MASON, W.Va. — Still a ways to go, but the White Falcons seemed to get better as the night progressed.
The Wahama football team cut a four-possession deficit in half during the fourth quarter, yet ultimately fell to visiting Ravenswood on Friday night by a 28-14 margin in the season opener for both programs at Bachtel Stadium in Mason County.
The host White Falcons (0-1) showed some fight early throughout a scoreless first period, but the Red Devils (1-0) answered with three touchdown drives over a five-plus minute span in the second quarter that resulted in a commanding 21-0 cushion at the break.
The Red and Black scored on their second possession of the third quarter while increasing their advantage to 28 points with 4:09 remaining, which should have served as a crippling blow with momentum now solely on the side of RHS.
Wahama, however, finally found some offensive clout late in the fourth after stringing together a 40-yard scoring drive in just two plays as Abram Pauley scampered 44 yards to paydirt with 3:23 left in regulation. Trevor Hunt added a successful 2-point run that pulled the Red and White to within 28-8.
The defense followed by getting the ball back on a loss of downs, and the hosts again made some efficient strides offensively after covering 56 yards in four plays. Gavin Stiltner hauled in a 16-yard pass from Brayden Davenport near the right sideline pylon with 16.6 seconds remaining — ultimately wrapping up the 14-point outcome.
Despite keeping things competitive for the better part of three quarters, it was the second stanza that eventually came back to haunt the hosts.
Despite some misfortunes, WHS coach James Toth was — for the most part — pleased with the overall effort. More importantly, the White Falcons appeared to find their identity by night’s end … something that the second-year can work with the rest of the way.
“We felt like we shot ourselves in the foot a little bit in the first half, so we challenged the kids at halftime. We told them they were very close to being a good football team after getting beat up for the better part of last year,” Toth said. “To their credit, they came out and played really hard, especially defensively, and really looked a lot better. There are a lot of good things to build on from this game and I’m really pleased with the way they stepped up to the challenge. I feel like we made some real strides tonight, but we just have to keep working hard and keep buying in.”
Wahama’s first drive of the night resulted in a lost fumble, but the defense answered with a big 4-yard stop on fourth-and-six at the WHS 16 — forcing a loss of downs for the guests.
The White Falcons countered with a 14-play, 66-yard drive that ultimately stalled at the RHS 22 with just 16.4 seconds left in the opening stanza.
The Red Devils retaliated with a 9-play, 74-yard drive that resulted in a permanent advantage as Wayne Stephenson scampered 14 yards up the middle for a 7-0 edge with 9:03 remaining until halftime.
After a Wahama three-and-out, Ravenswood needed just two plays to cover 72 yards for its next score.
Sam Sturm hauled in a pass from Jacob Creel that resulted in a 68-yard touchdown with 6:33 left while increasing the lead to 14-0.
Wahama again punted following a three-and-out, and the Red Devils again needed just two plays to add to their cushion. Creel faked a handoff and covered 53 yards on a keeper that gave the guests a 21-0 edge with 3:38 remaining until halftime.
Ravenswood’s opening possession of the second half ended with Michael VanMatre recovering a fumble at the WHS 45, but the hosts answered with a quick three-and-out that gave the Red and Black possession at their own 40.
Nine plays and 60 yards later, the guests were up 28-0 after Chase Hood scampered in from 16 yards out with 4:09 remaining in the third.
Both defenses forced loss of downs on the next five possessions, then Wahama ended a Red Devil drive as Wesley Peters recovered a fumble with 4:10 left in regulation. Two plays and 40 yards later, the White Falcons produced their first points of the year.
Both White Falcons turnovers came in the first half as Zach Graham recovered a fumble on the opening drive of the contest, while Isaiah Casto picked off a Davenport pass with 13 seconds remaining before the half.
Wahama outscored the Red Devils 14-7 in the second half while limiting the guests to just 93 yards of total offense after the break.
Overall, RHS claimed a slim 12-11 edge in first downs and both team committed two turnovers apiece — with the Red and White producing a 7-0 advantage in points off of those miscues.
Ravenswood outgained the hosts by a sizable 339-177 overall margin in total offense, with 270 of those yards coming on the ground on 46 attempts. WHS, conversely, yielded 115 rushing yards on 42 carries.
The Red Devils were penalized 11 times for 75 yards, while the hosts were flagged only four times for 20 yards.
Tanner Snodgrass was also a perfect 4-for-4 on extra-point tries for Ravenswood.
Pauley led the Wahama ground attack with 66 yards on nine carries, followed by Hunt with 61 yards on 17 totes.
Davenport went 5-of-10 passing for 62 yards, including one touchdown and one interception. Pauley also led the hosts with three catches for 36 yards.
Creel paced RHS with 79 rushing yards on five carries and also completed 2-of-6 passes for 69 yards. Sturm led the Ravenswood wideouts with one catch for 68 yards.
Wahama returns to action Friday as it begins its final year in Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division play against Miller, another team exiting the league after this school year ends. Kickoff at Bachtel Stadium is slated for 7:30 p.m.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.