WEST LIBERTY – West Liberty head football coach Jason Iske had a somewhat helpless feeling following his team’s 34-27 loss to second-ranked Mount Vernon on Friday night.
Iske’s Comets still have a chance to reach the state football playoffs, but will now need some help from the Mustangs next week.
“It’s kind of like the wrestler at districts who is waiting for that wrestleback,” Iske said. “You’re just sitting there. I’ve never been a wrestler, so I wouldn’t know, but it’s just got to be a gut-wrenching feeling knowing that your fate is in somebody else’s hands.”
If Mount Vernon defeats Williamsburg next week and West Liberty wins at 1-7 Camanche, the Comets will qualify for the playoffs. A Williamsburg win would end West Liberty's season, regardless of its result against Camanche.
West Liberty (5-3, 4-2 Class 2A District 5) was very much in control of its own destiny in the first half of Friday’s game at Memorial Field. The Comets, who were coming off of an upset win over No. 1 Williamsburg last week, built a 27-7 lead late in the second quarter and seemingly had the Mustangs on the ropes. But West Liberty couldn’t deliver the knockout punch, and Mount Vernon came roaring back.
“We’ve been down before,” Mount Vernon coach Lance Pedersen said. “One of the things we feel our culture is built around is that as long as there’s time on the clock, there’s time to win the football game. We had a whole second half, so there was a lot of time left on the clock.
"We knew there was no such thing as a 20-point play, so we just had to keep plugging away.”
Mount Vernon quarterback Drew Adams, who had completed just four of his first 11 passes for 16 yards, threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Cale Snedden with 40 seconds remaining in the first half to trim the Comets’ lead to 27-14 at the break.
Then the Mount Vernon defense limited a West Liberty offense that gained 327 first-half yards to just 42 yards and one first down after the break.
“It was just mistakes and not executing,” Iske said. “When you do that and you can’t get a first down, you can’t keep them off the field, and with their offense you want to keep them off the field as much as you can. When we’re going three-and-out, that’s not a recipe for success.”
Mount Vernon (7-1, 6-0 Class 2A District 5) ran twice as many offensive plays as West Liberty in the second half. Adams, who finished the game with 178 passing yards, threw touchdown passes of 48 and 41 yards after halftime. And tailback Paul Ryan ran for 108 of his 179 yards in the second half, including a one-yard touchdown plunge.
Snedden returned the game’s opening kickoff 94 yards, and Mount Vernon led 7-0 just 15 seconds into the contest.
But West Liberty scored the game’s next 27 points. Senior Joe Kelly rushed for 154 of his 182 yards in the first half and scored three times, and Seth Feldman scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak to give the Comets a 27-7 lead with 2:28 remaining in the first half.
“West Liberty’s a very good football team. They have a lot of weapons and a lot of talent, so I wasn’t surprised at all," Pederson said of the Comets big first half. “Obviously that’s not something you want to happen, but they’re very loaded and a very good football team. We knew they were going to score some points. In fact, after the first time they scored, I went over to my offensive line and said, ‘Guys, this is going to be a shootout. Hang in. Here we go.’
"It was, but we were able to make some key plays when they were needed.”
Mount Vernon 34, West Liberty 27
MV – Cale Snedden 94 kick return (Tyler Elliott kick), 11:45
WL – Joe Kelly 30 run (Bryce Esmoil kick), 3:27 Second quarter
WL – Kelly 70 run (Esmoil kick), 9:48 WL – Kelly 5 run (Kick failed), 5:31
WL – Seth Feldman 1 run (Esmoil kick), 2:28 MV – Cale Snedden 13 pass from Drew Adams (Elliott kick), 0:40
MV – Paul Ryan 1 run (Kick failed), 5:24 MV – Matt Gearhart 48 pass from Adams (Elliott kick), 3:13 Fourth quarter MV – Snedden 41 pass from Adams (Elliott kick), 11:10 TEAM STATISTICS MV;WL First downs;19;12 Rushes-yards;41-210; 40-223 Passing yards;216;146 Total yards;426;369
Rushing – MV, Ryan 30-179, Coy Martin 4-24, Zach Baker 4-21, Blake Booth 1-7, Adams 2-(-21). WL, Kelly 23-182, Feldman 13-27, Tanner Iske 4-14.
Passing – MV, Adams 11-24-0, 178 yards, Snedden 1-1-0, 38 yards. WL, Feldman 9-13-0, 146 yards.
Receiving – MV, Baker 7-92, Gearhart 2-66, Snedden 2-54, Booth 1-4. WL, Justis Dengler 1-70, Iske 5-55, Kelly 2-20, Jackson Gingerich 1-1.