CINCINNATI – History repeated itself here Saturday night and West Liberty-Salem was just fine with that.
A year ago, the Tigers overcame a slow start to topple Cincinnati Country Day, 29-7, in the first round of the Division VI playoffs.
On Saturday, WL-S fell behind 7-0 before taking complete control of the game behind a stifling defense, a methodical running game and a little flare through the air en route to a 21-7 victory over the Indians in Region 22 action.
“Anytime you can survive and advance, it’s a great thing,” West Liberty-Salem Coach Dan McGill said. “I’m really happy for these seniors and we’re looking forward to playing football for another week.”
The Tigers (9-2) understood what to expect from the Indians (9-2) and exactly who they needed to contain. CCD senior running back Darryn Jordan came into the matchup with 1,275 yards and was a big-play threat all season long for the Indians.
But WL-S senior standout Trevor Anderson made sure Jordan would not be the star.
Anderson, a four-year starter, was all over the field for the Tigers, recording 11 tackles including four for losses. He also had 111 yards on the ground and 46 more receiving. Anderson made his presence felt on three huge plays late in the third quarter, thwarting the Indians on their final attempt to get back into the game.
On a third-and-one play from the WL-S 21-yard line, Anderson flew into the backfield and stopped Jordan for a loss to force a fourth-and-three. Jordan again got the carry on fourth down, but Anderson led the charge, stopping Jordan an inch from the first down. If that wasn’t the clincher for the Tigers, Anderson’s next big play would prove to be the dagger.
On third-and-12 of the ensuing drive for the Tigers, quarterback Brandon Upton tossed an interception deep in his own territory, but Anderson blasted the runner and caused the ball to squirt free. Upton pounced on the loose ball and the Indians would not threaten again.
“I’d basically do anything for one more game,” Anderson said. “I do not want to quit playing for the Tigers.”
McGill said Anderson is the type of player he wants leading the team.
“He wants to win as bad as anyone I’ve ever had,” he said. “He’s certainly not the biggest guy, but he plays with as much heart and passion as anybody. He’s a great example for the younger guys so they can see a guy going out and getting everything out of his God-given talent.”
Like a year ago, it was CCD getting on the board early in the contest as the Tigers struggled to find a rhythm. Senior Kunal Minhas capped an 11-play drive with a 2-yard dive late in the first quarter to give the Indians a 7-0 lead.
But it wouldn’t last long.
Anderson got the ensuing drive started with quick bursts up the middle and around the left end. Facing a third-and-14, junior Brandon Wolfe barreled through the line and then, once in the secondary, spun away from defenders twice en route to a 24-yard run that put the ball at CCD’s 9. Four plays later, Anderson scored from 2 yards out on fourth down and knotted the score at 7 apiece.
Two drives later, Wolfe capped a short three-play drive with a blast from seven yards out to give WL-S a 14-7 advantage with 3:02 remaining in the first half. CDD tried to respond quickly, but a run for a loss and two incomplete passes left the Tigers with 2:07 before the half and they took full advantage.
The Tigers had done most of their damage on the ground to that point, but with limited time remaining before halftime, Upton took charge. He completed 4-of-6 pass attempts, three of which were to senior Dusty Moell. After a false start moved the ball to CCD’s 36, Upton found a streaking Anderson in stride for a 36-yard touchdown that gave the Tigers their 21-7 advantage.
Anderson said the camaraderie is a big reason why his Tigers will be playing into the second weekend of the playoffs.
“Our team is really tight this year, the tightest team I’ve ever been on,” Anderson said. “It makes it more fun to come out and play on game night. We all come out here and do whatever it takes to keep playing.”
Fifth-seeded West Liberty-Salem will play top-seeded Marion Local (10-1) on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Wapakoneta’s Harmon Field.