1st Half Disaster Results in Leps 1st Loss to West Branch Since 1998
FULL VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS:
West Branch 30, Louisville 21
1998. Bill Clinton was president, a small company called Google had just been founded, and West Branch defeated Louisville 39-33.
Flash forward 4,732 days to Clinton Heacock Stadium. The West Branch Warriors took advantage of a disastrous first half by the Leopards and put to bed 12 years of frustration with a nearly perfectly executed 30-21 win Friday Night. Their performance turned the fire that was the Leopards playoff hopes into a flickering dimly lit coal.
The first half was a colossal meltdown for the Leopards offense as they committed five turnovers. With the wind blowing against him, Louisville quarterback Joey Duckworth was picked off twice in the first quarter by West Branch linebackers Chris Conrad and Mike Estock. Both turnovers led to Brenden Wells touchdown runs of 1 and 15 yards. Wells also gutted up the middle for 8 yards on a key 4th-and-1 play during the second touchdown drive.
The next Louisville drive ended with wide receiver Trent Ohman making one of his game-high 10 catches. As Ohman advanced downfield, the ball was jarred loose and recovered by West Branch’s Matthew Edie. The green machine drove past midfield and as the first quarter ended a chill, uncaused by the brutal win, was sent down the spines of the folk on the East Side of the stadium with the scoreboard reading 14-0 in favor of the home team.
The first play of the second quarter, which some may say was almost divinely influenced, proved to be the turning point in the game. After Louisville struggled to pass against the wind in the first quarter, the Warriors wasted no time in unleashing their aerial attack against the current. Quarterback Troy James lofted a ball deep down the right sideline that seemed to float forever in the air before being caught by wide receiver Scott Muckleroy for a 30 yard gain just past the outstretched hands of a Louisville defender. The catch put West Branch at the Louisville 15-yard-line. A penalty by West Branch and then a sack by Leopards defensive linemen Cory Neff and Cole McElroy put West Branch in a deep hole forcing them to punt.
So why was that pass the turning point? It proved that West Branch was unpredictable, it proved they could move the ball against the wind unlike Louisville, it improved their field position, and it proved that the elements of nature weren’t going to play a factor in what was their night to shine.
After the punt, Duckworth just missed hitting Ohman for a huge gain that would have gotten Louisville out of the shadow of their own goal posts. Then a telegraphed third down pass out of his own endzone found the hands of the Warriors’ Kenny Faulkner. Two plays later, Wells found the endzone for the third time in the half to put West Branch up 21-0. The workhorse, Wells, would finish the night with a game-high 41 carries for 191 yards.
Louisville was in desperate need of a break and they got one on their next drive. At midfield, a Duckworth pass tipped off of Ohman’s finger tips gift wrapped into the hands of Warrior defensive back Jalen Shelton. But, Louisville wide receiver Dillon Stertzbach plucked the ball out of Shelton’s hands on the return before runningback Lucas Poyser fell on it. The play, in an awkward way, was the Louisville offenses’ biggest play of the night up to that point. The play kick started the Louisville offense which put together a 4 play, 30 yard drive ending in a Poyser 12 yard scamper. Louisville was on the board.
A 10 play, 61 yard controversial drive before the half featured a chunk of penalties from both sides and several personal foul calls aiding West Branch in moving the ball. The two teams combined for 18 penalties for 164 yards on the evening. The drive ended with Warriors’ placekicker Matt Latham blasting home a 36-yard field goal against the wind with 55.7 seconds remaining until halftime.
The Leps answered back with a quick drive before halftime. A long pass from Duckworth to Alex Schooley put Louisville on the 9-yard-line with just 5 seconds remaining. However, the West Branch defense came through in the clutch as a coverage sack by defensive end Evan Park ended the half.
The Leopards came out running the football and successfully moved the ball into the redzone. But that’s also where they ran into a brick wall before turning the ball over on downs.
The Louisville defense provided a three-and-out and the Leopards mounted a 10 play, 60 yard drive that featured a diving grab by Stertzbach and a 26-yard run by Poyser. Poyser would also end the series with a 1 yard touchdown run putting the Leopards within 24-14. It was a great drive, but 4:51 had been taken off the clock and the third quarter was all but exhausted by the time the goal line was reached.
Another three-and-out by the Louisville defense was punctuated by an Aaron Reynolds sack. The Leopards started with good field position as a result and Poyser ran in a touchdown from 4 yards out for his third rushing touchdown of the day. Poyser finished the night with 23 carries for 142 yards and this carry put Louisville within a single possession at 24-21.
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. That’s what the Warrior offense took to heart as they stared down the neck of a monumental collapse. It wasn’t flashy, but their 12 play 57 yard drive was Head Coach D.J. Dota’s smashmouth style of football. Little by little West Branch picked up chunks of yardage and inched closer to their final destination. Aided by a 4th-and-1 offsides penalty against Louisville, the Warriors dashed into the redzone before James found the endzone with just 3:47 remaining.
Desperation passes by Duckworth tipped off the hands of receivers and sailed incomplete as the Leopards offense turned the ball over on downs. The Leopards hope flickered as they used all three timeouts forcing another 4th-and-1. But again, Louisville fell victim to the hard count and an offsides sealed the deal for the Warriors. The streak was over, West Branch had finally beaten the Louisville Leopards.
NEXT UP: The Leopards will next host the Salem Quakers for Senior night on Friday, October 21 at 7:00 PM. Be sure to come back to Leopard Nation later in the week to get an in-depth preview on the game and series history.
WARRIORS 30, LEOPARDS 21
1 2 3 4 Final
Louisville 0 7 7 7 21
West Branch 14 10 0 6 30
WB – 7:27 – Brenden Wells 1 yd run
Brock Trimmer PAT
7 plays 39 yds
WB – 2:40 – Brenden Wells 15 yd run
Brock Trimmer PAT
7 plays 43 yds
WB – 7:46 – Brenden Wells 1 yd run
Brock Trimmer PAT
2 plays 2 yds
L – 3:44 – Lucas Poyser 12 yd run
Merrick Storlie PAT
4 plays 30 yds
WB – 0:55 – Matt Latham 36 yd Field Goal
10 plays 61 yds
L – 1:01 – Lucas Poyser 1 yd run
Merrick Storlie PAT
10 plays 60 yds
L – 10:18 – Lucas Poyser 4 yd run
Merrick Storlie PAT
5 plays 36 yds
WB – 3:47 – Troy James 1 yd run
12 plays 57 yds
Louisville – 20
West Branch – 19
Louisville – 33 carries or 195 yds
West Branch – 52 carries for 212 yds
Louisville – 15 of 27 for 128 yds 0 TD’s 4 INT
West Branch – 5 of 12 for 59 yds 0 TD’s 0 INT
Louisville – 1/1
West Branch – 2/2
Louisville – 9 for 84 yds
West Branch – 9 for 80 yds
3rd Down Conversions:
Louisville – 4 of 9
West Branch – 4 of 11
4th Down Conversions:
Louisville – 0 of 2
West Branch – 3 of 3
Louisville – Lucas Poyser – 23 carries for 142 yds 3 TD’s
Joey Duckworth – 10 carries fore 53 yds
West Branch – Brenden Wells – 41 carries for 191 yds 3 TD’s
Louisville – Joey Duckworth – 15 of 27 for 128 yds 0 TD’s 4 INT’s
West Branch – Troy James – 5 of 12 for 59 yds 0 TD’s 0 INT’s
Louisville – Trent Ohman – 10 catches for 81 yds
Gavin Lovejoy – 2 catches for 19 yds
Alex Schooley – 1 catch for 31 yds
Dillon Stertzbach – 1 catch for 6 yds
West Branch – Scott Muckelroy – 4 catches for 40 yds
***Stats Courtesy of Mike Burk***