W. Reserve clinches league crown
The Blue Devils won a title for the first time since 1989.
By ERIC HAMILTON
WELLSVILLE -- For the first time in 17 years, the Western Reserve High football team is a league champion.
Western Reserve's 14-6 victory over Wellsville on Friday night, coupled with Jackson-Milton's upset of McDonald, gave the Blue Devils (8-2, 6-1) the outright Inter Tri-County League Tier 2 championship, the program's first league title since 1989.
"It's an incredible feeling," said Moherman, whose white jersey was so muddy his number was obscured. "All we were thinking about tonight was the league title. We didn't even worry about the playoffs. We just wanted to come out here and do what we had to do and let the chips fall.
"It was really sloppy out here tonight, but we just stayed with the gameplan. This was a must-win for us tonight and it feels great to end 17 years of bad luck for our school and get things going in the right direction."
Playoffs may be next
Unofficially, Western Reserve will have a good chance to advance to the Division VI playoffs, likely on the road, next Friday. It would be the Blue Devils' second trip to the postseason.
"There are so many things going on in my head right now, but I'm just happy for the kids," Western Reserve coach Mike Kopachy said.
"We set this goal and we achieved it. If the numbers align right and we make the playoffs, then we'll be ready."
On a night when just holding onto the ball was a challenge, turnovers proved critical.
Wellsville gave the ball away four times, including two fumbles and an interception. Western Reserve turned the ball over once, via an interception.
Two of the Tigers' miscues were costly. Both Western Reserve touchdowns came after turnovers.
With under three minutes remaining in a scoreless first half, the Blue Devils were forced to punt from midfield. But a Wellsville returner couldn't handle the line drive kick, fumbling it away to Western Reserve.
The Blue Devils took over at the Wellsville 39 with 2:32 left in the second quarter. On third-and-9 from the 26, Moherman connected with Matt Kalbfell for a 20-yard gainer down the Wellsville 6.
Two plays later, Moherman plunged in from 2 yards out to give Western Reserve a 6-0 advantage. The PAT put the Blue Devils ahead 7-0 at the half.
The Western Reserve defense got into the scoring act on Wellsville's first possession of the third quarter. After driving to the Blue Devils' 30, the Tigers called a pass play on fourth-and-6.
But Nate Lude read the play perfectly, intercepted the ball and went untouched down the sideline for a 75-yard touchdown. The extra point gave Western Reserve a 14-0 lead.
Wellsville quarterback Ian Palmer cut the deficit to 14-6 with a 69-yard touchdown scamper with 9:46 remaining in the fourth quarter.
But with just more than two minutes remaining, Wellsville tossed its second interception of the game and Western Reserve ran out the clock.
"We knew turning the ball over has been Wellsville's Achilles heel all year," Kopachy said. "We just wanted to be patient and hopefully get some opportunities. We did get them and we didn't capitalize on as many as we wanted, but we did just enough to win.
"We achieved our goal of winning the league and that's something no one can ever take away from our kids. We did all we could and that's all I can ask for."