The fourth annual Adams County People’s Defender Bowl is in the books and this year’s trophy belongs to the junior high football squad from West Union. After falling to Manchester in the first two Defender Bowls, the Dragons made it two trophies in a row for their side as they used a strong running game to top the Hounds 48-20 in action on Saturday, Oct. 10 at Freedom Field in West Union.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with our team,” said West Union junior high head coach Wade Saunders. “The team really came together in this game, like a brotherhood. They played with their hearts and brought their ‘A’ game today.”
The scoring parade began early for the Dragons, in fact on the first offensive possession of the game, when some strong running by Mizeal Gapi helped set up a 45-yard touchdown run on a reverse by Jacob Fox. Gapi ran in the two-point try and the home team led 8-0.
“Before the game started, Jacob told me that as soon as he touched the ball for the first time, he was going to score and he did,” said Saunders. “We had been working on that reverse play all season.”
Manchester took over on offense and were likely cost a touchdown by the officials that could have possibly tied the game. Greyhound quarterback D.J. Polley hit receiver Dylan Adams with along touchdown pass but an inadvertent whistle by one of the officials nullified the score and the Hounds ended up turning the ball over on downs, putting the West Union offense back on the field and they capitalized. After a pass from quarterback Jacob Stephenson to receiver Ethan Saunders took the ball all the way to the two-yard line, Gapi took it the rest of the way on the first play of the second period to make it 14-0.
After the Dragon defense forced a Manchester punt, the Dragons struck pay dirt again when a pass in the flat from Stephenson to Fox resulted in a 44-yard touchdown. The two-point try failed but the Dragons had a commanding 20-0 advantage with 4:09 left in the first half.
Give credit to Coach Larry Heller and his Greyhounds as they took possession at their own 35 and quickly marched 65 yards for their first score of the contest. A long bomb from Polley to receiver Declan Huron took the ball to the West Union 12 and Polley followed that up with a quarterback keeper around right end for the touchdown. The two-point conversion was stopped and the two sides went to the intermission with the Dragons leading 20-6.
The Greyhounds got the first possession of the second half but they fumbled it away, with West Union’s Dallas Waldron recovering. The Dragons capitalized on the turnover getting a 20-yard touchdown scamper from Gapi to take a 26-6 lead. West Union later returned the gift when Briley Thomas muffed a punt and the Hounds fell on it. That miscue led to the Greyhound’s Polley going 60 yards down the left sideline and diving into the end zone for the score. Polley also ran across the two-point conversion and the visitors had drawn within 26-14 with 1:42 left in the third quarter.
It didn’t take long for the Dragons to answer that score as a long run by Fox took the ball to the one-yard line and on the final play of the third quarter, Waldron took it across and with a two-point run by Gapi, the Dragons were up 34-14.
The Hounds got the first score of the final period on a 13-yard pass from Polley to Adams that made it 34-20, but the Dragons responded with the final two touchdowns of the game to wrap up the “W.” The first came with 3:18 to play on a 15-yard run by Waldron and the final nail in the coffin came just seconds later when Gapi intercepted a Polley pass and took it to the house from 63 yards away. For good measure, the burly running back took in the two-point try for the final points in a 48-20 West Union victory.
“All in all, I was really proud of how the boys came together today,” said Coach Saunders. “I don’t think I could have asked for a better group of kids to coach. I consider myself lucky to be able to coach them.”
The junior high Dragons now stand a 4-4 on the season, with games remaining with Eastern and North Adams.
MANCHESTER 0 6 8 6 —20
WEST UNION 8 12 14 14 —48
WUJH- Fox 45 yd. run (Gapi conversion run)
WUJH- Gapi 2 yd. run (conversion failed)
WUJH- Fox 44 yd. pass from Stephenson (conversion failed)
MJH- Polley 12 yd. run (conversion failed)
WUJH- Gapi 20 yd. run (conversion failed)
MJH- Polley 60 yd. run (Polley conversion run)
WUJH- Waldron 2 yd. run (Gapi conversion run)
MJH- Adams 13 yd. pass from Polley (c0nversion failed)
WUJH- Waldron 15 yd. run (conversion failed)
WUJH- Gapi 63 yd. interception return (Gapi conversion run)