WHEELING, W.Va. — White Falcons win! White Falcons win! White Falcons win!
In an emotionally-draining contest for both sides, coach Ed Cromley’s Wahama White Falcon football team brought a first-ever Class A state football championship home to the Bend Area following a thrilling 43-42 triumph over fourth-rated Madonna Saturday Night at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Cromley rolled the dice after Zack Wamsley’s one-yard touchdown run in the extra period and elected to go for the win on the point-after attempt. Veteran quarterback Trenton Gibbs made the most of a broken play and bullied his way into the end zone with the winning two-point conversion.
“The decision wasn’t really that difficult,” Cromley said following the determination to go for the win instead of the tie in overtime. “Neither team could get a defensive stop and I didn’t want the game to become a battle of extra points. Too many things, such as the high snap after our first touchdown, can go wrong so we decided to go for the two-point conversion and we were fortunate enough to put the ball into the end zone and come away with the win. Madonna is a great football team.”
The contest was a roller-coaster ride for a multitude of Wahama followers who made the nearly three-hour trek to the northern Panhandle. The exciting, nail-biting contest materialized into undoubtedly the greatest sporting event in WHS history to the delight of the huge Falcon assembly. The Bend Area gridders concluded the 2012 season with a record-setting 14-0 slate and definitely earned the White Falcons and the TVC Hocking Division Conference the respect it so richly deserves. Madonna finished the year with a 12-2 mark.
Kane Roush and Zack Wamsley paced the White Falcons throughout the evening with three touchdowns and a successful two-point conversion apiece. Roush was voted as the Bend Area team’s Player of the Game following his outstanding performance. The junior speedster ran for 170 yards in 23 carries while also catching all five of the White Falcons’ pass completions for an additional 78 yards.
Wamsley’s play both offensively and defensively also warranted Player of the Game considerations with the prominent senior leader gaining 112 yards on the ground in 21 carries. Wamsley also added a point-after touchdown kick and emerged with a team-high 10 tackles on the night.
Senior quarterback Trenton Gibbs connected on 5-of-8 passes in the contest for 78 yards and picked up another 56 yards in eight carries for the White Falcons. Gibbs threw a successful two-point conversion pass as well as scoring the game-winning points with his conversion run in overtime.
Although Roush, Wamsley and Gibbs grabbed the spotlight for their accomplishments in the victory, once again it was the Bend Area offensive line that shared the limelight with the trio. The play of Zac Killingsworth, Wesley Harrison, Tyler Nutter, Lane Sparks, Josh Haddox, Clayton Sines and Jesse Hesson controlled the line of scrimmage and enabled Wahama to rush for 338 yards and 416 yards of total offense.
As was feared going into the championship tilt, Wahama saw entirely too much of Madonna’s extraordinary junior quarterback Ross Comis. Comis ran for five touchdowns, threw for another, picked up 145 yards on the ground in 27 carries and passed for an additional 131 yards which isn’t bad for a night’s work. He also led the Blue Dons defensively with a game high 11 tackles and not surprisingly was selected as the Player of the Game for Madonna.
The game see-sawed back-and-forth throughout the entire evening but ultimately came down to a trio of key factors which proved to be the difference in the game. The first two components were five-yard penalties assessed the Blue Dons at critical times with the third factor being the Falcons’ good fortune of winning the coin toss in overtime.
Madonna committed a running into the kicker penalty on fourth down during the White Falcons first drive of the third period. The infraction gave Wahama a first down by inches and the Bend Area team went on to score what became a crucial go-ahead touchdown.
The second Madonna mistake occurred following the Blue Dons final score in regulation in the game’s final minute. The Hancock County team pulled to within a point and called time out to consider their options on the point after try.
Madonna regulated its kicker to the sideline and was going for the win with a two-point conversion attempt but failed to get the play off in time and was assessed a penalty which necessitated a successful kick attempt to knot the score at 35-35 and send the contest into an extra period.
In overtime, Wahama won the coin toss and elected to play defense first. Madonna scored on its initial overtime possession and booted the point after for a 42-35 lead. During the Falcons overtime opportunity, Gibbs connected with Roush on an 18-yard gain to the one before Wamsley carried it in for the score to set up what became the winning decision on the point after attempt.
To recap the scoring in the opening period, Comis put Madonna in front with a 17-yard run followed by the first of six straight successful point-after kicks by Matthew Greene. Wamsley closed the gap with a nine-yard run on the final play of the quarter but the PAT snap was high giving the Blue Dons a 7-6 edge after one quarter.
Comis added a two-yard run in the second at the 11:19 mark before a Wamsley one-yard burst with 8:09 left in the half. The WHS point after pass fell incomplete and the score stood at 14-12 at the intermission break.
WHS gained its first lead of the game in the third period when Roush broke loose on a 17-yard run. Wamsley made a one-handed catch of Gibbs’ PAT pass to push Wahama in front by a 20-14 margin.
Comis came back with a 12-yard run just over a minute later as the Blue Dons regained the lead at 21-20. The White Falcons battled back again at the 2:27 juncture when Roush scored from four yards away with the junior also running the two-point conversion to make it a 28-21 contest after three quarters.
Comis opened the fourth period with a six-yard scoring run to make it a 28-28 affair before Roush again put the Falcons in front with a 41-yard run. Wamsley’s kick with 6:45 left in regulation made it a 35-28 WHS edge before a 21-yard touchdown pass at the :48 mark from Comis to Marcello Biondello evened the count at 35-35 to set up the unforgettable overtime events.
For nine Falcon seniors their incredible careers are finalized with a Class A state championship crown. Brandon Rickard, Benny Youkers, Louis Menendez, Zack Wamsley, Austin Jordan, Justin Tillis, Crandal Neal, Trenton Gibbs and Austin Cole played a huge role in achieving an astounding 39-2 record on the gridiron since their respective sophomore seasons.
Wahama has 31 straight regular season victories and is also a perfect 24-0 in TVC Hocking Division play during their three years in the conference.