KETTERING — Facing another late comeback, West Liberty-Salem’s football team showcased just how tough its defense was for a second-straight week.
West Liberty-Salem’s Kyle Wilkins intercepts a pass during the second half of the TIgers’ Division VI regional semifinal game against Cincinnati Summit Country Day Friday in Kettering. (EXAMINER PHOTO | TONY BARRETT)
The Tigers jumped ahead early and held on to beat Cincinnati Summit Country Day 21-13 here Friday night at Roush Stadium in a Division VI regional semifinal playoff game.
“I’m so proud of my guys,” said WL-Salem first-year head coach Dan McGill. “They overcame so much adversity and revealed they are a team of great character.”
WL-Salem (10-2) advances to the regional championship game for the first time in school history. The Tigers will face Ohio Heritage Conference rival Mechanicsburg (10-2) in a rematch on Friday at a site to be determined.
The Indians defeated Miami East 31-14 in their regional semifinal game.
Summit Country Day (9-3) displayed an explosive offense all season, but on Friday, WL-Salem’s defense was that much better. The Tigers held the Silver Knights to just 69 yards of total offense in the first half.
“Our defense played one of its better games,” said McGill. “To hold a team of their talent to 13 points is a testament to our kids and all the hard work they have put in this season.
“We did a good job keeping their skill players contained for the most part and we made the plays we needed to.”
Silver Knight quarterback Antonio Woods, who is signed to play Division I football at the University of Pennsylvania, was bottled up for most of the night by a fierce Tiger defense that tallied six sacks. Woods was held to -8 rushing yards, but did throw for 297 yards and two scores.
The Tigers marched 79 yards on their opening drive of the game Friday to score their first touchdown. That included WL-Salem going for a first down on fourth-and-eight. Quarterback Brandon Upton connected with Kameron Evans on a big pass play to the 9-yard line.
Taylor Cordell capped the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run by Taylor Cordell. That put WL-Salem up 7-0 with 8:49 to go in the first quarter.
Cordell scored again for the Tigers to cap a 60-yard drive. The senior standout took a wildcat snap from the center to bully his way in for a 2-yard touchdown run with 4:34 left in the first quarter. That put WL-Salem up 14-0.
The points continued to pour in for the Tigers in the second quarter. WL-Salem moved down the field again and saw Upton find Landon Williams alone in the corner of the endzone for a 9-yard TD pass. That extended the Tigers’ lead to 21-0 with 11:55 remaining until halftime.
Summit Country Day put together its best drive of the first half after WL-Salem’s third score. The Tiger defense came up big again, though, and forced the Silver Knights to kick and miss a 47-yard field goal with 7:13 to play.
WL-Salem’s Cordell, David Branham and Kyle Wilkins all recorded sacks in that span as the Tigers went on to carry their 21-0 lead into halftime.
Summit Country Day found its groove at the start of the third quarter. Woods took the Silver Knight offense 64 yards down field and for its first score.
Facing a third-and-20, Woods scrambled to fire a wild 28-yard TD pass. The pass was deflected and tipped by a Summit Country Day player and a WL-Salem defender before the ball fell into the hands of the Silver Knight’s Daniel Bruns, who was standing in the endzone. That made the score 21-7 with 7:55 to play in the third quarter.
The Tigers were dealt a major blow when Upton went down with an ankle injury the fourth quarter after rushing for a first down with 9:50 to play.
Cordell took over at quarterback, but the Tigers would eventually have to punt.
“My first concern was for Brandon,” said McGill. “I was heart broken he didn’t get to finish that game. At the same time, though, I thought how many plays can we run now. The whole stadium knew we were going to run the ball. Taylor, our running backs and our offensive line did a great job after that happened.”
WL-Salem’s defense proved to be stellar again when Woods tossed the ball up and the Tigers’ Wilkins picked the ball off and returned it to Summit County Day’s 29-yard line with 7 minutes to play.
Summit eventually got the ball back and struck with a big scoring play. Woods found Bruns for a second time on the night with a 64-yard TD strike down the Silver Knight sideline. The extra point was muffed, leaving WL-Salem ahead 21-13 with 4:14 remaining.
Summit Country Day then chose to gamble and recovered an onside kick to get the ball back, but were unable to find pay dirt.
WL-Salem’s defense churned out another big play when Evans picked off a pass by Woods to get the ball back on their own 26-yard line with 3:27 to go.
Any chance of a Silver Knight comeback was halted after the Tigers’ Trevor Anderson picked off another pass by Woods to seal the victory. WL-Salem’s offense then ran out the clock.
Cordell led the offense with 102 rushing yards and two scores, while Williams caught four passes for 57 yards and a score. Upton completed six passes for 100 yards with no interceptions.
WL-SALEM 21, SCD 13
Tigers 14 7 0 0 – 21
Silver Knights 0 0 7 6 – 13
TEAM STATISTICS WLS SCD
First downs 14 12
Total net yards 280 289
Rushes/yards 42/180 15/-8
Passing 100 297
Comp-att-int 6-11-0 22-43-3
Punts/avg 6/28 6/33
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-0
Penalties-yards 3-38 4-32