WEST LIBERTY – WL-S and Kenton Ridge struggled back and forth until the Tigers were able to grab a lead and hang on to win, 19-7, in non-league football Friday night.
WL-S took a 6-0 lead in the second quarter on a 22-yard pass from Luke Woods to Jared Smith that was tipped in the end zone by a defender and slipped right into Smith’s lap. The extra point missed off the upright.
Late in the half, Smith again made a couple of plays with his hands that changed the game.
He intercepted a pass with less than two minutes left, but that play was nullified by offsetting penalties. But Smith wasn’t done, picking off another pass immediately after.
“He has worked extremely hard all year long. It’s great to see his efforts paying off,” WL-S Coach Dan McGill said. “He made an opportunistic play, but that’s what good players do.”
That play held up, giving the Tigers a possession that they would ultimately cash in when Brandon Wolfe broke off a long run and scored from near midfield. A failed two-point conversion left the score 12-0 in WL-S’s favor at the half.
The second half got a bit sloppy in the third quarter, as the teams traded possessions near midfield.
West Liberty-Salem went for it on fourth down and was turned away. A receiver slipped going for a pass on fourth-and-long for the Cougars, giving the Tigers the ball. Then WL-S coughed up a fumble. Kenton Ridge (1-2) was finally able to move the ball after that, but faced another fourth-and-long from the WL-S 22.
The Cougars made that conversion on a broken pass play, somehow completing a pass inside the 5-yard line. After the quarterback seemed to be corralled in the pocket, he broke free and scrambled right, heaving a prayer that was answered. The Cougars went on to score with four consecutive running plays.
WL-S was all business when it got the ball back, grinding out a long drive that featured run after run and was capped off with quarterback Woods keeping it himself from three yards away with 4:39 left.
“I think that drive defines who we are this year. We are not fancy or flashy. We’re pretty decent-sized and we just need to play behind our pads and control the line of scrimmage,” McGill said. “We did that tonight. I’m very pleased with my offensive and defensive line.”
The Tigers got the ball back one more time, already in the red zone. They picked up a first down to the 3-yard line before McGill ordered his guys to kneel on it and kill the clock.
Braden Miller finished with 73 yards rushing on 12 attempts and was a battering ram for the Tigers when they needed him. Wolfe compiled 124 yards on 20 touches and the Tigers out-gained the Cougars, 286-127.
WL-S (1-2) hosts Northeastern next Friday night.
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1776) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.