Created on Monday, 29 October 2012 Written by AARON LaBATT
West Liberty-Salem’s Travis Mayse hits Triad’s Auston Sanford and knocks the ball loose during the second quarter of their game Friday at WL-Salem High School. Triad’s Brandon Edwards, right, looks on. (EXAMINER PHOTO | TONY BARRETT)
More photos in slide show below
What started out as a gridiron battle turned into a one-sided showcase of dominance as West Liberty-Salem’s football team wrapped up another perfect regular season Friday night.
The Tigers pulled away from visiting Triad in the second half for a 34-7 victory that gave the Tigers their second straight Ohio Heritage Conference championship and their second consecutive 10-0 regular season.
This marks the fourth perfect regular season in program history was the 39th win for the Tigers’ senior class.
“This is a phenomenal group we have,” said WL-Salem head coach Toby Smith. “They have put forth the effort and willingness to be successful. To go undefeated (in the regular season) two years in a row is not easy to do.”
The win also likely gives WL-Salem a home playoff game in the first round of the Division V state playoffs. It will mark the seventh time in nine seasons the Tigers have qualified to the state playoffs.
The official playoff pairings will be released Sunday afternoon at www.ohsaa.org.
“We have to wait and see who we play now,” said Smith. “We look like we will get a home playoff game, but for now I want these guys to celebrate a little bit. They have achieved something great and I want them to enjoy it.”
Friday’s game was closely contested for a half, but four third-quarter turnovers did Triad in.
“They just beat us up and knocked us out of the game,” said Triad head coach Payton Printz. “You can’t turn the ball over like that and expect to win.
“We’ve turned the ball over in the past and have overcome it. You can’t do that against West Liberty, though. They are too good.”
Even with Friday’s loss, it still appears that Triad will earn a spot in the state playoffs for the first time since 2006.
“We just have to wait and see now if we are in or not,” said Printz. “In my tenure here we have been ninth in our region three times and 10th once. We have always been on the outside looking in. It sure would be nice to be on the inside this time.”
Triad will now have to cross its fingers as it awaits its playoff fate after failing to lock up a berth Friday.
“I felt that if we brought our ‘A’ game we had a chance to win, I really did,” said Printz. “We brought our ‘A’ game for about a quarter and a half. Then we went to our ‘B’ and ‘C’ game and it went downhill from there.
“They put a lot of pressure on us. They controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball in the second half. We just had too many mistakes and too many turnovers.”
WL-Salem pinned Triad inside its own 10-yard line early in the first quarter. The Cardinals fumbled the ball in the end zone and the Tigers’ Trevor Anderson recovered to give his squad a 7-0 lead at the 9:30 mark.
Triad got on the scoreboard before the end of the opening period with a big play by Auston Sanford. The senior raced 70 yards down the middle of the field for a touchdown. That evened the score at 7-7 with 59.8 seconds left in the quarter.
After a gritty back-and-forth battle in the second quarter, WL-Salem cashed in for a touchdown as senior quarterback Riley Sims connected with Landon Hormann on a 10-yard TD pass. That gave the Tigers a 14-7 advantage with 2:39 left until halftime.
WL-Salem then took control of the game in the second half as Triad was unable to hang onto the ball. In the third quarter, Triad had three interceptions and lost a fumble.
The Tigers took advantage of the Triad miscues. Taylor Cordell scored on touchdown runs of 30 yards and 6 yards in just over a four-minute span. The Tigers missed one of the extra-point attempts, but still led 20-7 with 6:54 left in the third quarter.
“It is tough to win when you turn the ball over against anyone,” said Smith. “That is when we began to take control of the game.
“That is also a testament to our guys for not turning the ball over. We have only turned the ball over five times this season. That shows a great deal of concentration to take care of the football.”
Anderson added a 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter for the Tigers.
Sims finished the game with 179 rushing yards and Cordell had 105 rushing yards to lead the WL-Salem offense.
Defensively for the Tigers, Anderson had eight tackles and two fumble recoveries, Deven McGuire had 11 tackles and Hormann, Cordell and Jake Ortman each had interceptions.
For Triad, Tre McIntyre had 92 rushing yards and 19 receiving yards, while Steven Feasel had 43 receiving yards and Sanford added 37 receiving yards.
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