Potters give Warriors a scare
BELOIT — East Liverpool and West Branch, two teams battling for a high playoff position in Div. IV, Region 13 treated fans to a classic down-to-wire shootout Friday night in Clinton Heacock Stadium, with the host Warriors emerging with a hard-earned 34-28 win over the upset-minded Potters.
With the win, West Branch remained unbeaten at 5-0, while East Liverpool is now 2-3.
West Branch was ranked fourth in its region while the Potters were ranked eighth going into Friday night’s battle.
Trailing 34-28, East Liverpool marched all the way to the West Branch 17 yard line in the final minute before West Branch defender Josh Gregory knocked down a Potter pass on a trick play (a double reverse pass) as West Branch escaped with the win.
“We practice all the time against their jet sweeps but we had never practiced a double reverse and I just saw him (the Potter passer) sprinting out and saw his eyes going right over my head and put my hands up and hit the ball,” said Gregory. “I knew it was the last play of the game and as soon as I hit that I got swarmed (by his teammates). It was an amazing feeling.”
“We owe it to the defense big-time,” said West Branch head coach Ken Harris. “We’re going to give them all game balls.”
“I felt like we had a chance to win there at the end,” said East Liverpool head coach Josh Ludwig. “The football gods were with us there for a while (with West Branch’s five turnovers) and we kept coming up big on defense.”
West Branch overcame five turnovers (three interceptions, including one which went for a pick six) and two lost fumbles) to still win.
“West Branch is a good football team and I felt like our team played very well tonight – it came down to the last couple plays and they made that last play and get to hold their hats high tonight,” said Ludwig.
East Liverpool shocked the Warriors early, capitalizing on a blocked punt. The Potters converted with running back Devin Toothman scooted around eight end 11 yards to score. Joseph McNicol added the PAT and the Potters led 7-0 at the 8:06 mark of the first period.
West Branch came back to tie things at 7-7 when receiver David McKeivier hauled in a short pass and raced 21 yards to the end zone. Ben Tolson added the PAT kick.
The teams traded two more scores in the first half as West Branch’s Jed Smith caught a 44-yard scoring pass just before half from Hillyer after East Liverpool had scored on an 11-yard run by running back Devin Toothman.
The two teams were deadlocked at 28-28 after three after West Branch scored on a 21-yard scoring toss from Hillyer to Dru DeShields and on a three-yard run by Alek Wilson. But the Potters countered with one-yard scoring run by quarterback Howie Wiliiams and tied things at 28-28 on a three-yard interception return by Eric Williams along with McNicol’s PAT boot.
But West Branch scored what turned out to be the game-winner when Alek Wilson bulled across the stripe from one-yard out on a fourth-and-goal play with 10:36 remaining. The PAT boot hit the right upright and fell straight down, as the hosts clung to a 34-28 lead and set up a dramatic final few minutes, including Gregory’s deflection on East Liverpool’s last drive of the night.
“We overcame some adversity and found out what we’re made of,” said Harris.
Howie Williams had a great game for the Potters rushing for 188 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown rushing and passing.
“Their quarterback is really, really good,” praised West Branch’s Harris.
West Branch quarterback Brock Hillyer completed 16-of-25 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns. West Branch running back Alek Wilson led the Warriors on the ground with 82 yards on 10 carries and two touchdowns.
“It feels great (to be 5-0),” said Harris. ”
¯ Friday marked the third time West Branch and East Liverpool had played in football, with the two schools splitting the prior two meetings.
¯ West Branch was 12th ranked in the latest Ohio AP Div. IV football poll.
¯ The Potters return to action next Friday when they play a Buckeye 8 contest at Edison.
¯ West Branch has a big EBC contest next Friday when they Warriors host the Canton South Wildcats. The game will decide the league title.
EAST LIVERPOOL: 7-7-14-0–28
WEST BRANCH: 7-7-14-6–34
EL–Devin Toothman, 11 run, 8:06 1st (Joseph McNicol kick)
WB–David McKeivier, 11 pass from Brock Hillyer, 6:38 2nd (Ben Tolson kick)
EL–Devin Toothman, 11 pass from Howie Williams, 39.5 2nd (Joseph McNicol kick)
WB–Jed Smith, 44 pass from Brock Hillyer, 5.9 2nd (Ben Tolson kick)
WB–Dru DeShields, 21 pass from Brock Hillyer, 9:10 3rd (Ben Tolson kick)
WB–Alek Wilson, 3 run, 6:10 3rd (Ben Tolson kick)
EL–Howie Williams, 1 run, 2:54 3rd (Joseph McNicol kick)
EL–Eric Williams, 3 interception return, 2:05 3rd (Joseph McNicol kick)
WB–Alek Wilson, 1 run, 10:36 4th (kick failed)
First downs 16 23
Total yards 313 331
Rushes-yards 40-275 20-117
Passing 56 208
Comp-Att-Int 5-9-1 16-25-3
Punts 3-36 2-34
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-2
Penalties-Yards 12-98 5-50
RUSHING – East Liverpool, Howie Williams, 23-188, Devin Toothman 14-55, Eric Williams 3-6; West Branch, Alek Wilson, 10-82, Brock Hillyer 10-35
PASSING – East Liverpool, Howie Williams, 5-8-56-1-1; West Branch, Brock Hillyer 16-25-208-3-3
RECEIVING – East Liverpool,; West Branch, David McKeivier 3-35, Jaxon Hendershott 2-23, Josh Gregory 1-14, Andrew Coffee 1-13, Nick Wilson 2-16, Jed Smith 2-40, Dru DeShields 3-45, Alek Wilson 3-28
INTERCEPTIONS – East Liverpool, Landon Bailey, Dalton Owens, Nikki Mapp; West Branch, Dru DeShields
FUMBLE RECOVERIES – East Liverpool, Landon Bailey; West Branch, none