EAST LIVERPOOL - Despite a slow start to the season, the East Liverpool football team found a way to go out on top.
The Potters capped a remarkable second half with their third straight victory on Friday, 41-12, against Weir High at Patterson Field.
The win finishes East Liverpool's season at 4-6 with the Potters taking claim to a 4-1 mark at home.
D.J. Austin of East Liverpool hauls in this catch, a 34-yard TD pass from QB Payton Newlun, on the Potters’ first offensive play of the game Friday against Weir at Patterson Field. (Photo by Jimmy Joe Savage)
"The commitment we saw from our senior leaders was amazing," East Liverpool coach Rick Prescott said. "They have no idea what kind of impact they've made on me, the coaching staff and the entire team. We're moving in the right direction and it's because of them. They've sacrificed so much. Every single thing that we've asked of them, they've done. I couldn't be any prouder of them."
For the Red Riders, their season comes to an end without a win.
"Our guys could've packed it in any night," Weir coach Tony Filberto said. "I'm proud of them because they stayed in there and battled. It didn't convert into wins, but in the future they'll be able to look back and know they gave it their all."
The Potters controlled the game from the opening possession.
East Liverpool's Jimmy Beaver recovered a fumble on Weir's first drive of the game.
On the very next play - the Potters' first offensive snap of the night - senior quarterback Payton Newlun launched a 34-yard scoring strike to D.J. Austin to give his team a 6-0 lead in the game's first minute.
After a three-and-out for the Red Riders, the Potters would strike again.
This time it was senior tailback Stefan Yoho finding the end zone from three yards out to give East Liverpool a 13-0 advantage with four minutes left in the opening frame.
Yoho led all rushers with 128 yards and two touchdowns. He finishes the season with 918 yards rushing with 14 touchdowns.
"We've turned into a family this season," Prescott said. "They play so hard and they do it for each other. It speaks volumes to their character. It's made our jobs as coaches so much easier and more enjoyable. Attitude is everything and this group of guys, through thick and thin, good and bad, shows up to work every day."
The game stayed 13-0 in favor of the Potters until halftime neared.
That's when Yoho grabbed a punt at midfield and took it to the house to give his team a 20-0 lead with just under two minutes left.
Weir was not going to go quietly,however.
The Red Riders turned to Cameron Davis who found a seam and broke free for a 72-yard run down to the Potters' 4-yard line. It took three tries, but eventually Eric Piatt found paydirt for Weir to put the score at 20-6 at the break.
"I feel bad for our seniors for their career that they never got to experience winning on a regular basis," Filberto said. "But, I think they'll be able to look back in a few years and realized that they set a good foundation here to build upon."
The first score of the second half came near the end of the third quarter when East Liverpool's John Miscuk pounded his way into the end zone from three yards out to give his squad a comfortable 27-6 lead with one minute left in the frame.
It wouldn't take long for the Potters to celebrate in the end zone again.
Kade Reynolds intercepted a Jake Wypsek pass and ran it to the Red Riders' 3-yard line. Newlun would cash in from a yard out and the Potters led 34-6 with 11 minutes left in the game.
Yoho would score East Liverpool's final points of the season on a 15-yard run.
On the ensuing kickoff, Weir's Jo Jo Rice found the sideline and was gone. A return of 95 yards for a touchdown put the game to its final score, 41-12.
The Red Riders had more than half of the 22 starting positions filled by freshmen and sophomores. Filberto, in his first year back with Weir, said the future is bright for his young team.
"I don't know what all of this playing time for them will equate to," Filberto said. "I don't know because (Oak Glen's) Preston Murray was the only freshman I've ever started before this year in my 35 years of coaching. We hope this experience for these young guys will convert into something positive."
Prescott said he also believes that good things are on the horizon in East Liverpool.
"It was nice to stand back and see these younger guys watch the leadership that our seniors brought," Prescott said. "They became teachers. They let the freshmen and sophomores know how to act on and off the field.
"There's lots of hope for the future. The goal of this staff coming in was to build a program. It's a long process, and we're not there yet, but we started with 60 kids and we finished with 60 kids. There was no drop off and that's saying something."
NOTES: There were plenty of penalty flags thrown on the night. East Liverpool was whistled for 11 penalties totaling 66 yards, while Weir was penalized 10 times for 71 yards. ... Weir's Cameron Davis was taken off the field on a stretcher with 10 minutes left to play.