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Close call for Warriors

BELOIT — The big question coming in was, could the Howland Tigers keep up with the high flying West Branch Warrior offense.

Yes. Yes, they could.

Thanks in large part to Howland coach Steve Boyle rolling the dice and going for it on fourth down multiple downs and playing ball control, the Tigers were there all night until a special teams miscue worked against them as they fell to the Warriors, 37-34.

“They kept the ball from us and kept us off the field,” West Branch coach Ken Harris said. “It was a good game plan. “Offensively, the kids played their hearts out. That’s a really good football team. I think the difference was being able to run the ball in the second half.”

Wormer (124 yards) and Marco Massucci (139 yards) were a lethal duo for the Tigers as their running kept the Warriors off the field and allowed Howland to match scores mostly all night.

They are a tandem,” Boyle said. “They are awesome to watch. They are able to make people miss. They run down hill.”

Wormer was huge for the Tigers early on, running for a 20 yard touchdown to answer West Branch scores and make it 10-7.

He also threw for a 61 yard pass to William King that made it 17-13 with 4:42 left in the first half.

“Momentum was definitely huge in this game,” West Branch receiver Nick Wilson said. “You couldn’t blink because the next offense was on field and they didn’t care about the score. They were just marching down there. Their goal was to score and whoever was gonna make a stop at the end was gonna win.”

The Warriors though have a pretty impressive offensive themselves as they came in averaging over 50 points a game.

Tonight, Dru DeShields did it on the ground (96 yards) and through the air (283 yards). He has two passing touchdowns and three rushing.

“I just play,” Wilson said. “You just have to know those things are going to happen when you play with a great quarterback. He’s a playmaker. He has to be a nightmare for defensive lineman. As soon as he gets out of the pocket, he’s just directing us and we just make plays for him.”

Wilson was a recipient of those passes most of the night hauling in nine for 150 yards as he broke the school record in scoring receptions.

In the first half, Howland stymied West Branch’s Steve Marra, holding him to just 31 yards rushing. This came a week after his 291 yard, seven touchdown performance a week earlier.

Dru DeShields got the Warriors on the scoreboard first hitting Nick Wilson on a five yard pass to complete a six play, 70 yard drive with 9:27 remaining in the opening quarter.

After Howland turned the ball over on downs at the West Branch 36, West Branch moved the ball to the Howland four before the drive stalled.

Ben Tolson’s 20 yard field goal made it 10-0 at the 2:13 mark of the opening quarter.

The Tigers responded on their ensuing possession, converting two fourth downs and taking nearly seven minutes off the clock with Wormer’s 20 yard run making it 10-7 with 7:19 left in the first half.

Coming into the second half, trailing 17-13, Howland had a chance to take its first lead of the game, but the Warriors got one of the few stops it needed to take back momentum

“I know the defense struggled, but getting that stop on their opening drive was key,” Harris said. “We took the ball and went right down and scored.”

DeShields’ 14 yard run gave the Warriors a 24-13 lead at the 8:42 mark.

Both teams traded scores over the next five possessions with West Branch holding a 37-34 lead with 2:18 left to play.

The Tigers forced a punt from the Warrior 21.

Eliza Hirst’s punt traveled only 24 yards, but in a crazy turn of events, it hit Howland’s Nolan Rudesill and the ball was recovered by Harris.

“I heard our sideline give an ‘uh’,” Harris said. “I looked back and I saw the Howland kid, he couldn’t locate it. I saw the spin on the ball. I saw a chance to hit him so I made a break for it. I saw it in the air before it even came down. I was way ahead of the ball.”

Ballgame.

“Going back and forth and changing scores, I felt we needed to get a stop on defense,” Boyle said. “We finally got that stop at the end of the game and you know we had some special teams work for us and began the game and then, you know, obviously, that last play at the end of the game, it hit one of our guys and sort of sealed it for them.”

HOWLAND: 0-13-6-15–34

W. BRANCH: 10-7-7-13–37

WB–Nick Wilson 6 pass from Dru DeShields (Ben Tolson kick)

WB–Ben Tolson 21 field goal

H–Matthew Woomer 20 run (Ashleigh Macias kick)

WB–Jaxon Hendershott 43 pass from DeShields (Tolson kick)

H–William King 61 pass from Matthew Woomer (pass failed)

WB–DeShields 14 run (Tolson kick)

H–Woomer 5 run (pass failed)

WB–DeShields 6 run (kick failed)

H–Woomer 2 run (Luca Massacci run)

WB–DeShields 7 run (Tolson kick)

H–Woomer 3 run (Macias kick)

——

H W

First downs 18 24

Total Yards 385 448

Rushes-yards 45-276 33-165

Passing 109 283

Comp-Att-Int 5-12-0 18-24-0

Punts 1-28 2-28

Fumbles-Lost 1-1 0-0

Penalties-Yards 2-20 7-55

——

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

RUSHING–Howland, Luca Massuccii 9-139, Matthew Woomer 31-124; West Branch, Steven Matta 18-77, Dru DeShields 13-92

PASSING–Howland, John Perry 3-10-32, Gage Gibson 1-1-16-0, Matthew Woomer, 1-1-61-0; West Branch, Dru DeShields 18-24-283-0.

RECEIVING–Howland, William King 1-61; West Branch, Nick Wilson 9-150, Jed Smith 2-27, Steven Marra 3-26, Jaxon Hendershott 1-43, Christian Martig 3-37.

FUMBLE RECOVERIES–West Branch, Nick Wilson.

TACKLES–Steven Marra 9.

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