WEST LIBERTY – Tri-Village would overcome mistakes and a 23-15 halftime deficit to West Liberty Salem in the OHSAA DVI Regional Quarterfinal game. They scored 45 second half points and the defense shut down the Tigers in the 2nd half for an exciting 50-29 win to advance to week 13.
The Patriots stopped the opening drive took over at the WLS 40-yard and on the very first play Quarterback Braden Keating hit a streaking Reed Wehr down the middle who caught it in stride and outran the defender for a 60-yard TD and instantly the PATS led 7-0.
The Tigers answered the bell on their next possession on a drive that was aided by two unsportsmanlike penalties by the Patriots keeping the WLS drive alive, and they would capitalize scoring on a Gabe McGill 6-yard run around the end to even the score 7 each at 6:44 in the opening frame.
Both teams traded punts on their next possessions and Tri-Village took over just inside their own 5-yard line for their 3rd drive and after a couple of miscues the Patriots needed to punt.
Reed Wehr lined up at the back of the endzone but held onto the snap too long then tried to scramble away but was taken down for a safety with the Tigers going up 9-7.
It was a play Wehr would like to have had back who has had ran successfully for a first down a number of times this season trying to wait for an opening before punting … but in this case the Tigers were quicker to the spot taking him down.
“I just try to do too much sometimes and after realized in that case punting was the answer. I don’t have to try to make things happen all the time and in this case the timing wasn’t right,” Reed Wehr would say after the game.
TV then had to punt the ball back to West Liberty and the added another scored on a McGill 4-yard run to jump ahead 16-7 stunning the Patriots.
The ensuing Tiger kick-off was punched over the top of the 2nd level and away from Reed Wehr who had to come up and over to snatch the ball off the turf and he quickly avoided one tackler broke right and then cut up the middle and he was off to the races with no able to close the gap and TV trailing 16-15.
WLS however scored with one more time just before the half expired with McGill plunging in from 1-yard out to give the Tigers some mojo heading into the locker room with a 23-15 lead.
It didn’t take long after the break for Reed Wehr to break the Tigers mojo as the senior struck for a second time on the kickoff to start the 2nd half picking it up cutting to the outside and outrunning WLS again down the sidelines for a TD and now TV only trailed 23-21.
The Tri-Village defense stopped WLS on their next drive, something they would do a lot in the 2nd half and took over on downs.
The Patriots put together a nice drive playing with more tempo that started with a dive run by Noah Finkbine, then a pass out in the flat to the left to Lathen Wehr, followed by a pass to the right in the flat to Tanner Printz, then a keeper by Keating and all of sudden the Patriots are executing and firing on all cylinders. The drive was culminated on a 4-yard run by Wehr and the 2-point conversion by Keating put the PATS up 29-23.
Tri-Village defense would continue to get better making the Tigers have to earn everything and take to the air more only on the next drive Trey Sagester would step in and intercept Miles Hostetler giving TV the ball on WLS 30-yard line.
But Hostetler returned the favor picking off a pitch from Keating and returning it 29-yards for TD to knot the game at 29 with 5 minutes to play in the 3rd quarter.
By now the Tri-Village offensive engine is warmed up and it didn’t take long to hit the turbo-charge button with Wehr ripping off a 52-yard jaunt to regain the lead 36-29 at 4:14 of the 3rd quarter.
With the offense now rolling the defense was also fired-up, their pursuit relentless and gang tackling sure as they continued to frustrate West Liberty Salem as the defense would shut-out the Tigers offense in the 2ndhalf.
The “D” forced a turnover on downs near midfield giving the Patriots good field position.
Tanner Printz would make a 25-yard circus catch that led to another Wehr TD run this time from 24-yards just before the end of the 3rd quarter with Patriots going up 43-29 and a little room to breathe.
In the 4th quarter Kasyn Hollinger sacked WLS quarterback and punched the ball out at the same time that would be recovered by Kaeden Lipps near midfield setting up Tri-Village with good field position and a chance to run some clock.
The Patriots ran a few plays content to run clock but the Tigers unable to contain Wehr all night led to the senior’s school record breaking 7th TD this time from 45 yards out to conclude the scoring at 50-29.
Wehr ending the night unofficially with 190 yards rushing and 4 TDs, 2 Kick-off Returns for TD’s and one 60-yard reception for a TD. The 7 broke the record of 6 TDs held by both Reed Wehr and Noah Burns.
After the game Tri-Village coach Matthew Hopkins was fired up because he knew that the Patriots dodged a bullet in the first half.
“Oh my gosh what a game, you know, I’m going to quote Coach Prime (Deion Sanders), we played like garbage in that first half, I coach like garbage, and these guys responded. They weren’t ready to be done and played a great second half,” an elated Hopkins stated after the game.
“We finally shook off the rust in the 2nd half, we were way juiced up in the first half and kind of got that out of our system. regrouped at the half and told the kids we’re going to get back to doing what we do. That’s exactly what we did we played our game right.
You can’t argue with the results even though West Liberty Salem had 330 yards of offense it was the Tri-Village defense that stepping up making big 4th down stops, an interception and fumble recovery and not allowing the offense to score in the 2nd half.
“That defense in the second half really stepped on oh my gosh, all 11 of them, they played mean, nasty and got after people, we tackled better and that was what we talked about all week long. We had to tackle 21 and we did a great of that in the second half,” Hopkins praised.
Hopkins also could help but praise his offensive line as well because they were opening up the holes to allow the running game to get on track.
“Offensively our running game came alive because the line was doing their job,” Hopkins said.
It was a great team win but it’s hard not to recognize the performance by Reed Wehr and his ability to step up in a big way rather than shrinking after making a mistake early in the game as he put the team on his shoulders and inspired them to rise to the challenge.
“Reed’s response was unbelievable, it was wild, 7 TDs, and here’s the thing, and I’ll say it this and go down on this hill, he is the best player in southwest Ohio. I’m telling you that right now. It’s a shame he didn’t get player of the year in our league. I’m almost glad because now he’s got a chip on his shoulder and he’s playing to prove people wrong, what a great kid,” Hopkins boasted.
But Reed also knows that he can’t do the things he does without his teammates and his offensive line.
“I’d get on them (Offensive Line) quite a bit, they’re young and we lost a lot of guys last year to graduation … but they have stepped up and I really appreciate them for that,” Reed stated.
Earlier Reed mentioned that he tried to do too much early in the game but if you ask West Liberty Salem, they would have liked to see him do less. Keys to the game coming in for the Tigers were to limit the big plays by Tri-Village and make them earn it according to coach Dan McGill.
When I asked Reed about those back breaking kickoff returns he said.
“I realized they weren’t going to kick the ball to me, so I told Paul and Tanner to back off and let the ball bounce I got this, “I’m going houses” I saw the hole and then left them in the dust,” with a sly smile on his face.
How’s that for not trying to do much? I think he did enough … but next time, punt.