Clay Archer, Contributor
MINFORD — To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man and, as of Friday night, Wheelersburg is still the man to beat.
The Pirates, who’s uncharacteristic start has been well-documented, found themselves in a peculiar position Friday night. With the task of traveling to Minford and trying to hand the Falcons their first loss this year, some doubted their ability to do so.
But in an overtime thriller, Wheelersburg (3-3, 1-0 SOC II) hushed its critics — for now, at least — and handed Minford a 21-20 loss in an instant classic.
“All the hype was against us,” Pirates running back Makya Matthews said. “Nobody thought we could do it. But it feels good to come out with a win. We’ve done it before in overtime. Had to do it again.”
Matthews was magnificent, rushing for 133 yards, tacking on 73 receiving yards, and scoring twice. His performance was the key part to the Pirates’ third victory this season.
“You can’t say enough about him,” Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward said, when asked about his senior leader. “What a game he had. You can’t say enough about our seniors tonight.”
As for the scoring, both defenses made sure there wasn’t a lot of it to begin the night.
On Minford’s fourth play from scrimmage, running back Ty Wiget hit the hole and ran 52 yards, reaching the goal line. However, Wiget was caught from behind and fumbled into the end zone as Wheelersburg’s defense pounced. On the next drive, Minford defense’s picked off a pass at the 5:36 mark in the first quarter.
After both teams failed to score in the first, they traded possessions early in the second.
Minford (5-1, 0-1 SOC II) elected to try and convert a 4th and 1 play on Wheelersburg’s 24-yard line with 2:06 remaining in the first half and the Falcons were stopped short. On Wheelersburg’s first play call after the turnover, Evan Horsley hit a streaking Makya Matthews over the middle, who went 70-plus yards to the house to give the Pirates a 7-0 lead heading into the break.
After three straight three-and-outs to start the second half, Minford’s offense finally broke through when Elijah Voglesong found Matthew Risner for a long touchdown play with 6:41 remaining in the third. However, the Falcons missed the ensuing PAT as Wheelersburg retained a 7-6 lead.
The short burst of momentum snowballed when Minford’s onside kick attempt was recovered. However, Wheelersburg’s defense held strong, forcing the Falcons to punt. On the Pirates’ next drive, Minford came up with another interception, this time in the red zone.
However, the Faclons’ offense stalled and Wheelersburg finally took advantage of an opportunity when Matthews capped a scoring drive with a 5-yard touchdown run, making it 14-6 with 8:34 left in the fourth quarter.
With their backs against the wall, the Falcons threw a counter punch.
After two big hookups through the air between Vogelsong and Drew Skaggs, converting on a long third down and a fourth down call, Wiget scampered into the end zone from five yards out with 2:51 remaining, cutting the lead to 14-12. Needing the two-point conversion to force a tie, Wiget pitched the ball to Vogelsong on the next play and the quarterback crossed the goal line to send the game, eventually, into overtime.
In OT, the Pirates capitalized on their first possession when Evan Horsely hit pay dirt from two yards out. Minford responded, scoring on a one-handed touchdown grab from Risner and decided to go for two and the win.
That decision, although gutsy, failed to pay off.
Wheelersburg’s defense sniffed out the ensuing play call and sealed a thrilling 21-20 victory.
“Our guys, down there in the trenches, I thought they were doing a great job on everything they needed to do,” Woodward said. “None bigger than that opportunity right there to make a big play, at that moment.”
Following Matthews’ performance, Horsley scored once and gained 92 yard on 14 rushing attempts, and completed 3-of-7 passes for 82 yards and touchdown.
Wiget led Minford with 143 yards rushing on 25 carries and a touchdown while Vogelsong completed 8-of-12 pass attempts for 143 yards and two scores. Risner was the Falcons’ leading receiver with four catches for 105 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The Falcons will try and bounce back next week at West while the Pirates travel to Oak Hill.
“A huge part of high school football is mentally having your kids ready. The SOC II is strong, and we’re getting everybody’s best shot, and our number one goal is winning the SOC II,” Woodward said. “That’s a great football team that we just beat tonight, and our kids should be extremely proud. We’re a good football team too, we just have to continue to move forward and get better.”