By: Bill Bray – THE VILLAGE REPORTER
The Wauseon Indians helped themselves to an extended football season Friday night with a 35-14 NWOAL victory over Patrick Henry.
Patrick Henry was looking to advance to their 12th consecutive playoff appearance under coach Bill Inselmann. The Wauseon Indians playoff drought dates back to 1999 and they had not beaten the Patriots since 2007.
The first quarter was a test of wills as neither team could ‘get off the ground’ grinding out short yardage and seeing drives stall for almost the entire quarter.
With 11 seconds remaining in the opening stanza, and the Indians on their own nine-yard line, the sea parted and through it ran Kris Boysel. Boysel had received a ‘pitch and catch’ reception from his quarterback Ty Suntken.
Boysel gathered the ball on the 12 yard line. From there the talented senior receiver galloped 91 yards for the game’s first score. Suntken found Axel Bueter in the front corner of the end zone for the extra points and the Indians were up 8-0.
Bueter, valuable on both sides of the line, intercepted a pass on Patrick Henry’s next drive and returned the ball to the Wauseon 36. On the first play from scrimmage it was Bueter again, this time receiving the ball from Suntken and sprinting 53 yards down to the Patriot’s 11. From there it was Zac Robinson for a five yard gain, an incomplete Suntken pass, then a six-yard Suntken to Noah Castle pass that put the Indians up 14-0 with 7:34 left in the first half. Josh Whitcomb added the kick and Wauseon had a suprising 15-0 lead.
Patrick Henry suffered much of the first half with ball control. Quarterback Derek Kolpien fumbled numerous snaps from his center. The same was true on the Patriot’s next possession. Two straight center exchange fumbles were recovered by Patrick Henry, the second on a fourth and one that turned the ball back over to the Indians at the Wauseon 44.
Wauseon wasted little time again as Bueter skirted for 33 yards to the Patrick Henry 24 then Boysel hauled in a Suntken pass for the remainder of the distance and with 5:01 left in the half Wauseon was pulling away 21-0.
With Patrick Henry running three times as many offensive plays as Wauseon, the stats would say that the Patriot’s were dominating. But big plays were part of Wauseon’s offense over three quarters of the game. Their fourth score was no different. Taking over on their own 27, Suntken found Bueter with a screen pass that turned into a 73 yard touchdown run to start the third quarter. Whitcomb added the extra point and at the 7:28 mark the Tribe continued to pull away 28-0.
To that point the four Indians score drives read like this. One play, 91 yards. Four plays, 64 yards. Four plays, 56 yards. One play, 73 yards.
The Patriots, behind the running of their workhorse, Tobey Hernandez, were able to put six points on the board as the fourth quarter started. On the 14 play, 74 yard drive, Hernandez carried seven times. Josh Peterson’s five yard run put the Patriot’s into the scoring column as the score read 28-7 with 10:27 remaining in the contest.
Wauseon, again wasted little time in answering back with a three play, 58 yard drive. After a short four-yard pass to Zac Robinson, Suntken found a hole on the right side and rambled 57 yards to the Patriot’s two. There he was hit hard and fumbled the ball forward. An alert Zach Johnson dove onto the ball giving the Indians their fifth and final tally of the game at the 9:03 mark. Whitcomb’s kick was good and the lopsided score read 35-7.
A Peterson to Hoops pass supplied Patrick Henry with a consolation touchdown at the 6:04 mark as the final score ended Wauseon 35, Patrick Henry 14.
“Our seniors were phenomenal tonight,” coach Travis Cooper said. “Our defense has been superb all season long. We just weren’t able to run the football very well on them. They are good up front. All those big plays we made tonight is what sticks out to me.”
Ty Suntken, who now has one more chance to gain 1,000 yards rushing for his second straight season from his quarterback position, continued to escape questions about himself and his well being. “I’m not thinking about myself at this point. I am just so happy that we can now represent our community in the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. I feel very blessed that I have been able to come back and play for coach Cooper and all the coaches and my teammates.”
Wauseon’s defensive coordinator, J.D. Schnitkey was a member of the 1999 team, the last Indians team to make the playoffs. “I think both teams are similar in the way that we play as a team,” Schnitkey said. “You can tell that the players on our team are not only teammates but they are friends. This is how we were in ’99. When players want the ‘w’ more for the person beside them than themselves you can achieve great things as a team.”
The season continues on for the Indians as they will make the trec to Wooster to take on the Triway Titans Friday. Triway is a member of the Principals Athletic Conference and finished their regular season rated third in Region 12 of Division IV. They sport an 8-2 record.
Bill Bray may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org