LOWELLVILLE - The Wellsville Tigers and Lowellville Rockets both entered Friday night's game at Paul Menichini Field in Lowellville sporting identical 2-0 marks in the Inter-Tri County League lower tier.
So something had to give. And it was the Tigers that gave the Rockets four turnovers en route to a 27-21 Rockets victory.
"We knew the team that made the least amount of mistakes would win, and they made less mistakes than us," Tigers coach Rich Wright said. "I thought we played hard, I thought we held our composure. We made some critical errors as coaches and players."
The Tigers tried to overcome a 20-point halftime deficit as they came roaring back in the second half, only to see their comeback fall short. Following a 13-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Sloan to Marcus Moxley with 6:22 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Tigers pulled to within 6-points at 27-21.
The defense did their job on the Rockets next possession, giving the Tigers the ball at their own 30-yard line with just over two minutes to play in the game. After moving the ball to the 46, Sloan attempted a pass to Moxley on the right sideline, only to have the Rockets' Van Vanover step in front of the pass resulting in Sloan's third interception of the night, and turning the Tigers threat away.
"I thought we made a heck of a run at them at the end," Wright remarked. "You know I would like to have a couple of things back, but you can't do that. So we will rebound, we will get better next week."
The Tigers outscored the Rockets in the second half with a touchdown run by Brandon Carr of 4 yards at the 4:17 mark of the third quarter, and a 20-yard scamper around left end by Sloan with 5 seconds remaining in the third. The Rockets scored on a 36-yard pass from Harklerode to Vanover at the 1:37 mark of the third.
The Tigers dug themselves into a whole in the first half of the contest when the Rockets came out with a hurry-up offense and drove down the field on their first possession to take a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard plunge by Robert Ciccone. The Rockets score came two and half minutes into the game.
But the Tigers looked poised to answer right back with an impressive 9-play, 54-yard drive down to the Rockets 2-yard line on their first possession. But that is when the Rockets defense set the tone of the night, causing the Tigers to cough up the ball with Nick Micco of the Rockets recovering at their own 10-yard line.
Lowellville went on the march again, and traveled the 90 yards for another score. This time it was a 52-yard pass from Rockets quarterback Alex Harklerode to Phil Ginnis to give the Rockets a 13-0 lead with 12 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
The Tigers once again threatened on their next possession, only to turn the ball over on downs at the Lowellville 24-yard line. Then they were bitten by the turnover bug again four minutes later when quarterback Jordan Sloan had a pass picked off by Ginnis of the Rockets, and returned to the Tigers 10-yard line.
This time the Tigers defense stepped to the task and force the Rockets to turn the ball over on downs at the Tigers 33-yard line. But the Tigers gave the Rockets the ball right back two plays later when Sloan had another pass intercepted. This time it was by Ciccone who return the ball down to the Tigers 7-yard line. Following a penalty, three plays later Harklerode hit Nick Lucente for a 21-yard touchdown, giving the Rockets a 20-0 halftime lead.
"We're just thrilled to get the win," Rocket coach Jeff D'Altorio said. "Our kids just kept battling and fighting, and we were able to hang on."
L-Robert Ciccone 1-yd run (Jake Maszczak kick)
L-Phil Ginnis 52-yd pass from Alex Harklerode (kick failed)
L-Nick Lucente 21-yd pass from Harklerode (Maszczak kick)
W-Brandon Carr 4-yd run (Cavan Lemasters kick)
L-Van Vanover 36-yd pass from Harklerode (Maszczak kick)
W-Jordan Sloan 20-yd run (Lemasters kick)
W-Marcus Moxley 13-yd pass from Sloan (Lemasters kick)
RUSHING-WELLSVILLE, Zack Mellott 15-81, Marcus Moxley 8-40, Brendon Carr 9-58, Jordan Sloan 10-56; LOWELLVILLE, Alex Harklerode 17-99, Nick Lucente 5-67.
PASSING-WELLSVILLE, Jordan Sloan 8-18-59-3; LOWELLVILLE, Alex Harklerode 3-7-109-0.
RECEIVING-WELLSVILLE, Marcus Moxley 4-33 ; LOWELLVILLE, Phil Ginnis 1-52.