CINCINNATI — The outcome of a battle between state and regional powers Wayne and Moeller came down to an on-side kick recovery by Moeller with 58 seconds left in the game at Lockland Field in 90 degree heat.
With Moeller marching towards the endzone and senior kicker Matt Coghlin, who has committed to Michigan State, ready to come in and boot the potentially winning field goal trailing the Warriors 24-22, their comeback attempt was hindered by a late holding call. On Moeller’s final attempt to score, Wayne sacked the Moeller ball carrier to preserve the two-point victory, 24-22, in a game that was televised on ESPNU.
Wayne Coach Jay Minton called the win a “huge”victory.
In a game that was a tale of two halves, the Warriors dominated the first half taking a 24-6 lead into the locker room. However, Moeller, who played without first string quarterback Thomas MacVittie who has verbally committed to Pittsburg, finished the game with their third string signal caller Peter Lampert after the second string QB was injured near the end of the first half. Moeller controlled the second half, outscoring Wayne 16-0.
Moeller dominated time of possession controlling the ball for over 30 minutes while Wayne had possession for over 17 minutes.
On Wayne’s first possession, the center snapped the ball over the head of quarterback Messiah DeWeaver forcing a second and 23 situation. However, DeWeaver connected with sophomore receiver L’Christian Smith for a long gain setting up a first-and-goal. Josh Foster scampered into the endzone from 6-yards to put the Warriors up 7-0 with 9:04 left in the first quarter.
Minton said Wayne did not panic at all during the game.
“I think that’s what really pulled us through,” he said, indicating the Warriors “gave great effort along the way.”
Wayne took a 10-0 advantage on a 29-yard field goal by Nate Strong with 10:11 left in the second quarter.
Wayne increased its lead to 17-0 when DeWeaver connected with Smith on a 18-yard TD pass in the right corner of the end zone with 6:16 left in the half.
Moeller cut Wayne’s lead to 17-6 when Evan Ernst threw a 40-yard TD to Kyle Butz with 59 seconds left in the half.
Wayne’s one minute offense appeared headed for a quick end and a return of the ball to Moeller after an intentional grounding call resulted in a third and 22 situation. However, in a play that was crucial to the final outcome of the game, De Weaver hooked up with Daryl McCleskey for a 92-yard TD strike aided by a key block by Matt Wilcox to put the Warriors up 24-6 with 33 seconds remaining in the half.
“Matt threw a beautiful block,” said Minton. “…I know Matt’s block really sprung him. Again, it was a great execution at that time…”
Minton said he didn’t want the Warriors to be in a position where they had to punt the ball with an onslaught of defenders attempting to block the punt, giving them a chance to score which Minton said would have been disastrous for Wayne.
“We just wanted to do something safe,” said Minton. “…It was a safe swing pass to try to get out guys out in space and McCleskey turned it into a difference maker…That was huge — that was big.”
DeWeaver finished the first half completing 13 of 17 passes for 287 yards.
With 7:18 left in the third quarter, Coughlin booted a 41-yard field goal to cut Wayne’s advantage to 24-9. Moeller added a rushing TD with 2:26 left in the quarter, to narrow the margin to 24-16. Coughlin, who missed on an extra point attempt in the first half, missed a 43-yard field goal attempt with 7:44 left in the game. Moeller’s Chrystian Watkins carried the ball 13 yards for a TD with 2:26 left to cut the lead to 24-16.
Moeller scored its final TD with 58 seconds remaining on a 5-yard pass from Lampert to Hunter Hughes. However, Donyell Denson broke up the two-point conversion attempt to give Wayne a slim 24-22 advantage.
Minton said Denson made a big play.
“He was cramping up the whole second half,” said Minton. “It just showed what kind of heart that our kids have for him to make that play at that crucial time. He made a great instinct on the play —kind of dropped back and saw their receiver and dropped back and was able to knock it away…Our assistant coaches do such a great job of putting them into position to make a play.”
“Again, he gave it up for the team, because he was cramping,” added Minton. “And you saw him right after that play, he went down with cramps again and that happened to a lot of our guys in that heat, they just did a great job of managing it. We always talk about mind over matter…”
On the on-side kick, Wayne appeared to recover the ball, however, however, Moeller was off-sides, so they had a second opportunity for an on-side kick which Moeller recovered, but was unable to turn the recovery into points in the final minute. They were out of timeouts and a “holding penalty” hurt their momentum. On their final play, the ball carrier was sacked.
De Weaver completed 16 of 26 passes for 308 yards and two TDs while Moeller completed 16 of 30 for 217 yards. Wilcox had five catches for 28 yards while McCleskey had four receptions for 176 yards. Smith had four catches for 77 yards while Walton had three for 27 yards.
Wayne’s leading rusher was Pitts with 11 carries for 48 yards. For Moeller, Hughes had 23 carries for 74 yards and Watkins had 20 carries for 72 yards.
Wayne hosts Lakota West at 7 p.m. on Friday, a 1-1 team that fell to Elder in week two. Minton said this contest “is always a very physical game” and that preparation will be a key to this game. Last year, Wayne defeated West 34-29 in the third game of the season and 38-3 in the third round of the playoffs.
Reach Greg Smart at 236-4990, ext. 2542 or on Twitter @HH_Courier.com