West Branch takes down East Liverpool
BELOIT — West Branch senior quarterback Brock Hillyer piled up 348 total yards, including 289 through the air with four touchdowns to lead the Warriors to a 43-13 win over East Liverpool in a Division IV football playoff game in Clinton Heacock Stadium here Saturday night.
“They (the Potters) came out in a shotgun Power I — I haven’t seen that in a while, if ever, and they went right down the field on us,” said West Branch head coach Ken Harris. “Then we kind of adjusted to it a little bit, and once we got up on them, that took a little bit out of their plan.”
“They (the Warriors) just did a great job tonight all the way around,” said East Liverpool head coach Josh Ludwig. “They executed everything they needed to do. They took their bye week last week and did their homework and came out with an excellent game plan.”
The win vaults the Warriors (7-0) into a regional semifinal next Saturday night against the Youngstown Ursuline Irish at 7 p.m. in Beloit. Ursuline also advanced with a win Saturday night.
“It means everything to me (to be moving on in the playoffs),” said Hillyer. “I wanted to leave a legacy here and leave a road for the younger guys coming up, and I think we’re doing that. Now we have to keep it rolling.”
Hillyer came out firing as West Branch scored on four of its five first-half possessions as the Warriors led 14-7 after one quarter and 28-13 at half.
“He did a really nice job,” praised Harris of Hillyer sterling performance.
With the loss, East Liverpool is now 4-4 on the season.
“We weren’t able to accomplish what we wanted to do,” said Ludwig.
Hillyer completed 16-of-24 passes for 289 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 59 yards on 11 carries with another six-pointer on the ground. He spread the ball around to seven different receivers, led by running back Alec Wilson with four catches for 81 yards and two touchdowns, Andrew Coffee with four catches for 67 yards and a touchdown and Josh Gregory with four snags for 51 yards and a six-pointer.
“I would say they are (the best offense) we have faced,” said Ludwig. “They have so many weapons and skills that you shut one down and someone else has a big game. Congratulations to them.”
East Liverpool was led by talented senior quarterback Howie Williams, who rushed for 78 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns on runs of two and one yards in the first half. But West Branch adjusted and was able to stymie the Potters’ running game after halftime.
“We were able to run the ball in the first half,” said Ludwig. “We were averaging 4.7 yards per carry in the first half but we were not able to throw the ball and I don’t think our protection was great tonight and we turned the ball over too much.”
For the game, West Branch out-gained the Potters, 461-210.
“I’m proud of the guys and everybody came out healthy and we’re looking forward to next week,” said Harris.
Hillyer, who had tremendous pass protection throughout the game, completed 13-of-16 first-half passes for 221 yards and two touchdown passes of six yards to receiver Andrew Coffee and 31 yards to a leaping receiver Josh Gregory in the end zone. Hillyer also hurt East Liverpool with his legs, rushing for 59 yards in the first half with a 4-yard scoring run. Kicker Ben Tolson booted four first-half PAT kicks.
“I love my team — they gave me great opportunities with the way we played on offense and defense,” said Hillyer. “We are all really close friends with the line. We challenge each other every day.”
One of West Branch’s second-quarter scores was set up when the Potters dropped a punt snap and the punter was swarmed under at the East Liverpool 12. West Branch capitalized with a 5-yard scoring run by running back Alec Wilson with 4:17 left before half, making it 28-7 at the time.
While West Branch’s offense went quick strike with its potent passing game, East Liverpool was very productive with its ground-dominated attack in the first half, led by Howie Williams who rushed for 74 yards in the first half and scored both Potter touchdowns. Joseph McNicol added one of the PAT kicks while another was blocked.
The Warriors went up 35-13 at the 6:33 mark of the third quarter when Hillyer hit running back Alec Wilson with a 20-yard scoring strike. Tolson added the PAT kick and the hosts led 35-13.
A running clock began when Hillyer connected with receiver Dru DeShields with a 13-yard scoring aerial and Hillyer added a two-point conversion run, making it 43-13 with 2:07 left in the third quarter. It closed the scoring in the game.
“We came out in the third quarter and didn’t look very good in the first drive and then the second drive we went down and scored,” observed Harris. “They (the Potters) are a good team, we just got up on them a little bit and it took them out of what they wanted to do.”
Both of West Branch’s third-quarter scores were set up by West Branch defender Brock Smith who had an interception and a fumble recovery.
The third-seeded Warriors, who won 34-28 against East Liverpool in late September, had four turnovers in that game which kept things close. In the rematch, the Warriors had no turnovers while the Potters had one along with two muffed punts.
“I didn’t play my best game the last time we played them, I wasn’t 100 percent healthy the last game and I wanted to come out and prove something tonight,” said Hillyer.
Lugwig said the Potters lost three phases of the game.
“We lost the special teams, the turnover battle and we lost the line of scrimmage and you’re not going to win a football game when that happens,” he said.
The Potters will look to rebound with a regular season game on Friday night. The opponent will be finalized this week.
• Friday marked the fourth time West Branch and East Liverpool had played in football, with the Warriors holding a 3-1 edge.
• The Potters and Warriors better get used to playing one another in football. They have signed a two-year home-and-home football agreement which begins next fall in Week 1. East Liverpool will host West Branch next season and the Potters will travel to Beloit the following year.
EAST LIVERPOOL: 7-6-0-0 — 13
WEST BRANCH: 14-14-15-0 — 43
WB — Andrew Coffee, 6 pass from Brock Hillyer, 9:56 1st (Ben Tolson kick)
EL — Howie Williams, 2 run, 5:03 1st (Joseph McNicol kick)
WB — Brock Hillyer, 4 run, 2:10 1st (Ben Tolson kick)
WB — Josh Gregory, 31 pass from Brock Hillyer, 6:59 2nd (Ben Tolson kick)
WB — Alec Wilson, 5 run, 4:17 2nd (Ben Tolson kick)
EL — Howie Williams, 1 run, :39.5 (kick blocked)
WB — Alec Wilson, 20 pass from Brock Hillyer, 6:33 3rd (Ben Tolson kick)
WB — Dru DeShields, 13 pass from Brock Hillyer, 2:07 3rd (Brock Hillyer run)
First downs 14 20
Total yards 210 461
Rushes-yards 39-168 28-159
Passing 42 302
Comp-Att-Int 3-7-1 18-27-0
Punts 2-35 1-33
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 4-38 3-35
RUSHING — East Liverpool, Howie Williams 19-78, Devin Toothman 15-54, Eric Williams 1-27; West Branch, Alek Wilson 9-54, Brock Hillyer 11-59, Tyler Hicks 5-36
PASSING — East Liverpool, Howie Williams, 3-7-41-0; West Branch, Brock Hillyer 16-24-289-4-0, Dru DeShields 2-3-13-0-0
RECEIVING — East Liverpool, Braidyn Wright 1-30, Devin Toothman 1-2, Eric Williams 1-9; West Branch, David McKeivier 2-57, Nick Wilson 2-40, Jaxon Hendershott 1-8, Josh Gregory 4-54, Andrew Coffee 4-67, Dru DeShields 2-33, Alec Wilson 4-81
INTERCEPTIONS — East Liverpool, none; West Branch, Brock Smith
FUMBLE RECOVERIES — East Liverpool, none; West Branch, Brock Smith