Mountain Lions maul Warriors in a 'tale of two halves'
Last season, the Pocahontas football Warriors ruined the season opener for the Tucker County Mountain Lions with a lopsided 24-8 victory in Parsons. Friday night, the Mountain Lions returned the favor with a 28-6 drubbing of the Warriors at the opener at Warrior Field.
The Warrior offense, which showed explosive potential in the preseason, got a spark with an early TD, but shot with wet powder for the rest of the game. The Tucker offense ran roughshod over the Warriors in the first half, but the Warrior defense made an amazing resurgence in the second and held Tucker to a single score.
PCHS RB Devin Rose made a nice opening kickoff return to the Warrior 39-yard line, but a false start gave the Warriors first and 15 at the 34. Two running plays and an incomplete pass got nothing and the Warriors punted from their own 33.
The Tucker return man fumbled the punt and Warrior DB Matt Arbogast pounced on the ball at the Tucker 30. Warrior RB Kyler Doss moved the chains on a nifty second down rush to the 20. On a third and five from the 18-yard line, Doss made a nice run off left guard to the 10-yard line for a first and goal.
On third and goal from the six-yard line, Rose followed a good block by FB Hunter Grimes and scored the first Warrior TD of the season. The Warriors held a 6-0 lead at 5:39 in the first quarter, but it would be the last Warrior score of the game and the lead would not last.
Tucker returned the kick to their 39-yard line. On first down, Warrior DL Zach Cassell sacked Tucker QB Derek Nestor for a five-yard loss and things were looking good for the home crowd.
But Nestor completed for 12 yards on the next play and the lanky Lion QB was a big problem for the Warriors for the rest of the game. Nestor barely made a yard on fourth and one and Warrior coach Mike Knisley protested when the referees did not measure before announcing a first down.
On third down, Nestor scampered for 34 yards to the Warrior 10-yard line. The Warrior defense held firm for two plays. LB Spencer McCoy made a smashing tackle on Nestor on second down. On a third and eight, at 1:55 in the first quarter, Nestor threw right to WR Tyler Snyder, who scampered up the right sideline for a TD. Nestor completed to WR Nathaniel Goldstein for a two-point conversion and the Lions took an 8-6 lead.
The second quarter would be mostly Mountain Lions as the Warrior defense struggled to contain the quick Tucker backs. The Lions gained 188 offensive yards in the quarter compared to PCHS' 84. Nestor rushed for 104 yards and a TD in the second quarter and Tucker RB James Arman scored a two-yard TD.
The Warrior offense ran just six plays from scrimmage during the second quarter as the defense struggled to keep the Tucker offense off the field. Doss made a nice 33-yard rush and Rose got 31 yards on a kickoff return during the quarter.
Tucker held a 22-6 lead as the teams jogged into their locker rooms at halftime.
The PCHS defense made a complete turnaround in the second half and greatly contained the Lions offense. The Warrior D held the Lions to 125 total yards and one TD in the second half. Unfortunately, the Tucker defense continued to stifle the PCHS offense.
The Mountain Lions took the kickoff to start the second half and the PCHS defense made it an ugly three and out for the Tucker squad. McCoy sacked Nestor on third down to force a Lions punt from the 18-yard line.
The Warrior offense could not take advantage of good field position on their own 48. PCHS attempted to open up the passing game, but a good Tucker pass rush kept pressure on PCHS QB Skylar Knisley, who had trouble getting rid of the ball. The Warriors were forced to punt from their 47.
The Warrior defense continued to play well and DT Brandon Gloshen made a crushing sack on Nestor to squelch the next Tucker drive. Tucker was forced to punt and the Warrior offense tried to get something going with a first down on their own 42. But a botched snap lost four yards and the Warriors were forced to punt.
Tucker took over on their 33 with 6:18 in the third quarter. On third and five from the 39, Nestor passed to Zirk in the right flats. Warrior DB Jesse Taylor crushed the receiver for a loss of four yards and forced another Tucker punt.
Warrior WR Dillon Hovorka returned the punt to the Warrior 44 and Knisley completed to McCoy, who scampered up the middle for 35 yards to the Tucker 21. It was still the third quarter and not too late for the Warrior offense to get back in the game.
A sure TD pass sailed through Arbogast's fingertips on second and eight. Knisley recovered his own fumble on third down and the Warriors turned the ball over on downs when a fourth down pass to Arbogast gained just a yard.
The Mountain Lions scored on a fleaflicker early in the fourth quarter. Nestor lateraled to Zirk, who tossed a 38-yard pass to Snyder in the end zone. The TD ended the scoring in the game and gave the Lions an insurmountable 28-6 advantage.
The Warrior defense played well for the remainder, with outstanding efforts by Gloshen, Taylor, Rose, Doss, McCoy and Grimes.
Mountain Lions coach A.J. Rapp said the Warriors would make the playoffs.
"They're a tough team," he said. "Coming down here, they're going to get some wins and they're going to make the playoffs."
West Virginia high school teams are awarded a bonus point for every victory by a team they defeated. Rapp said the seven Tucker wins last season gave the Warriors much-needed bonus points and hoped the Warriors would do the same for Tucker this year.
"You know, last year, we kind of took them to the playoffs and we kind of caught fire in the second half of the season and won some games. Now, I'm leaving it up to Coach Knisley and his guys to help us out."
Rapp said revenge was not a factor in the game.
"It's a great win down here," he said. "No, we don't play for revenge. We knew it was going to be a battle down here. We switched tapes, last weekend, Coach Knisley and I. We studied the tapes and our boys put in the time and other than a couple mishaps on fumbles, I thought we played a pretty solid game."
Knisley noted how much better his team played in the second half.
"You just saw a tale of two halves," he said. "We couldn't stop a third-grade team out here in the first half. I really didn't get on them. Just ask the other coaches. I was upset but I didn't get on them. I didn't chew them out and try to motivate them. I said, 'oh, what are you doing? You ought to be embarrassed with the way you're playing.' They came out and they stuck to it."
The coach said inexperience was a factor in the first half debacle.
"We've got some issues. We're young on the line in spots and we had a lot of problems in the first half. We got the first turnover, we got the first score, but then we just broke down defensively. Some of that's inexperience. But I told the kids, we're going to keep coming after them."
Knisley said willpower energized his team in the second half.
"It's will," he said. "They woke up and realized that they worked way too hard for the past nine months, through the winter, all spring, all summer - especially those front line guys - to come out here and have that going on. They're too strong, too big and too good of football players."
The Warriors (0-1) host the Crusaders of Parkersburg Catholic (0-1) on Saturday at Warrior Field. The Crusaders lost their first game to Buffalo at home, 20-12.
Catholic senior QB Daniel Collie threw two TD passes in the game to junior WR Mitch Davis for 36 and 56 yards. Collie was 6-18 with two TDs and 144 yards. Senior RB Zach Romine rushed 11 times for 48 yards. Junior RB Charles Schriner rushed twice for 34 yards.
The Crusaders have a new coach this season. Jeff Campbell replaced Danny Tennant, who retired after coaching Catholic for 27 years.
Saturday's kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at Warrior Field. Gametime forecast calls for temps in the low 80s with a 30-percent chance of showers.
Total offense: PCHS-289; TCHS-389
Rushing: PCHS-135; TCHS-246
Passing: PCHS-43; TCHS-81
PCHS rushing: Doss,16-90-0; Rose,5-6-1; Knisley,7-25-0; Arbogast,1-8-0
PCHS receiving: McCoy,6-43-0
PCHS passing: Knisley,3-10-43-0
TCHS rushing: Nestor,28-173-1; Arman,8-56-1; Zirk,4-17-0
TCHS receiving: Zirk,4-55-0; Goldstein,3-18-1; Snyder,2-8-1
TCHS passing: Nestor,6-9-81-2; Zirk,1-1-38-1