Late drive lifts Wahama to playoff win
POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. - For much of the day, Greenbrier West's mammoth defense had bottled up and frustrated Wahama's trademark rushing game.
But when the White Falcons absolutely, positively had to move the ball late in the game, they finally managed to do it.
Kane Roush scored on a 10-yard run with 5:02 left in the game, capping a time-consuming drive helped along by a fake punt that put the finishing touches on a 21-12 victory over Greenbrier West in a Class A quarterfinal Saturday.
"We couldn't get them off the field on that one drive,'' said Greenbrier West coach Lewis McClung. "They made the plays on that drive and kept the drive alive.''
The win sends the No. 3 White Falcons (12-0) into next week's semifinals against Magnolia.
Quarterback Trenton Gibbs added two scoring runs for Wahama and a handful of big plays both passing and running.
The sixth-seeded Cavaliers (10-2) scored on the second play of the fourth quarter to whittle their game-long deficit to 14-12 and seemingly had captured momentum.
When do-it-all Malik Boatwright booted the ensuing kickoff into the end zone and forced Wahama to set up shop at the 20, there was no indication the White Falcons would do anything with the ball.
At that point, they had registered just six first downs and their vaunted ground game - led by a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Roush and fullback Zack Wamsley - had managed only 81 yards.
But Wahama stuck with it and flipped the momentum to its favor, racking up first down after first down on what turned out to be a 15-play, 80-yard march that chewed 6:38 off the clock. The White Falcons notched six first downs on the possession, which ended on Roush's TD burst that helped bump the lead to two possessions at 21-12 late in the game.
Fourteen of the 15 calls were running plays, and the lone pass fell incomplete.
"It's something we needed to do,'' said Wahama coach Ed Cromley. "We talked to the kids about accomplishing that. It helped, too, that we were a little slimmer than they were, and I think we were in better shape. I can't fault a 300-pound guy for getting tired. I've never carried 300 pounds around, and I think that might have played something into it.''
Two key runs highlighted the drive. First was a 12-yard bootleg by Gibbs on third-and-3 at Wahama's 27 to get the initial first down. But six plays later, the White Falcons appeared ready to punt the ball back on fourth-and-6 from the West 44.
That's when Roush, the punter, again got creative. He took the snap and rolled right on a rugby-style-punt look, then took off for the right sideline. He appeared to be trapped, but got a clearing block from Wamsley and picked up just enough for the first down.
"Basically,'' Roush said, "[Cromley] told me, 'If it's open, take it if you want it. If you can't, punt it.' ''
What made the move even bolder was the fact that Roush came up well short of a first down on a fake punt in the second quarter.
"We run it a lot in practice against the scrub team,'' Roush said, "and there wasn't really [much hesitation to show it again].
"The first time we ran it was to the near side of the field and there wasn't that much yardage and when I finally broke to the hole, it didn't work out. When we punted again, it was to the wide side of the field and there was a lot more room. I asked Zack Wamsley to hook the end so I could kick it around him, and I got just enough and kicked around him.''
When Roush hit the end zone six plays later, the Cavaliers were essentially doomed, down by two possessions with about five minutes left running out of their wing-T/option formation.
"We're kind of hurting,'' McClung said, "trying to score fast. We're not a quick-score team, and we didn't really have time to come back.
"We had a punt-safe called [on Roush's run] and we know it's a fake. He's 7, 8 yards away [from the sticks] and we're there and he still picks it up. That's a big play and a turning point in the game.''
Prior to that, Wahama had been basically held to a smattering of big plays and little else.
A 32-yard Gibbs-to-Wyatt Zuspan hookup on the first drive of the game led to a Gibbs' 46-yard scoring scramble. The White Falcons' second score in the third period was aided by a 44-yard Gibbs pass to Colton Neal that was tipped up by Boatwright from his defensive back position, but landed directly in the hands of Neal.
Through a little more than three quarters, 142 of Wahama's 180 yards came on three Gibbs completions and his 46-yard run.
"You take away a couple of big plays,'' McClung said, "and I don't think they did a whole lot on offense until that one drive. But you've got to tip your hat to them. They made the plays on that one drive and kept us off the field.''
Roush, held to 16 yards through three quarters, finished with 85 yards on 18 carries. Wamsley was limited to 28 yards on 11 attempts.
"It was the backside of their line,'' Roush said. "They had big guys filling up the holes, and there was really nowhere to go.''
Gibbs ended 4 of 8 for 99 yards with an interception and ran four times for 58 yards.
Boatwright was sacked three times in the final minutes and finished with only 37 net yards rushing and one TD. He hit on 4 of 6 passes for 56 yards and returned a pair of kicks 75 yards.
Tyler Parker led West's grind-it-out offense with 152 yards on 27 attempts, including an 18-yard scoring run.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.