MASON, W.Va. — The White Falcons played well enough to win, but the Tomcats did just enough to prevent that from happening.
Visiting Trimble scored 19 unanswered points in the second half and never led until late in the fourth quarter Friday night while escaping with a 32-20 victory over the Wahama football team in a Week 6 Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division contest at Bachtel Stadium.
The host White Falcons (1-5, 1-4 TVC Hocking) jumped out to an early 14-0 first quarter advantage, but the Tomcats (4-2, 4-1) rallied back with consecutive touchdowns to close to within 14-13 with 2:20 left until halftime.
WHS, however, received a 70-yard kickoff return from Brady Bumgarner that put the ball at the Tomcat eight, then the hosts needed only two plays to extend their lead as Colton Arrington hauled in an eight-yard pass from Bryton Grate with 1:25 remaining — giving the White Falcons a 20-13 cushion headed into the break.
Wahama was outgained by a 172-127 margin in total yards in the first half, and the guests also held a 10-6 edge in first downs.
On the other hand, the White Falcons scored touchdowns on half of their six first half possessions. THS, conversely, lost possession on downs during three of its five possessions in the opening 24 minutes of play.
Another large reason for Wahama’s early success — outside of a tenacious defense — was the ground attack spearheaded by Christian Thomas. The senior amassed 81 yards on 13 carries before the break, which included touchdown runs of seven and 35 yards in the first quarter while building a 14-0 advantage.
In the second, however, Trimble tightened its grip on Thomas — limiting him to just 16 yards on six carries. The White Falcons also mustered only 33 yards of offense in the second half.
The Tomcats came out of the break and strung together an 11-play, 70-yard drive that ended with a Tyler Roback one-yard run. Max Hooper added a successful point-after boot to knot the game up at 20 with 6:31 left in the third canto.
The score remained that way headed into the fourth as THS took over possession at the Wahama 46 with 11:05 remaining.
Eleven plays, 46 yards and over six minutes later, the Tomcats finally claimed their first lead following a four-yard TD run by Roback. The PAT kick failed though, allowing Trimble to secure a 26-20 lead with 4:44 remaining.
Both teams traded punts following a pair of quick three-and-outs, giving WHS possession at its own seven with 1:55 left.
On the first play from scrimmage, Grate dropped back for a pass and was hit by a Trimble defender — who jarred the ball loose on the play. Trimble’s Anthony McLaughlin recovered the fumble in the end zone, all but eliminating any hopes of a White Falcon rally.
Again, Trimble missed on the PAT as a two-point pass play fell incomplete — but the guests led 32-20 with 1:50 remaining.
The Tomcats have now won five straight decisions against Wahama, including three straight victories at Bachtel Stadium.
The fact that Wahama was in winning position late was a positive, but it was also what made the final outcome so hard for WHS coach Dave Barr to stomach following the game — especially given the circumstances leading up to this annual clash.
“We were hobbled around quite a bit this week and we have some kids that have been sick, so to put the kind of effort together that they did is really a credit to those kids. It would have been real easy for them to lay down and let have Trimble get the best of them,” Barr said. “I really feel like that is the best effort that I’ve seen anybody give against Trimble in quite a while. I’m disappointed with the final outcome, but I couldn’t be prouder of my guys and how they played tonight in the face of some adversity.”
Wahama took the opening kickoff and marched 60 yards in 12 plays, with Thomas scoring from seven yards out at the 7:10 mark for a 7-0 cushion.
Trimble had four plays and lost possession on downs, then the hosts answered with a two-play, 62-yard drive that ended with a Thomas 35-yard TD run at the 4:20 mark for a 14-point advantage.
The Tomcats closed to within 14-7 following a four-yard by Conner Wright at the 7:43 mark of the second canto, capping a drive that covered 65 yards in just four plays.
Trimble forced a three-and-out on the ensuing WHS drive, then put together a five-play, 37-yard drive that ended with a lucky break.
After converting a successful draw play down to the Wahama 19 on fourth down, THS quarterback Cameron Kittle completed an 18-yard pass to Bryce Richards near the goal line. Richards was immediately stopped and had the ball stripped out, forcing a fumble.
The ball, however, was landed on by Noah Rossiter in the end zone — allowing the guests to close to within 14-13 with 2:20 left in the first half.
The White Falcons responded with the Bumgarner kickoff return, then increased their lead back out to seven points following the TD catch by Arrington.
Trimble outgained the hosts by a 304-160 margin in total yards, including a 260-122 edge on the ground. The Tomcats also claimed an 18-8 advantage in first downs and finished the night plus-1 in turnover differential.
Thomas led WHS in rushing with 97 yards on 19 carries, followed by Arrington with 35 yards on seven tries. Thomas also recovered a fumble in the second half.
Grate completed 5-of-12 passes for 38 yards, throwing one pick and one TD. Arrington led the wideouts with three catches for 25 yards.
Hooper led THS with 101 rushing yards on 16 carries. Kittle was 4-of-11 passing for 44 yards, with Hooper hauling in half of those passes for 13 yards.
Barr noted afterwards that a few more performances like tonight could go a long way for his squad the rest of the year. He also wanted to give credit where credit was due.
“We executed a lot of our game plan really well, but you also have to give Trimble credit too. Their kids also answered the bell tonight,” Barr said. “Honestly, it was just a great fight between two good football teams.
“If we can get this kind of effort in our last four games, I feel we can finish this season on a pretty good note. However, it’s one game at a time … starting next week with at Eastern.”
The White Falcons return to action Friday when they face the Eagles in a Week 7 TVC Hocking contest at East Shade River Stadium at 7:30 p.m.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.