Peebles shows improvement, but Dragons prevail –
Story and photos by Mark Carpenter –
Friday night turned into Saturday night, then turned into Monday Night Football at Freedom Field in West Union as the Dragons and Peebles Indians met in Southern Ohio Independent League action on Labor Day 2017. With the holiday contest and perfect weather came a big crowd to watch the heavily favored and experienced Dragons battle the upstart Peebles first-year varsity program.
When all was said and done, the outcome was not a surprising one, but another building block for the Peebles program and another step on the way to a possible undefeated season for the West Union squad. The Dragons put up a big early lead and were never really challenged, though the Indians scored their first two touchdowns of the season (and first in 37 years), but West Union would improve to 2-0 on the year with a 59-12 victory.
“It is always great to get a win,” said West Union head coach Scott McFarland. “Both teams played really hard the whole game and our hats are off to the Peebles program as they are definitely improving. We were not super sharp overall tonight even though the score was in our favor. We had some turnovers and penalties that we need to clean up. We will get to work in practice this week to fix our mistakes.”
The game began on a high note for the Indians as West Union’s Clayton Madden fumbled the opening kickoff and Peebles recovered at the Dragon 40, but could only manage a three and out and a punt and when the West Union offense took the field for the first time, they took full advantage, taking just three plays to navigate the length of the field and getting a 24-yard touchdown scamper from Madden to lead 6-0.
On the ensuing kickoff, Peebles’ Andrew Conlee was separated from the ball and put in on the ground where it was recovered by the Dragons’ Tyler Egnor. That turnover led to a second West Union score, this time on a two-yard run by Blake Nesbit and the extra point kick by Jacob Fox made it 13-0.
The next Peebles possession resulted in a second consecutive turnover when another fumble was recovered by Egnor after the Indians had driven into West Union territory. This time, though, the Peebles defense held and forced a turnover on downs, but the Indian offense turned it over for the third time in the first period when quarterback Brady Moore was sacked, fumbled, and it was recovered by the Dragons’ Nathan Carter at the Peebles five-yard line and one play later, Madden went in untouched around the left end and the Fox extra point made it 20-0 West Union after the first quarter.
On their first possession of the second stanza, the Dragons were on the board again, this time getting a 75-yard touchdown run from quarterback Ryan Rothwell. The extra point was wide and the Dragons led 26-0.
later in the second period, a bit of history occurred after Peebles’ Chase Meade intercepted a Rothwell pass. The Indians took advantage of a pair of West Union penalties and hit pay dirt for the first time in 37 years when Kyle Lightner broke loose and beat the West Union defense to the corner of the end zone from 14 yards away with 3:18 left in the first half. The two-point try failed, leaving West Union on top 26-6 but that changed quickly after a long kickoff return by Madden led to a touchdown run by Jordan Hendricks that combined with a Fox extra point put the Dragons in front 33-6 at halftime.
The second half began with yet another Peebles turnover as WU’s Madden recovered and on the first play from scrimmage, the junior running back made an outstanding 35-yard, cut back across the field, touchdown jaunt and with the Fox kick, the Dragons led 40-6.
With the running clock rule now in effect, the pace of play quickened and the Indian defense put together a nice goal-line stand after West Union’s Dante Fadale had returned a fumble recovery inside the Peebles 10. With 1:06 left in the third period, the Dragons got a five-yard TD run from Dylan Grooms and early in the fourth frame, a Moore pass was intercepted by Rothwell who took it to the end zone from 25 yards out. The extra point was blocked by Kyle Lightner, setting up another big highlight for the Peebles squad.
After the ball bounced over his head on the ensuing kickoff, Lightner picked up, headed down the right sideline and went all the way for a 90-yard return that made it 53-12.
The final points of the game came with 7:46 to play when a long kickoff return by West Union’s Waldron led to an 11-yard scoring run by Briley Thomas that closed out a 59-13 Dragon triumph.
“We played our whole bench today which was great to build experience and depth,” said Coach McFarland. “Some of our young guys made some nice plays while our veterans continue to be solid. We had six or seven different guys score tonight which shows the balance and depth we are blessed to have.”
Even with the loss, Peebles head coach Bobby Sandlin was encouraged by what he saw from his young squad.
“I am so proud of the effort our guys showed tonight,” said Sandlin. “All of our hard work is paying off and we will continue to improve week in and week out.”
Both teams will be back in action with the Dragons possibly facing their toughest test in league play as they host the Southern Buckeye Warriors on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Freedom Field. On Saturday night, the Indians will also be back at Freedom Field, this time as the guests of the North Adams Green Devils, also with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.