ABOVE: West Liberty-Salem defender Kyle Crawford (57) returns an interception as teammate Trevor Anderson (8) looks on during their Division VI playoff game Friday in Williamsburg. BELOW: West Liberty-Salem’s Trent Thomas scores a touchdown as a Williamsburg defender attempts to make a tackle during their Division VI playoff game Friday in Williamsburg.
FRONT PAGE PHOTO: West Liberty-Salem quarterback Brandon Upton carries the ball as teammate Taylor Cordell helps block during their Division VI regional quarterfinal playoff game at Williamsburg. (EXAMINER PHOTOS | TONY BARRETT)
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WILLIAMSBURG — West Liberty-Salem had to endure some nervous moments late in the game, but hung on to secure a spot in program history here Friday night.
The Tigers rolled to a 27-6 lead in the third quarter before fending off a fourth-quarter comeback by Williamsburg for a 27-20 victory in a Division VI regional quarterfinal playoff football game.
The victory marked the first time the Tigers (8-3) have won a playoff game away from home. They face Cincinnati Summit Country Day at 7 p.m. Friday at a site to be determined.
The Tigers won despite suffering three first-half turnovers.
“I am very proud of my guys for overcoming some adversity tonight,” said first-year Tigers’ head coach Dan McGill.
Sophomore quarterback Brandon Upton made an impressive postseason debut, throwing for 198 yards on 16-of-26 passing.
“There were a couple of times where he stepped up in the pocket and made some big throws and our receivers made some big catches,” said McGill. “That is what it is going to take to continue to be successful.”
The Tigers amassed 321 total yards, while limiting the Wildcats (7-4) to 162 yards.
Sloppy field conditions led to a lackluster start to the game.
WL-Salem struck first on a Williamsburg miscue. The Wildcats snapped the ball over their punter’s head into the end zone. A Wildcats player fell on the ball for a safety. That gave the visitors a 2-0 lead with 2:02 left in the opening quarter.
Upton threw the first of his four touchdown passes at the 8:36 mark of the second quarter. He found Landon Williams for a 9-yard TD play that put the Tigers up 9-0.
Williamsburg answered on its next possession. Quarterback Lane Edmisten took off on a third-and-long play and scrambled 50 yards for a touchdown. The extra-point attempt failed, leaving the Tigers up 9-6 with 5:16 remaining in the first half.
The Tigers the responded with a score of their own. WL-Salem marched 60 yards on seven plays, with Upton firing a 36-yard touchdown pass to Trent Thomas for a 15-6 Tigers’ lead.
WL-Salem kept its momentum going at the start of the second half. On the first offensive series of the third quarter, the Tigers put together a 9-play, 57-yard scoring drive that was capped by a 21-yard TD pass from Upton to Williams. That pushed the Tigers out to a 27-6 advantage with 3:35 left in the third period.
It looked like the Tigers had the game well in hand until the hosts came up with two touchdowns midway through the final quarter.
Edmisten found Hunter Baldwin for a 27-yard touchdown pass that made the score 27-12 at the 7:07 mark.
Baldwin then scored again just a few seconds later.
On the first play of the Tigers’ ensuing possession, Baldwin picked off a pass along the sideline and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown. The Wildcats added a two-point conversion run to climb to within seven points with 6:52 remaining.
The Tigers refused to get rattled, though. They put together a long drive that ran out the clock.
“After they scored on that interception, I told our guys to not panic and do what we had been coached to do all year,” said McGill. “I just told them to go win a football game.”
Thomas led the WL-Salem receivers with 81 yards on five catches. Williams made five grabs for 37 yards, Kam Evans had three catches for 50 yards and Ben Burden had two catches for 22 yards.
David Branham rushed for 62 yards on nine carries and Taylor Cordell had 54 rushing yards on 17 carries.
Defensively, Kyle Crawford picked off a pass and Cordell had two sacks to lead the way for the Tigers.
WL-S 27, WILLIAMSBURG 20
Tigers 2 13 12 0 – 27
Wildcats 0 6 0 14 – 20
TEAM STATISTICS WLS WB
First downs 16 9
Total net yards 321 162
Rushes/yards 32/123 34/126
Passing 198 36
Comp-att-int 16-26-2 3-9-1
Punts/avg 2/32 5/35.4
Fumbles-lost 2-2 0-0
Penalties-yards 4-28 3-30
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