The Blue Devils played much better in the second half to rally for the victory.
By JIM FLICK
BERLIN CENTER -- After playing a lackluster first half, Western Reserve High stormed back to capture a dramatic 15-12 win over Southern Friday.
Southern held a 6-0 lead at halftime. In the second half, Western Reserve (7-2, 5-1 Inter-Tri-County Tier Two) scored a touchdown and extra point in the third quarter to take a short-lived lead before Southern (6-3, 2-3) regained the lead, 12-7, early in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Brandon Moherman tossed a 19-yard touchdown pass to halfback Billy Speese and a two-point conversion to receiver Nick Lude to give the Blue Devils a 15-12 lead.
But Southern launched a drive that brought the Indians to the Blue Devils' 18-yard line with 1:16 remaining. Moherman, who also played linebacker, sealed the win for Western Reserve by intercepting a pass.
"We found a way to win and that's what good teams do," Western Reserve coach Mike Kopachy said.
But the Blue Devils sagged in the first half, gaining only 17 net yards, while Southern racked up 195 yards in total offense.
By the end of the game, Western Reserve gained 135 yards in total offense. Southern held a big edge in statistics, gaining 296 yards in total offense.
Locker room challenge
In the locker room at halftime, Kopachy said, "I basically told them we weren't playing true Blue Devil football, and challenged them to turn things around."
After taking the opening kickoff, Western Reserve gained zero yards on its first series and punted the ball back to Southern.
The Indians scored on their first possession. Fullback Bryant Nestor capped an 11-play, 75-yard drive with a 2-yard burst into the end zone. The extra point failed, and Southern held a 6-0 lead. That margin held up for the remainder of the half.
A spirited Western Reserve squad emerged from the locker room for the third quarter and took a 7-6 lead early in the third period. The touchdown came on a 70-yard drive which was keyed by three passes Moherman completed to three different receivers, gaining 46 yards. Nate Lude capped the drive when he snagged a pass from Moherman and scampered 8 yards into the end zone.
Southern regained the lead on the second play of the fourth quarter when running back Nick Puckett dove 1 yard across the goal line to cap a drive. Puckett was the key to the Indians' offense, gaining 131 yards in 28 carries. The extra point attempt again failed, but Southern held a 12-7 lead.
Southern then tried an onside kick, which Western Reserve recovered at the 50-yard line.
Moherman completed a 31-yard pass to Nick Lude to and then a 19-yard pass to Speese for the go-ahead touchdown.
The lead grew to 15-12 when Moherman completed a two-point conversion by tossing a pass to Nick Lude while a tackler was wrestling him to the ground.
Moherman was a key to victory on both sides of the ball. He completed 8-of-16 passes for 106 yards, and ran the ball six times for 21 yards. Two of his passes were intercepted. On the Blue Devils' second play of the game on defense, he replaced an injured teammate at inside linebacker and remained a key part of the defense for the rest of the game.
Jason Lude helped the Blue Devils' offense by gaining 39 yards on three carries.
Kopachy said a key to his team's win was somewhat containing Puckett, who entered the game with more 1,500 yards rushing in the first eight games of the season.
"We did not allow Puckett a big run," Kopachy noted. Puckett's longest gain went for 22 yards, and only one other time did he gain at least 10 yards.