Creed Warren
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Gavin Rase

Wheelersburg’s defense gets late stop, secures victory over McNicholas

Wheelersburg is back in the win column.

Gavin Rase, Contributor

Southern Ohio Sports Authority is presented by OhioHealth.

WHEELERSBURG — When the chips are pushed all in, count on Wheelersburg’s defense to get the job done. 

Rising to the occasion, and in the biggest moment of the night, the Pirates got a late stop to secure a hard-fought 20-17 victory over Cincinnati Archbishop McNicholas on Friday night.

From the opening drive, the Pirates’ defense set the tone by quickly forcing the Rockets into a punt. Building on that momentum, Wheelersburg (1-1) had a swift three-play sequence, leading to a 16-yard touchdown run from Riley Cunningham to make it 7-0.

The Pirates’ defense forced another punt, but the offense then fumbled the ball and the Rockets recovered on the 11-yard line.

With sights on the end zone, McNicholas was stuffed as the defense held strong with a goal-line stand, forcing the Rockets to settle for a field goal, making it 7-3.

The Rockets managed to create pressure and forced the Pirates to punt once again. But a high snap created disaster, giving McNicholas possession at the Pirates’ 1-yard line. Just two plays later, Caleb Naumann powered through for a touchdown, giving the Rockets a 10-7 lead at halftime.

After a series of punt exchanges to open the third quarter, Wheelersburg’s Braylon Rucker connected with Devon Lattimore on a 48-yard touchdown pass, putting the Pirates back in the lead at 14-10 with eight minutes left.

The Rockets, however, weren’t going away and used their own defense to stay in the contest.

AJ Gundler intercepted a pass, which sparked an eight-minute, 62-yard drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown run from Naumann, putting McNicholas ahead 17-14 with eight minutes remaining in the contest.

But thankfully for the Pirates, they swiftly threw a counterpunch, courtesy of Creed Warren.

The running back broke free on an 84-yard bubble screen, setting up Landon Hutchinson to find the end zone from a yard out, which put the Pirates back ahead at 20-17.

“We were running the bubbles all night,” Warren said. “I got a good block on the outside, ran it and it felt great.”

Archbishop McNicholas had one final chance to tie the game or take the lead, and steal a win.

But the Pirates’ defense put the clamps on the Rockets’ offense, getting a critical stop to regain possession before running out the clock for a win.

“The defense really played lights out,” Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward said. “Multiple goal-line stands and holding them to third and fourth down each and every series … it was a great effort from our guys.”  

Wheelersburg was dominant with 413 total yards of offense — 181 rushing and 232 passing. McNicholas managed just 147 total yards — 19 rushing and 128 passing. 

Rucker finished with 232 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception. Warren had 173 total yards — 69 rushing and 104 receiving — and Hutchinson added 44 rushing yards and a touchdown. 

The Pirates will look to continue their winning ways at Jackson in Week 3, a game that’s sure to be a dogfight.

“It’s a Jackson,” Wheelersburg’s Kolton Salyers said. “It’s always a dogfight out there. But we’re excited to see what [Jackson] has. It came down to the wire last year. So we’re expecting the same thing this year.”


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