GRAFTON—The Grafton High School football team (3-2) hosted the Liberty Mountaineers last Friday night, in what turned out to be one of the most exciting games in the state.
The Bearcats played their hearts out in front of a very loud home crowd, but in the end the Mountaineers came away with the three point victory.
As with many games this season, the Bearcat defense gave up the first score of the game, as Liberty’s Dalton Westfall found his way into the end zone from three yards out, to put the Mountaineers up 7—0.
The score remained the same into the second quarter, when Caleb Bish slashed his way into the end zone from four yards out, and with the extra point from Ally Peters, the Bearcats tied the game at seven.
The Bish touchdown drive was kept alive on a fourth-and-1 conversion, as quarterback Garrett Wellman ran for four yards for the first down.
Bish was the “go to” guy for the Cats Friday night, as he rushed 40 times for 167 yards.
“We felt we could run the ball against them,” said offensive coordinator Mickey Foley. “We used some new formations this week, trying to take advantage of a few things and for the most part it worked. There were a few plays towards the end I wish I could get back, but as you know, you can’t. But the boys fought hard and played with all their hearts until the end,” he added.
The Bearcats threatened to score one more time in the first half as they had advanced the ball deep into Liberty territory, but some confusion on the fourth down play stalled the drive.
At the end of the first two quarters the #14 Bearcats were even with the #4 Mountaineers.
The Bearcats had another strong drive to open the third quarter, but once again, it stalled in Mountaineer territory forcing the Cats to punt. GHS punter, Joey Dingledein, struck a beautiful punt, which was downed at the two yard line by senior long snapper Dominic Lough.
With the Mountaineers pinned deep in their own zone, the Cats looked to be in charge. The Mountaineers would not have this, as they drove the ball 98 yards, with Westfall scoring his second touchdown. The long drive was highlighted by a 35-yard completion from “wildcat” running back Broderick Lantz to Westfall, giving the Mountaineers the ball at the GHS 8-yard line.
The Bearcat defense was able to regroup in their next series and create a late Liberty fumble, as Lough fell on the ball at the Mountaineer 39-yard line.
The Bearcat offense once again began to stall in the red zone and faced a fourth-and six, with less than three minutes left in the game. The Bearcats fourth down play started out looking like a sweep by Colton Moats, but just as Moats neared the outside, he heaved the ball 24 yards downfield to senior Dylan Pettit for a GHS score. Peters once again came on and tied the game at 14.
This would be the score at the end of regulation, as the Cat defense forced Liberty to punt in the final drive of the fourth quarter.
The captains once again met at the 50-yard line as the first overtime began. The Mountaineers won the toss and gave GHS the ball to start the overtime.
The Bearcats once again found themselves in a fourth-and-one situation from the one yard line. This time, Wellman kept the ball and drove into the end zone, giving the Cats a seven point lead (Peters converted extra point).
Now it was Liberty’s turn, and if the Cats could keep them out of the end zone, GHS could come away with a victory.
The defense stepped up and thought that they had won the game, but the referee did not agree, as a flag was thrown on the fourth down play giving Liberty a fresh set of downs.
The Mountaineers were able to score three plays later, as Westfall found the end zone from four yards out.
Both teams were held scoreless in the second overtime, forcing the game to go into the third and final overtime.
The Cats got the ball first, and once again faced a fourth-and-1, but this time they decided to go for the field goal. This did not turn out as the Cats would have liked, as the Gabe Wolverton’s 28-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
The Cat defense stepped up one more time ,forcing Liberty to attempt their own 28- yard field goal. The Liberty kicker then ended the game as he calmly split the uprights giving Liberty a 24—21 win.
Caleb Bish was the leading ground gainer for GHS with 40 carries for 167 yards, while teammate Dylan Pettit had four carries for 17 yards.
The remaining rushing yards came from Garrett Wellman (4-15) and Colton Moats (1-2).
Through the air, Wellman was two- for-ten for 17 yards and one interception, while Moats was one-of-one for 24 yards and one touchdown.
The leading receiver for GHS was Pettit with two catches for 34 yards, and Dominic Lough with one catch for seven yards.
Defensively the Bearcats forced one fumble, that was recovered by Lough, and the Cats pressured Liberty quarterback, Seth McKinney, into throwing three interceptions. The interceptions were credited to Lough, Bish and Wellman.
“The boys played their hearts out tonight,” said first year defensive coordinator Lucas Hershman. “At times, the ball did not bounce our way tonight, but the boys just kept on fighting. We are going to use this next open week to get some of these kids healthy and working hard on the little things that will make us better,” he concluded.
The Bearcats have a well deserved open week this Friday, before getting into the second half of their 2017 schedule the following week.