MASON, W.Va. — Ending things on a positive note.
The Wahama football team posted its first winning season since the 2014 campaign following a hard-fought 28-21 victory over visiting Trinity Christian on Friday night in the regular season finale at Bachtel Stadium in Mason County.
The White Falcons (6-4) eventually celebrated their final home game in style, although the Warriors (3-3) made things quite interesting over the full 48 minutes of regulation.
Trinity Christian led for almost five minutes in the opening canto and never trailed by more than two possessions by night’s end, but the guests were within a single yard of possibly spoiling the season finale with 1:37 left in the fourth.
After closing the gap down to 28-21, the Warriors successfully recovered their ensuing onside kick attempt — albeit with a small problem. The kick was recovered after advancing nine yards off of the tee, instead of the necessary 10 yards that would have made the ball live and the TCHS recovery legal.
Instead, WHS took over possession at the Warrior 49-yard line. The Red and White ran three plays that ultimately allowed the final 97 seconds of regulation to run off the clock — giving the White Falcons their second 3-game winning streak of the 2020 campaign.
It was the first-ever matchup between the two programs, as well as Wahama’s first season-ending win since the 2017 season — which also served as the last time that WHS ended its home schedule victoriously.
Wahama, however, completes the year ranked 25th overall in the Class A playoff ratings. Unless nine of the 16 playoff qualifiers in Class A are deemed ineligible due to county color coding because of COVID-19 on Sunday, the White Falcons will miss the playoffs for a sixth straight postseason.
After starting the year with three straight losses, Wahama reeled off wins in six of its final seven outings. The White Falcons dropped three of their four decisions to playoff qualifiers, but also made the most of a makeshift schedule by winning six times against opponents that went a combined 6-39 this fall.
After winning only five games the past two seasons, third-year Wahama football head coach James Toth was pleased with the overall turnaround that the program experienced this fall.
As he noted, it’s a very positive step forward in trying to restore a sleeping giant to the postseason trail.
“The players, the coaches and the people in this community have worked so hard this year. It’s really been a group effort,” Toth said. “To win six out of our last seven shows that we never quit after starting the year 0-3, and it shows that the kids believe in what we are doing.
“We’re going to miss these seniors. This is my third year and I wish I had had them for four years, but they have helped re-establish a brotherhood in that locker room. They’ve helped us take a step towards getting Wahama football back to where it used to be.”
The White Falcons took the opening kickoff and covered 68 yards in nine plays, with Sawyer VanMatre converting a 1-yard touchdown run with 9:03 remaining in the first quarter for a 6-0 edge.
Trinity Christian answered with a score two minutes later as Levi Teets hauled in a 29-yard pass from Andrew Boczek. Kyle Knight added the first of three successful point-after try kicks with 7:02 left for a 7-6 lead.
Both teams traded punts on their ensuing drives, but Wahama took the lead for good with 2:07 left in the first as VanMatre rumbled 50 yards — capping a 5-play, 65-yard drive. Kase Stewart hauled in a 2-point conversion pass from VanMatre for a 14-7 advantage through one period of play.
WHS extended its lead out to 22-7 with 2:08 remaining in the half as Aaron Henry scored on a 9-yard run, capping a 13-play, 94-yard drive. Stewart added the 2-point conversion run for a 15-point lead at halftime, Wahama’s largest of the night.
After missing a 28-yard field goal attempt on its opening drive of the second half, Trinity Christian put together a 9-play, 60-yard scoring drive that ended with Teets hauling in a 30-yard pass from Boczek for a 22-14 contest with 4:52 left in the third.
The White Falcons, however, countered with a 10-play, 37-yard scoring drive that doubled the lead back out to 28-14. VanMatre covered 10 yards on a fourth down run with 2:15 remaining in the third.
The Warriors recovered a fumble with 3:47 left in regulation and took over possession at their own 19, then marched 81 yards in six plays to close the deficit down to a single score. Calvin Blunt hauled in a 28-yard pass from Boczek with 1:37 remaining for a 28-21 contest.
The White Falcons claimed a 27-13 advantage in first downs and also outgained the guests by a 434-329 overall margin in total yards, including a sizable 429-19 advantage in rushing yards.
Wahama — which committed the only turnover of the game — was penalized 11 times for 103 yards, compared to seven flags against the guests for 48 yards.
VanMatre led the Wahama rushing attack with 139 yards on 19 attempts, followed by Stewart with 121 yards on 18 carries. Brennan Grate also had 93 yards on 18 totes. VanMatre completed 1-of-5 passes for five yards, with the catch going to Henry.
Blunt led the Warrior ground attack with 17 yards on seven carries. Boczek completed 20-of-34 passes for 310 yards and three scores. Teets led the wideouts with five catches for 126 yards and two scores.
It was the final football game for Brennan Grate, Isaac Roush, Drew Fowler, Owen Richardson, Gavin Stiltner, Joshua Frye, Braden Shell, Austin Brooks, Chase Stewart, Jay Sayre and Jakob Saxon in the Red and White.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.