Trevor Arnett, Contributor
It’s not often where two Southern Ohio Conference powers meet one another in Week 2, but this year is and has been different.
A vengeful Minford Falcon team came into Friday’s game at Wheelersburg hoping this year would prove different for them as well after last year’s two losses to the Pirates.
The 2019 season saw Wheelersburg and Minford meet in Week 6 at Minford, a game that the Pirates took by the slimmest of margins, winning 21-20 in overtime.
The two then met in the opening round of the postseason, time time at Ed Miller Stadium, where the Pirates once again found a way to carve out a 28-23 victory.
While the Falcons came out of the gate looking like they had something to prove, down the stretch, Wheelersburg was too much to handle once again as the Pirates handed the Falcons a 42-21 loss.
In the early going, the Elijah Vogelsong-led Falcons looked primed to take their revenge.
Minford (1-1, 0-1 SOC II) received the opening kick and proceeded to rip off an 85-yard drive, capped by a 12-yard scamper from Vogelsong to make it 7-0.
Wheelersburg (2-0, 1-0 SOC II) was quick to answer as senior Case Dyer returned the ensuing kickoff 67 yards to Minford’s 23-yard line. Three plays later, Eli Swords punched it in to tie the game.
Both offenses hit a lull for the remainder of the first quarter and most of the second.
Wheelersburg found its footing late in the second on a 91-yard drive, powered by strong running by a number of backs. The drive ended with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Jake Gregg to Matthew Miller, making it a 14-7 ballgame with 2:50 left in the first half.
However, Minford’s offense needed just 47 seconds to answer as the Falcons traveled 80 yards in five plays. Vogelsong once again found the end zone, this time from a yard out, tying the game at 14-14.
Wheelersburg took possession with two minutes remaining and relied on its two-minute offense to work down the field once again. Using runs, and short passes with quick tempo, the Pirates needed just over a minute to drive 64 yards to pay dirt.
After Gregg found Swords all alone in the end zone for a 27-yard pitch and catch, the Pirates took a 21-14 edge into the break.
Out of the break, Wheelersburg’s Eli Swords picked off a Vogelsong pass attempt that ricocheted off another defender’s hands. Wheelersburg capitalized on the turnover when Kenny Sanderlin logged a four-yard touchdown run to push the lead to 28-14 midway through the third.
Minford, however, had an answer.
Vogelsong kept his composure and orchestrated a another 80-yard touchdown drive, capped by a one-yard plunge from Matthew Risner to cut Wheelersburg’s lead to 28-21.
But the Pirates shut down any hopes of a momentum switch.
Two plays later, Case Dyer took a handoff 76 yards to the house, putting the Pirates back in front by two touchdowns at 35-21 with 2:26 left in the third.
That’s when Wheelersburg’s defense started to settle in, getting to Vogelsong in the backfield. The talented left-handed signal caller was never able to set his feet and was forced to throw under constant distress.
After their defense forced a punt, the Pirates took a 42-21 lead when Gregg found Swords for a 34-yard touchdown strike.
Vogelsong and company managed to scrape together one more scoring drive as he hit wideout Drew Skaggs for a 25-yard touchdown late in the game, cutting the deficit to 42-28.
But that’s where the score remained when time ran out.
“I think conditioning played a big part in what we were able to do, along with personnel, utilizing different personnel through the game,” Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward said after the win.
Ten different Pirates carried the ball, allowing Wheelersburg to rotate fresh legs into the backfield all night long.
“We turned it on offensively and we were able to strike and get some big plays,” Woodward said. “Our defense did just enough. We did a lot better job in the second half of tackling, really wrapping up, and that allowed us to force them to punt a number of times.”
Statistically, Gregg led the Pirates through the air, completing 11-of-15 passes for 132 yards alongside three touchdowns.
On the ground, ‘Burg amassed 247 yards. Dyer led that charge, gaining 110 yards and a score on just five carries. Swords led the team in receiving, tallying four catches for 63 yards and two touchdowns. Miller also helped out, catching five passes for 57 yards and a score.
For Minford, Vogelsong was 14-of-36 passing for 210 yards and a touchdown. He also carried the ball 21 times for 109 yards and two scores. Risner finished with six carries for 41 yards and a score, and also had four catches for 58 yards.
Devin Parker also contributed to the Falcons’ cause, making five catches for 109 yards while Skaggs added four receptions for 43 yards and a score.
Wheelersburg will now host Oak Hill in Week 3 while Minford plays host to the Senators of Portsmouth West.