Game of the Week

Turnover TDs ignite Generals in 55-20 victory over Knights

Zac Ntia and the Generals protect a win over Knights

Sponsored content: Malone University

Sometimes stats do lie.

From a statistical standpoint, the Wooster versus West Holmes Game of the Week presented by Malone University was supposed to be a good one.

Wooster had 19 first downs; the Knights had 18. West Holmes rushed for 197 yards; the Generals rushed for 189. Wooster threw for 172 yards while West Holmes threw for 102. Both teams were nearly identical in penalty yards while neither was hugely successful on third-down conversions.

That sounds like a tight ball game, yet at the end of four quarters, a glance up at the scoreboard proved otherwise as Wooster carved out a 55-20 victory on the strength of four interceptions and three pick-six touchdowns from the defense.

The win improved Wooster to 3-3 while West Holmes dropped to 1-5, and Wooster’s first half was a dream come true for one team and a nightmare for the other.

A horror movie that could make Stephen King wince

If West Holmes head coach Zac Gardner has horrible nightmares about football, they may well look and feel a lot like the first half West Holmes endured in this one.

After driving downfield on its opening drive inside the 10, an offside penalty hurt the Knights big time. A first and goal at the 4-yardline never materialized into points, and Wooster took over.

A huge sack on Wooster’s first offensive play by linebacker Josh Baldridge put the Generals in a deep hole, but on third and 17, quarterback Dylan Dagley ran amok, gobbling up 34 yards and kick-starting a horrifying half for West Holmes.

Wooster drove the length of the field, and Dagley hit Donoven Hall on a wide-open TD pass. West Holmes was stopped on a three-and-out, and Wooster quickly went down and scored again, this time with Dagley finding Taelon Harper for a 22-yard swing pass touchdown. Dagley then returned an errant Bridger Cline pass to the end zone on an interception, and it was 21-0 before the first quarter was over.

Another Knights turnover led to a short field for Wooster, and Calvin Blair scored on a 1-yard run through a gaping hole, and it was 28-0.

The nightmare only continued for the Knights as Blair intercepted a pass and roared into the end zone untouched to make it 35-0. The horror story wouldn’t end until Chase Marshall plunged in for a score to make it 42-0 with time still left on the first-half clock.

West Holmes would finally end the misery when Gavin Sheldon broke through on a 2-yard touchdown on a direct snap, and Wooster carried a huge 42-7 lead into the half.

West Holmes came out of the locker room inspired, and after a three-and-out, Cline quickly drove the Knights downfield and found plenty of wide-open space on a perfectly executed bootleg. West Holmes got another stop and could have made things interesting, but trailing 42-13 near mid-field, the Generals’ defense stiffened, got a big stop and the rest was academic as Wooster took care of business.

Wooster’s pick-six party

It is exciting for any team that is fortunate enough to put up a defensive touchdown on an interception. It doesn’t happen with a great deal of regularity.

In this game the Generals did it three times and missed a fourth by about three inches.

The first one came near the end of the first quarter with Wooster leading 13-0. Starting QB Dylan Dagley proved he could do more than throw touchdowns, picking off a Bridger Cline offering and rolling into the end zone for a 21-0 Wooster lead.

With just over six minutes left in the half, Calvin Blair picked off a pass and sprinted to the end zone for a commanding 35-0 lead for the Generals. Donoven Hall then intercepted a Cline pass and tip-toed down the sideline and appeared to have scored again, but his right foot hit the sideline stripe by about three inches.

Later in the second half Jett Morgan intercepted a pass deep in West Holmes territory and eked is way into the end zone for the third defensive TD for Wooster.

“Defensively we had three scores and almost four, so that is very big,” Wooster head coach Doug Haas said.

Execution, execution, execution

While West Holmes may be 1-4, the Knights have, for the most part, executed their game plan fairly well this season. Zac Gardner’s crew has been in every game, played well for long stretches and are much more competitive than 1-4 would indicate.

However, on this night the Knights seemed to completely lose sight of the game plan. Fundamentals went south and execution never took place.

“It’s a little disheartening when you come out and execute that way,” Gardner said. “We challenged them to come out and chop wood in the second half, take it one step at a time. We simply need to execute better.”

But the upbeat head coach won’t waiver from his commitment to making this team a winner, now and later, and he said the hiccup was the anomaly, not the status quo.

“Our kids can take the mentality that they are going to learn from this and get better, or they can quit, but my kids aren’t quitters. I was proud that my kids never quit. They could have packed it in at halftime. We’ll do some soul-searching and continue to build this program.”

Little Johnny Everything, he can be most anything

Back in the 1960s, cartoon character Little Johnny Everything was believed to be able to do whatever he put his mind to, and he had a nifty little tune too. On this night Wooster junior Dylan Dagley was Little Johnny, and he played a tune of his own.

Dagley was incredible at quarterback, where he used his arm to lead Wooster on a 91-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter. He used his legs to get the Generals out of a difficult third-and-17 situation deep in their own territory that helped turn momentum in the Generals’ direction. He used his hands, where he grabbed an interception and returned it for a pick-six, and he used his guile and quickness, making Knights miss tackles throughout the contest.

“He’s really slippery, really elusive,” Haas said of Dagley. “He is very smart, very heady, and he has that ‘it’ factor you want to see from your quarterback.”

Dagley said while he did some incredible things, it was a team effort that paved the way to victory.

“We came out kind of slow in the beginning, and we really started to pick it up with touchdowns to Donoven and Taelon and got a pick-six, all in the first quarter. I couldn’t ask for a better game from my players.”

Asked which of those events he enjoyed more, Dagley stayed true to his teammates. “Whenever we score, I’m excited. I love to score, but if I get the ball to my teammates, I love watching them score too.”

An early turning points swings Big Mo Wooster’s way

West Holmes took the opening kick-off and rammed the ball right down Wooster’s throat. Gavin Sheldon was a battering ram, cruising to 40 yards as he crushed through Generals defenders. However, after getting inside Wooster’s five, a huge offside penalty on West Holmes pushed them back five yards, putting them in a passing situation. An incompletion, a sack and a stop ensued, and that was part one of the momentum swing.

After West Holmes’ Josh Baldridge sacked Dagley on the Knights’ second defensive play, setting up a third-and-17 situation deep in Wooster territory, Dagley ran a quarterback draw up the middle, swung to the right sideline and reeled off a 34-yard run that took the Generals out of danger and started a 21-point first quarter for Wooster. They never looked back.

“Defensively, to stop them inside the red zone and to be methodical and move the ball down the field and to capitalize to make that a score, that was huge,” Haas said.

Generals focus on breaking the Chaney

Coming into the contest, Wooster knew all about the electrifying Brayden Chaney. The lightning-quick senior had burned every team he had faced coming into the contest, and he has made a major impact on every game this year.

The Generals limited Chaney to three rushing yards on one carry, and while he did accumulate 73 yards on six catches, he never truly hurt Wooster like he has everyone else. In addition Wooster took the ball out of Chaney’s hands in the return game by going for it on fourth down numerous times and kicking the ball out of bounds or very short on kick-offs.

“He’s a heck of a football player, and from a game-plan standpoint, we needed to know where he was all the time,” Haas said. “That is a credit to coach (Trent) Shaffer and the staff. We recognize that kid’s a player, and there were times we bracketed him and didn’t get the touches.”

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