CENTERVILLE – Antwand Wilson ran for 194 yards and two touchdowns and Messiah DeWeaver passed for 316 yards and three touchdowns to lead 11-0 Wayne to a 52-21 victory over 9-2 Springboro in the second round of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division 1 playoffs Saturday night at Centerville High School.
Wayne and Springboro are no strangers to one another as both teams are members of the Greater Western Ohio Conference. To add further intrigue to the game, Springboro’s Coach Ryan Wilhite was the offensive coordinator for Wayne and Coach Jay Minton for six years. Although Springboro used that familiarity to their advantage for a time staying within a touchdown early in the game, it was long before Wayne took control for another decisive victory.
“He’s real close to us, “said Coach Jay Minton concerning Wilhite. “He’s meant a lot to us, we go against these guys in preseason, and we knew it was going to be emotional as well as physical, but also pretty neat.”
Springboro did most of its damage from the air as quarterback Elijah Cunningham connected for 236 yards, but the team only managed 11 yards on the ground. Wayne featured a more balanced attack with 338 yards rushing and 316 yards passing, amassing 654 yards of total offense. The game had a total of 24 penalties (Springboro 8-62 yards and Wayne 16-117 yards) that gave opportunities for both teams, but it was Wayne and their ability to make big plays that allowed them to overcome any self-inflicted obstacles.
“The key for us tonight was perseverance, “said Coach Minton. “We played through some highs and lows. We started to panic a little bit, but we caught ourselves. We always talk about production and we were able to produce on offense, that’s key.”
After forcing Wayne into a three-and-out on their first possession Springboro took over the controls. On the third play, Daryl McCleskey intercepted the Springboro pass to give Wayne the ball in Springboro territory. McCleskey provided double duty, this time as a receiver to haul in a DeWeaver 30-yard touchdown pass in the right corner of the end-zone with 6:22 left in the first quarter to strike first and give Wayne a 7-0 lead.
It was tough going on Springboro’s next drive as a false start penalty and an Alex Reigelsperger sack forced a punt deep in their own end-zone.
Wayne started their next drive with great field position well into Springboro territory. A 15-yard run by Fred Pitts, and a nifty run by Matt Wilcox to the 1-yard line moved Wayne in easy striking distance. On the next play, Wilcox got the call and carried the ball into the end-zone for the touchdown with 3:52 left in the first quarter to extend Wayne’s lead to 14-0.
Springboro came back swinging and put together a 9-play drive that culminated in a Cunningham to Nick Kovacks 8-yard touchdown pass with 1:59 left in the first quarter to cut the lead to 14-7.
On the ensuing kick-off, Wayne fumbled giving the ball right back to Springboro. Two plays later, Springboro returned the favor as Wayne’s Richard Carpenter made the interception to spoil what could have resulted in a major shift of momentum.
Wayne put together another strong drive as DeWeaver connected with L’Christian Smith for 15 yards, followed by a 16- yard run by Wilson. The next play, DeWeaver double clutched, and then let his pass sail to an open Smith, who had separated himself down the right sideline for a 29-yard touchdown with 7:38 left in the second quarter to extend Wayne’s lead to 21-7.
“We were running a lot of comebacks underneath, “said DeWeaver. “We knew we could get them one on one if they were biting up, He (Smith) stutter stepped like he was going to come back then won it, and got free. If we get one on one battles like that we need to capitalize.”
A Springboro illegal fair catch on a Wayne punt gave the ball back to Wayne that culminated with a Nate Strong 19-yard field goal at the very end of the second quarter to extend Wayne’s lead to 24-7 going into half-time.
On the first play of the third quarter, Wilson got the hand off and burst up the gut of the Springboro defense for a 64 yard gain. A strong run by Pitts, and a Smith reception got the ball to the 4-yard line. Wilson got the call on the next play and cashed it in for another Wayne touchdown with 10:11 left in the third quarter to extend the lead to 31-7.
Concerning his rushing accomplishments Wilson gave high praise to the offensive line.
“The way our line works they all work together,” said Wilson. “All thanks to them, they opened the holes.”
Springboro was given another opportunity when Wayne fumbled the punt and recovered the ball on the Wayne 20-yard line. This time, Springboro took advantage of the turnover and the prime real-estate as Cunningham connected with Alex Feldman for a 14-yard touchdown pass with 8:18 left in the third quarter to cut the lead to 31-14.
Wayne again came back strong with another drive that culminated in a DeWeaver to McCleskey 30-yard pass to set up a hand-off to Pitts from the 7-yard line as he carried multiple defenders for a ride into the end-zone with 6:25 left in the third quarter to extend Wayne’s lead to 38-14.
The “Wayne Train” didn’t stay in park for long as Tobias Gilliam intercepted a Springboro pass giving Wayne the ball. On the next play, DeWeaver connected once again with Smith for a 76-yard touchdown strike (his second TD) with 4:56 left in the third quarter to extend Wayne’s lead to 45-14.
Springboro proved there was no quit in them as they put together a strong 8-play, 73-yard drive that culminated with a 10 yard Cunningham QB keeper for a touchdown with 1:02 left in the third quarter to cut into the lead 45-21.
With nine seconds left in the third quarter Wilson got the hand-off, broke tackles, then broke free for a 73-yard touchdown as the “Wayne Train” moved out of Springboro’s grasp and sights once and for all, extending the lead to 52-21. The Wilson touchdown, his second TD, put the final exclamation on his strong performance as well as the game.
“It feels good to get the win, “said Wilson. “It was a team effort, we are a family, a brotherhood, and we work together as a team, that’s what sets us apart.”
Smith had seven catches for 192 yards and two TDs, Pitts had 68 yards rushing and one TD while Daryl McCleskey had five catches for 93 yards, one TD and one interception to contribute to the Wayne victory.
“It’s still about us, “said Coach Minton. “If we play our best and we produce, we have as good a chance as anybody to get where we want to go. We will take one week at a time. We play Hilliard Davidson, they beat us two years ago in the third round, they are tough, they are physical, but I think we are a whole different team than we were two years ago.”
Wayne (12-0) will now play Hilliard Davidson (11-1) in the third round of the Ohio Athletic Association Division-1 Playoffs at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 21 at a site to be determined.
Reach Greg Smart at 937-684-8088 or on Twitter @HH_Courier.com.