryce does a great job of running through his progressions and finding the open man,” Stepp praised. “If the first option is open, that’s where the ball goes. If it’s the second or third option, then that player gets the football.”
After Geer recovered the aforementioned onside kick, the Mustangs used seven plays to cover half the field.
A 33-yard connection from Wickline to Gall eventually set up a seven-yard touchdown run from Wright.
The Mustangs then forced a three-and-out from the Tigers and needed just four plays to cover 68 yards when they reclaimed possession.
A 56-yard pass from Wickline to Towler paved the way for Wright to cap the drive with a nine-yard touchdown run.
The second extra point of the night courtesy of Carson Deskins gave the Mustangs a 48-30 lead with 2:19 remaining in the third.
Circleville halted the Westfall run when Drew Thornsley scored on a four-yard touchdown run out of a T-formation with 10:32 remaining but his trot to the end zone turned out to be the final score of the night for either side.
“Our defense came up with a big stop during the third quarter run we had and then they did a nice job of holding Circleville off the scoreboard in the fourth quarter, except for the one drive that Circleville had,” Stepp said. “Earlier in the game, I felt we were in position to make plays, but we had quite a few missed tackles. We will go over the film, see how many missed tackles we had and address that this week in practice.”
Westfall opened the game with a tipped pass being caught in the right corner of the end zone by Trent Walters for an eight-yard touchdown connection on fourth down.
Circleville countered with Brody Brisker hauling in a 17-yard touchdown pass on a fade route from Hudson Phalin. Phalin then completed the two-point conversion toss to Jadon Friend to give the Tigers an 8-7 edge.
The Mustangs came right back when Wickline hit Walters in the flat on a throwback that the senior turned up field on and scored from 55 yards out.
Blair gave the Tigers the lead back on a seven-yard touchdown run with 10:54 remaining in the second quarter.
“Circleville has some nice size on its line and then Jude is the real deal for them,” Stepp said. “He ran with a purpose tonight and sometimes that is going to happen. He’s going to be a scary back to face for the rest of the season and especially during his senior year.”
Westfall responded again when Wickline pump faked to the flat and then found a wide-open Gall for a 44-yard touchdown strike that Wickline followed with a two-point conversion run.
Thornsley scored on the ensuing CHS possession on a four-yard run, then hauled in a two-point conversion toss from Phalin to go back ahead 22-21.
Westfall overcame a third-and-31 on its next possession to take the lead going into halftime. Passes of 17 yards to Towler and 29 yards to Walters on a tipped ball on fourth down gave the Mustangs a fresh set of downs.
“I tell our guys when you treat football right that football is going to treat you right,” Stepp said. “Our guys put in the work to prepare for a situation like that, so I wanted to show my confidence in them and go for it on fourth-and-long.”
Wickline scored seven plays later on a three-yard run around left end. Wickline then completed a two-point conversion toss to Towler to put the Mustangs ahead 29-22.
Stepp was pleased to see the way the Mustangs bounced back from the adversity of a 43-6 loss to Logan Elm last week, a game in which they trailed just 14-6 at halftime.
“It started this week in practice when we emphasized finishing games,” he said. “We had a hard two-hour practice, and we blew the whistle and said that was the first half. Then, we ran or did a two-minute drill or defensive pursuit drill that was hard for the final two quarters.”
Wickline completed 26 of 40 passes for 412 yards and four touchdowns. Walters caught 11 of those passes for 154 yards and two scores and Gall added 94 yards on just four receptions and two touchdowns. Joey Wright accounted for 151 yards of total offense, including 108 yards rushing after having only 19 at halftime. The sophomore tailback also scored twice.
“It’s nice to have a talented quarterback and talented wide receiver group, and those guys work well together,” Stepp said. “It was also nice to get Joey going in the second half, so we could work on the clock. Our offensive line did a nice job and Joey put together some tough, athletic runs.
“For some reason, I started calling a few passes in the middle of the fourth quarter, and that is on me. We should have stayed with Joey in that situation.”
After being held to 283 yards of total offense and eight points in the first two weeks of the season, the Tigers saw their offense come to life with 390 yards of total offense.
Blair was a big reason for that with 209 yards rushing on 20 carries and a pair of touchdowns. Phalin was an efficient 12 of 17 passing for 136 yards.
“In the first two weeks, our defense carried us and we struggled to do much offensively,” Circleville coach Steve Evans said. “We reversed those roles tonight. Our offensive line did a nice job of opening holes and Jude did what Jude does, breaking some tackles, getting out into the open field and putting together really good carries.
“And once we were able to get our running game established, that opened up some play-action passing and we were able to both run and throw the football.”
The Tigers have been battling illness during preparation for their last non-league game, with a number of starters not available to practice on Wednesday.
“Our guys battled and competed, especially when you consider the week they have been through, but we gave up way too many yards (542),” Evans said. “It was a game where both teams were marching up-and-down the field and it came down to a couple of tipped passes that directly resulted in a touchdown for Westfall or kept a drive going where they put the ball in the end zone.
“Obviously, we saw some things that we need to work up and clean up going into league play.”
The Mustangs (2-1) open Scioto Valley Conference play next week at Unioto (2-1), which lost 28-14 to Waverly.
“Playing Logan Elm and Circleville going into the SVC is a good way to prepare for the conference, because they pull guards, run counters and pass off the run like a lot of teams do in our conference,” Stepp said. “Our guys are excited about being 2-1 and winning a rivalry game, but we have more work to do to get ready for a pretty good Unioto team.”
The Tigers (0-3) commence Mid-State League Buckeye Division action in the Backyard Brawl at the undefeated Logan Elm Braves (3-0), which topped Miami Trace 41-20.
“We need to continue working on us. We want to continue to grow and become a better, more consistent football team,” Evans said.
Westfall 48, Circleville 36
By Quarters 1 2 3 4 F
Circleville 8 14 8 6 36
Westfall 13 16 19 0 48
WF — Trent Walters 8 pass from Bryce Wickline (Carson Deskins kick), 6:03.
CV — Brody Brisker 17 pass from Hudson Phalin (Jadon Friend pass from Hudson Phalin, 5:08.
WF — Trent Walters 55 pass from Bryce Wickline (kick failed), 2:59.
CV — Jude Blair 6 run (pass failed), 10:54.
WF — Brydan Gall 44 pass from Bryce Wickline (Wickline run), 9:44.
CV — Drew Thornsley 4 run (Drew Thornsley pass from Hudson Phalin), 5:02.
WF — Bryce Wickline 3 run (Jaden Towler pass from Bryce Wickline), 0:11.8.
CV — Jude Blair 64 run (Jacob Johnson run), 11:49.
WF — Brydan Gall 14 pass from Bryce Wickline (pass failed), 6:07.
WF — Joey Wright 7 run (conversion failed), 5:04.
WF — Joey Wright 9 run (Carson Deskins kick), 2:19.
CV — Drew Thornsley 4 run (pass failed), 10:32.
First downs 19 24
Rushing yards 30-254 34-130
Passing yards 136 412
Comp.-Att.-Int 12-17-0 26-40-0
Total yards 390 542
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-0
Penalties-Yards 7-35 10-105
RUSHING – Circleville — Jude Blair 20-209, Drew Thornsley 5-24, Hudson Phalin 5-21. Westfall — Joey Wright 22-108, Bryce Wickline 12-22.
PASSING – Circleville — Hudson Phalin 12-17-0-136. Westfall — Bryce Wickline 26-40-0-412.
RECEIVING – Circleville — Jake Kline 4-42, Brody Brisker 3-55, Ayden Reedy 1-6, Jacob Reichelderfer 1-4, Jude Blair 1-12, Ben Rolfe 1-5. Westfall — Trent Walters 11-154, Brydan Gall 4-94, Jaden Towler 3-91, Mason Wright 2-11, Cade Hall 2-8, Tanner Scheel 1-8, Joey Wright 3-43.