Created on Saturday, 12 October 2013 Written by Brian Harmon, For the Examiner
There are players in Tiger uniforms that are feeling something for the first time since Week 6 of the 2010 regular season: the agony of defeat.
A West Liberty-Salem defender chases Mechanicsburg running back Aeryton Erwin in the Friday night game at West Liberty. (EXAMINER PHOTO | BRIAN HARMON)
West Liberty-Salem’s 30-game regular season winning streak came to an end at the hands of their rivals from Mechanicsburg on Friday night.
“We’ll go to work (today),” said WL-Salem coach Dan McGill. “Our kids will be alright. Some of the toughest lessons come after games like this. We’ll be fine.”
The Indians capitalized on a superb kicking performance by Brandon Purk, and over 100 yards of penalty yards by the Tigers to claim a 32-22 victory at Tiger Stadium.
The game started like “business as usual” for the Tigers, as Tyler Cordell took the handoff on the first play and rambled 80 yards untouched for a touchdown just 14 seconds into the contest.
Despite the shock, the Indians would not panic. After swapping punts, the Indians took the ball at midfield and marched the ball deep into Tiger territory. When their drive stalled at the Tiger 24-yard line, Purk booted a 41-yard field goal to bring the score to 7-3 in the closing moments of the opening quarter.
The second quarter saw the Indians begin to take control of the game. They dominated the field position battle behind the brilliant punting from Purk. He twice pinned the Tigers inside their own 10-yard line and forced the Tiger’s offense to play more conservatively than they would prefer.
After taking control of the ball in Tiger territory, the Indians would get on the scoreboard again behind another Purk field goal, this one from 43 yards to make the score 7-6.
On their next possession, the Tigers would again be pinned at their own 12-yard line when the Indians grabbed an interception and returned it to the WL-S 4-yard line. Aeryton Erwin bowled his way into the end zone from four yards out to give the Indians their first lead of the game at 13-7.
The Tigers’ offense would once again stall, and a quick three-and-out gave the ball back to the Indians.
Mechanicsburg caught the Tigers off guard, and opened things up through the air, as they connected on two long passes to quickly get into the red zone. A few plays later, QB Kaleb Romero found Purk in the end zone on a 7-yard touchdown pass and Mechanicsburg took a 19-7 lead into halftime.
The third quarter saw both offenses struggle to get anything going against the opposing defenses. Mechanicsburg would make the error that the Tigers needed to get back into the game.
On the first play of their third possession of the half, the Indians fumbled the ball, and the Tigers recovered in Indians’ territory. That energized the West Liberty-Salem faithful, and four plays later, Cordell rushed in from one yard out to close the gap to 19-14 as the gave moved to the fourth quarter.
Early in the fourth, Mechanicsburg again took advantage of good field position and began a drive on the Tiger 40-yard line. After a series of penalties and short runs the Indians faced a fourth-and-10 from the 31-yard line.
Deciding to go for it, the Indians attempted a long pass that fell incomplete, but a controversial pass interference call gave the Indians new life, and a first down at the 15-yard line.
Two plays later, they again pushed the ball over the goal line to take a commanding 25-14 lead with only 6:34 remaining in the game.
With their back against the wall, the Tigers answered by only taking one minute off the clock. Upton found Landon Williams for a 34-yard touchdown pass that drew the Tigers to within three at 25-22 with 5:20 to play.
The Indians started the ensuing drive on their own 23-yard line. After two short runs and a illegal procedure penalty, they faced a third-and-8 from their own 29-yard line.
M’burg again looked for the player who stepped up big for them all night in Purk. Romero dropped back and heaved a deep pass to Purk, who reeled the pass in, then shook off a tackle attempt by the Tiger defender and raced 76 yards for the deciding touchdown.
A Luke Marsh interception ended any hopes for Tiger comeback.
Cordell led the Tigers on the ground with 130 yards and two touchdowns. Williams was the top receiver with six catches for 119 yards and a touchdown.
Mechanicsburg’s Purk had five catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns. He also averaged 46 yards per punt on five attempts.
The Tigers are back in action Friday at Cedarville.
INDIANS @ TIGERS
Mechanicsburg 3 16 0 13 – 32
WestLiberty-Salem 7 0 7 8 – 22
TEAM STATISTICS M’BURG • WL-S
First downs 12 • 12
Total net yards 248 • 278
Rushes/yards 23/100 • 27/136
Passing 148 • 142
Comp-att-int 7-13-0 • 13-25-2
Punts/avg 5/46 • 7/31
Fumbles-lost 1-1 • 0-0
Penalties-yards 6-35 • 9-103