By: Ed Weaver | NTL Sports | September 15, 2018 | Photo courtesy Dr. Robert Bair
Just like last week against Montgomery, junior Aidan Hauser returned a second-half kickoff for a touchdown to spark the Wellsboro Varsity Football team in a 30-3 road win over Towanda on Friday, September 14.
"We shot ourselves in the foot a lot and put the ball on the ground, had a touchdown called back due to a hold and some penalties inside the 10 twice in the first half," head coach Matt Hildebrand said. "We had the potential to be up 21 points in the first half I feel like and we didn't have that. We responded well in the second half and that's what I'm most proud of."
After a quasi-onsides kick to start the game the Hornets recovered the ball at the Towanda 32-yard line. The drive stalled, however, inside the 20 and the Black Knights took over. Towanda marched down into Wellsboro territory, highlighted by a big 32-yard pitch and catch from Tanner Kunkle to Brett Crispell, but their drive stalled at the Hornet 24.
Both teams traded punts on their ensuing drives and when the Hornets got the ball the second time Hauser broke free on a huge run down the Black Knight sidelines, only to have it called back on a holding penalty. Again the Wellsboro drive stalled and the Hornets were forced to punt. They got the ball back though two plays later as senior Tanner Button intercepted a Kunkle pass, but a fumble by Hauser down inside the Black Knight 25 gave the ball back to Towanda.
Towanda put together a 15-play drive to move down into the Green Hornets side of the field. On 2nd-and-23 from the Towanda 18, Kunkle connected with Noah Shafer on a 53-yard pass to get to the Wellsboro 27. The Black Knights got down to the Hornet 4, but facing a 4th-and-4 with time running down, they opted for a 21-yard field goal by Aizik Nimmo.
At the half the Black Knights held a slim 3-0 lead until Hauser returned the second half's opening kick 85 yards to the house. Sophomore Zach Singer's extra point split the uprights and the Hornets led 7-3 just 14 seconds into the third quarter and started a 30-0 run for Wellsboro.
"We told the kids that there was no need to panic and if we play our brand of football in the second half we win the game," Hildebrand continued. "Our special teams responded again, I think this is the third week in a row that our special teams have put the ball in the end zone."
From that point on the Hornet defense thwarted the Black Knights' next four offensive drives by forcing four straight turnovers. On the Black Knight's second drive of the half the Hornet defense caused another Kunkle interception, which led to an 81-yard touchdown run by Hauser to give Wellsboro a 14-3 lead with 1:34 remaining in the third.
Towanda's third drive ended in an interception, this time freshman Isaac Keane picked off the pass and returned it 90 yards for the touchdown to put Wellsboro up 20-3 with 10:18 left in the game. Two plays later junior Silas Wagaman intercepted another pass from Kunkle giving the Hornets the ball at the 34. The drive didn't result in a touchdown, but ended in a 33-yard Singer field goal to make it 23-3.
After a fumble on the following kickoff gave Wellsboro the ball at the Towanda 30, Keane hit Wagaman on a 28-yard pass down to the 2, then snuck his way in from a yard out three plays later to cap the score at 30-3 for Wellsboro's fourth win of the season.
Keane finished the night 4-for-8 in the air for 56 yards and rushed 10 times for 26 yards. Hauser led all runners with 122 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown. He is now over 500 yards (521) for the season and 1,573 for his career. Wagaman led the receiving corps with 2 receptions for 43 yards. Button also caught 2 passes for 13 yards.
Defensively senior Robert Brown led Wellsboro with 14 tackles, putting him at 304 for his career. Junior Alex Burrell finished with 12 tackles, senior Hunter Brown had 8 tackles, junior Zach Florio recorded 6 tackles and 2 sacks, and junior Tyler Hancock had 5 tackles.
"Hunter, Robert, and Zach are doing great things for us week in and week out," concluded Hildebrand. "Kunkle is a good quarterback and you can't bring him down with one guy. We did a good job containing him and then as far as Isaac, the interception was huge. We told the secondary to back off a little bit, they were beating us on deep balls so we told them to sit back and break on the ball. We finally broke on one and took the coaching and it resulted in a score. That's what you like to see, when you coach a kid they take the coaching and good things happen."
Next up for Wellsboro (4-0, 4-0 NTL Large School Division) is a date with Hughesville (0-4) next Friday, September 21 back home at the Wellsboro Community Athletic Complex.