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Ashland blazes past GW 21-14

Throttled by George Washington's defense for two quarters, Ashland Paul Blazer (Ky.) decided to go big.

The Tomcats parlayed their "Jumbo'' offense into big things in the second half Friday night, scoring a pair of touchdowns at Steve Edwards Sr. Field in South Hills to spark a 21-14 revenge victory, snapping the Patriots' regular-season winning streak at 27.

Fullback Evan Yongue scored on a 2-yard run with 6:56 remaining in the game to break a tie and give the Tomcats (3-0) the win. It avenged an 18-14 loss to GW in Ashland last year.

GW (1-1) played without Kennedy Award-winning running back Ryan Switzer, who sat out the game after sustaining a concussion in last week's win at South Charleston. Switzer is expected to return for Friday's game at St. Albans.

In the first half, Ashland managed just 46 total yards and made it past its own 43-yard line just once - when James Queen recovered a fumble by GW fullback Dustin Crouser at the Patriots 27 in the first quarter. That opportunity provided the Tomcats' only score, as they trailed 14-7 at the break.

Trying to shake things up in the second half, Ashland opted for its "Jumbo'' set, featuring two tight ends and two other players tight to the line of scrimmage.

"We couldn't get any continuity to our offense in the first half,'' said Tomcats coach Leon Hart, "because of penalties and we kept shooting ourselves in the foot. And we had horrendous field position.

"In the second half, we had better field position and were able to keep drives going and move the ball. We ended up going to our Jumbo set, which is no wideouts. Occasionally, we'd put one wideout and go in the shotgun, and that's our Gumbo set. I'm sure it caught them off guard. They hadn't seen it, and we hadn't shown it in scrimmages. It ended up being very effective for us tonight.''

Ashland took its first possession of the second half 55 yards for the tying score, another 2-yard run by Yongue. The key play in the march was a 33-yard hookup from Aaron Elam to running back Quentin Baker. Elam also rolled out and found Malik Massey for 12 yards on third-and-7 at the GW 17.

The Tomcats broke that tie on their first drive of the fourth quarter, moving 72 yards in eight plays, with Baker providing a 23-yard burst on a quick toss to the left, then an Elam-to-C.J. Johnson connection on the next play for 22 more yards. It appeared to go 43 yards for a TD, but Johnson was ruled out of bounds at the 21. Another important play was Elam's 7-yard scramble on third-and-7 from the GW 18. Yongue scored two snaps later.

GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. wasn't sure if Ashland's adjustments on offense were the deciding factor. The Tomcats wound up gaining 165 yards in the second half.

"Maybe they did, I don't know,'' Edwards said. "We didn't think they did. We just thought they made plays when they had to, and we didn't make the plays. We told our kids at halftime that we thought they'd get [Johnson] involved in the game, and he makes a really nice play.

"Those weren't jokes. They were good football plays, and that's what good teams do. They make plays when they have to. That's a good quality team over there.''

The Patriots had two more possessions after Yongue's final TD, but neither crossed into Ashland territory. The first ended with a punt on fourth-and-30 from the GW 19 and the second was halted with a sack of quarterback Trevor Bell on fourth-and-33 from the Patriots 25.

GW's offense was behind the 8-ball all night, starting with the absence of Switzer, who ran for 211 yards and a TD in the win at Ashland last year.

The Patriots lost fumbles at their own 27 and 28 and receivers flat-out dropped at least four of Bell's passes. Bell finished 9 of 18 for 81 yards.

"We didn't take advantage of some opportunities we had,'' Edwards said, "and we gave them some opportunities. That's the way football is. That's the way the game goes. The ball doesn't bounce your way all the time. I thought our kids played hard. We came up short, that's all.''

GW didn't exactly light up the stat book, either, finishing with 69 yards rushing and 162 overall. Crouser, who ran for 150 yards and two TDs at SC last week, managed 49 on 11 carries and Jacob Jackson 38 on 10 attempts. Bell was sacked five times - all in the second half - for losses totaling 43 yards.

The Patriots didn't convert a first down until just six minutes remained in the game, and wound up 1 of 8 on third down.

Both of GW's scores were bunched into the second quarter on back-to-back possessions. It needed to cover only 38 yards for its first TD after forcing a short punt, with a trick play resulting in a tailback pass from Jacob Jackson to Austin Giacomo for a 6-yard score.

The second march went 56 yards, with a Bell pass to Jordan Clay covering 18 yards. Jackson scored on a 4-yard run. Clay ended with four catches for 57 yards.

"They've got a heck of a football team,'' Hart said, "and the Switzer kid's an unbelievable talent. They had a safety and some other kids nicked up, so it was tough on them, but I thought our kids showed a lot of heart in the second half.

"We told them at halftime, 'Just make up your mind to win the game, or else you're not going to win the game. It's all in your mind.' Because we played poorly in the first half, and the second half, we got after it pretty good. We controlled the ball and kept the football away from them. They can't score if we have the ball.''

Baker, Ashland's freshman tailback, was bottled up for three quarters, but broke loose late and ended up with 89 yards on 23 totes. Elam was 5 of 7 for 63 yards.

Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazette.com.

 


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