Host National Trail played neighboring Tri-County North in the first WOAC conference game of the season for both schools. It was an opportunity for both teams to get their first win of the season and even better - to get that win against a conference opponent. The teams were evenly matched and it was a close game with several lead changes that was not decided until late in the 4th quarter.
It was exciting for the fans as both teams reached deep into their playbooks to try and get an edge. Trail went for it on 4th down on their own 20 yard yard line and made it. While TCN had a halfback pass for their 1st score of the game. The game had an ebb and a flow as each teams fortunes rose and fell.
Trails coach Hoffman on the 4th down play,“Both Jamison Watts and Joey Roberts are seniors and have been in this situation before. They have both started since they were freshmen. Roberts is a big time pass catcher.”
Trail struck first as Jody Withrow ran 48 yards to score. But Trail missed their extra point. So when North scored on a half back pass from Garrett Hutchinson to Franklin Filburn and made their point after touchdown, it gave North the lead.
Jamison Watts, who had a phenomenal night for Trail, made a heads up play just before halftime to put the Blazers up at the break. TCN had driven deep into Trail territory. North runs a double wing offense which uses the triple option. Watts was able to make a play on the ball when the option went to his side and run it back about 75 yards for a touchdown. This would not be his only turnover for this night.
Hoffman: “Tonight he was the best player on the field. He's gained 25 pounds and put on 2 inches since last season. He is fast and athletic, but not only is he talented, he is smart. He is like having another coach on the field. On either offense or defense he can tell everybody what to do.”
North tried to answer but a sack by Josh Welz on 4th and 1 ended their drive. There was still time on the clock and Trail had favorable field position on the North 33. But when Trail tried to add to their lead North's Logan Flory put and end to that threat with an interception. So at the half the score was 12-7 in favor of Trail.
On North's opening drive Watts would strike again and end the Panther threat as he would recover a North fumble at the Trail 38. Once again he would make them pay for their mistake. On the 1st play from scrimmage he would find a seam and then race 62 yards down the sideline for a score. It looked like Trail had control of the game.
But the North offense got serious and went into a long ball controlling drive. The drive culminated in a score as Colten VanWinkle ran into the endzone from 13 yards out. Trail immediately went to work and drove almost the length of the field. But an injury to Trails quarterback Watts at a critical time would end the drive. It was 4th down in North territory and a muffed handoff happened with the backup in the game. Watts would sit out a few plays and then re-enter the game.
This gave North the ball with a little over 8 minutes left in the game. North went uptempo with their offense. A catch by Colten VanWinkle put the ball on the 16 yard line where he ran the ball in for the score. North opted to go for 2 and get the lead. Logan Flory was able to convert the 2 point try and suddenly North was cooking again – they were up 21-20 with about 3 and half minutes left on the clock.
“When we scored easily at first I thought what's the deal – I thought they would be tougher than that. But boy did they come back and they fought hard. They had us down and they could easily have beaten us. But we got a couple of good plays when we needed it. The kids did not panic.”
Trail got a good return but North aided them with a late hit that put the ball at midfield. Trail got the ball into the redzone. The Trail staff must have seen something open in the middle of the North pass coverage. On 4th and 11 they passed the ball into the heart of the North defense for the go ahead touchdown. This made the score 28-21 in favor of Trail with 1:15 on the clock.
North made a last ditch effort to score in final minute. But the Trail defense played with inspiration and turned up the heat, the North quarterback was sacked twice. They had to turn over the ball on downs and so Trail was able to take a knee to seal their hard won victory.
“Their quarterback [Logan Flory] and fullback [Colten VanWinkle] are as tough as players as I have seen. We had trouble stopping them all night long. VanWinkle is a downhill runner and Flory made some plays.
Next week Trail will host Preble Shawnee and North will host Dayton Christian.
Click here for game pics from: Media Fire