By: Timothy Kays
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
The Wauseon Indians opened their 2015 postseason drive with quarterback J.J. Kauffman in street clothes nursing a wounded wing. The duties of calling signals fell upon an inexperienced junior, Brendan Wilson. If the Redmen of Bellevue were anticipating the possibility that the Tribe might trend towards the one-dimensional as a result, their prognostications were spot on. The Redmen loaded the box to choke off the Wauseon running game, virtually shutting down the Tribe offense on the way to an 18-0 upset of the hometown boys.
It wasn’t as though Bellevue had a field day in the process of winning the game. While the Wauseon offense was moribund, the defense was still firing on all cylinders. Bellevue took the opening kick, and gained 18 on a run on their first play. They tried the run again, only to see Tyler Wilson and Luke Rychener blow it up for a loss of four. Facing a second and long, they went back to the run. This time around it was Hunter Yackee taking down the runner for a loss of three. A third down pass netted seven, and Bellevue was forced to punt, but they set a tone with the kick as the ball was downed at the Wauseon two. The battle for starting field position would remain with the Redmen for the majority of the game.
The Tribe was able to gain a first down on their first series, but did little more. Neither team was able to break the other’s defense, and the first period ended in a scoreless tie, but with Bellevue on the march deep in Tribe territory.
The first break of the game came on the first play of the second period. With the ball on the Wauseon 19, a designed run by the Bellevue quarterback was met by Ty Leininger, whose hit jarred the ball loose. Wilson recovered the fumble, thwarting the Redmen, but again leaving the Tribe in poor field position to start at their own 14.
Wilson took the first run for two, and the second for another five. On third down, Wilson got loose on the outside for ten to move the chains, but a chop block personal foul on the next play moved the ball back 15 yards, killing the drive. Bellevue allowed the punt to roll dead at their 40.
Bellevue gained a yard on a run, then moved the chains on a pass to the Wauseon 48. On the next play, the ball was bobbled on the handoff. Trevor Wilson recovered the fumble on the Bellevue 38, giving the offense their best opening field position of the entire night. Again, the Tribe offense sputtered as a screen to Danny Hench lost four on first down. Wilson got a yard back on second down, but an ensuing pass fell incomplete. The Redmen dodged the bullet, and the pooch kick from Wauseon rolled dead at the 21.
It took Bellevue all of six plays to move the ball down the Wauseon red zone to the 12. From there, a combination of Redmen errors and the play of the stalwart Wauseon defense again stemmed the tide on a third and one. Hench stepped up and stuffed a run for a loss of one. A flag on the play cited the Redmen for too many men on the field, moving the ball back an additional 15 yards. Now facing a third and 16, Bellevue went to the air, but another flag was thrown when the quarterback flung the ball after passing the line of scrimmage. What once was a third and one from the 12 was now a fourth and 21 from the 34. Opting to go for it through the air, the Indians took over on downs when Mason Creager broke up the pass with time winding down in the half.
Wilson hooked up with Rychener on first down, but the second down pass bounced off the hands of the receiver and into the hands of the Bellevue safety. Again the Tribe defense was forced to step up with the half coming to a close. The Redmen got the ball down to the Wauseon 20 before they called for a timeout to draw up a final play with 5.5 seconds left in the half. Josh Whitcomb smelled out the pass into the endzone, nearly picking the ball off as time expired on a scoreless first half.
Wauseon took the opening kick of the second half, but quickly went three and out. The Tribe defense picked up where they left off in the first half. Again confident that their offense could move the ball at will against Wauseon, Bellevue pressed their luck on a fourth and one at their own 44. Ethan Baker had other ideas though, meeting the ball carrier at the line and slamming him to the turf for no gain, and a turnover on downs.
Once again the Wauseon defense gave the offense the ball in excellent field position, but once again the offense failed to launch. A two-yard screen to Jacob Flory was followed by two incomplete passes, resulting in a pooch punt that rolled dead at the Bellevue 24. This time, the luck of the tiring defense finally ran out as the Redmen began a long drive. As the third quarter was closing, a 14-yard pass and a run for three had Bellevue knocking on the door yet again, with the period ending in a still scoreless tie, but with the Redmen looking at a second and goal from the Wauseon four.
The fourth period opened with a Bellevue run to the one on second down. A quarterback keeper landed on paydirt…but so did a penalty flag. Called for holding, the touchdown was wiped off the board, and the Redmen faced a third and goal from the 11. A pass to the endzone was busted up by Flory. Needing another stop, the defense finally rolled snake eyes as another pass to the endzone was caught for the touchdown, capping an 18-play drive with 11:14 remaining in the game. The two-point PAT failed, but Bellevue finally broke the scoreless tie, and was up 6-0.
In a matter of seconds, the Tribe defense would see their fortunes go from bad, to worse. The ensuing kickoff was fumbled, and the Bellevue special teams recovered the ball at the Wauseon 26. Back onto the field, the frustrations of the overtaxed defense began to show. A nine yard run on first down was given a boost by a late hit call on the Tribe, giving the Redmen a first and goal at the nine. A run for two was augmented by a chop block call on the defense, resulting in a first and goal at the five. A run for four was followed by a one yard quarterback draw for another touchdown. The PAT again went awry, but the lead was bumped up to 12-0 with 10:02 remaining.
The Tribe took over the ball at the Bellevue 49. Three plays later, they were punting from their own 48. Bellevue took over at their own 20 with 7:39 left. They also went three and out, but they killed significant clock time in the process. Wauseon took over on their own 18 with 5:30 remaining in the game.
The Redmen knew that the Indians were in need of instant offense, and with the run shut down, they didn’t need to wait long for the inevitable. The first play saw Wilson’s pass go through the hands of his receiver, and straight into the arms of a waiting defender who was finally hauled down at the Wauseon four. With 4:31 left in the game, the Redmen made it 18-0 after their two-point PAT was again turned back.
With the help of a late hit call on the Bellevue special teams, the Tribe again tried to muster some offense against a confident defensive front. Wilson went for six to the Bellevue 49. A three yard connection to Creager and a two yard run by Wilson moved the chains. Wilson found Leininger for four, but his next pass fell incomplete. Wilson lost a yard on an run, and was turned back on a fourth down attempt, giving the ball back to Bellevue with 2:00 left, sealing the deal for the Redmen, and bringing the Wauseon season to an end with a 9-2 mark and a shared NWOAL Championship with the Swanton Bulldogs.
Timothy Kays may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org