WEIRTON - The Weir High Red Riders finally ended one of the longest football losing streaks in school history Friday night coming from behind to defeat Grafton 22-21 in a thriller.
The victory is the first for the Red Riders in the new Jimmy Carey Stadium, which was inaugurated in August of 2012, and the win snaps a 13-game losing streaking dating back to the final game of the 2011 season (Nov. 4).
The win also is the first for Red Rider coach, Tony Filberto, who is in the second year of his second stint as head coach. It makes the Weir High record 1-3 and dropped the Bearcats to 0-4.
FINALLY — Weir High celebrates its 22-21 victory over Grafton Friday night at Jimmy Carey Stadium. It was the Red Riders’ first win since Nov. 4, 2011, an 18-13 win over Tyler Consolidated. -- Mike Mathison
"This is the first win in the new Jimmy Carey Stadium and it means so much to our team, to the student body and the community," said a jubilant Filberto after the game. "You saw a lot of kids with a lot integrity and a lot heart. We were down pretty good at halftime, but we said we're going to win this football game.
"They proved it here in the fourth quarter, but especially in the whole second half. The kids did a great, great job.
"Our coaches did a great job controlling the players and our kids did a great job."
Weir 22, Grafton 21
Grafton 7 7 7 0 - 21
Weir 0 6 0 16 - 22
G: Moore 38 run (Rowand kick)
L: Larch 1 run (pass failed)
G: Collins 5 run (Rowand kick)
G: Collins 1 run (Rowand kick)
W: Hartman 21 pass from Larch (Larch run)
W: Hartman 3 run (Larch pass from Hartman)
RUSHING: Grafton 43-180-3 (Moses 12-85, C. Moore 12-62-1, Withers 6-16, Collins 13-22-2). Weir 33-167-2 (Larch 16-112-1, Hartman 14-52-1, Rice 1-3).
PASSING: Grafton 5-10-39-0-0 (Collins 5-9-39-0-0, Moses 0-1); Weir 5-16-85-1-2x (all by Larch)
RECEIVING: Grafton: Moats 3-34, Moore 1-10, Moses 1-(-5); Weir: Davis 2-31, Bennett 1-39, Enrietti 1-13, Hartman 1-21-1.
FIRST DOWNS: Grafton 11, Weir 13
PENALTIES: Grafton 3-20; Weir 6-35
FUMBLES: Grafton 2-2; Weir 3-0
The Red Riders were led by junior quarterback, William Larch, who ran the ball 16 times for 112 yards and passed it 16 times for 85 stripes. He had a 1-yard touchdown run and a 21-yard scoring pass, but it was a trick play for the two-point conversion after the final Weir High touchdown that was the game-winner.
Junior running back, Matt Hartman, scored from three yards out with 7:42 left in the game to pull the Red Riders within one at 21-20. Following a time out, Larch got the snap and lateralled to Hartman, who tossed the ball back in the left flat to a wide open Larch for the two-pointer that put the Red Riders in the lead for the first time this season.
Larch scored two 2-point conversions in the game. The first one came when the Red Riders capitalized on a Clarence Bennett punt return of 35 yards from his own 44 to the Grafton 21.
On the first play from scrimmage and the second play of the fourth quarter, Larch found a wide open Hartman on a swing pass to the left for a touchdown. It was the third touchdown pass of the season for Larch.
Larch got the call for the conversion run and found the going rough as he tried to maneuver over the right side, so he cut back hard toward the goal line where he was met by three Bearcats. Larch's determination and momentum got the ball into the end zone to cut Grafton's lead to 21-14.
"He was going to get in, wasn't he?" Filberto said. "William Larch is a great football player surrounded by a lot of great football players. He runs hard."
On Grafton's third play with the next possession, freshman quarterback, Cole Collins, gained five yards on a keeper, but fumbled the ball forward where an alert Matt Thompson, pounced on the loose pigskin at the Bearcat 46-yard line to set up the winning Weir High score.
The Riders kept the ball on the ground for six straight plays getting to the Grafton 41. Faced with a third-and-9 from there, Larch fired a strike to a streaking Bennett down the left sideline for 38 yards to the three. On the next play, Hartman blasted up the middle for the go ahead touchdown.
"Hartman had a good night and so did a lot of other players," Filberto continued.
After that score, the Bearcats controlled the football for 7:20, but the Red Rider defense stiffened making several key tackles for losses as the clock began to run down. Grafton finally gave up the football when a fourth down pass from the Weir High 35 was well defended and fell to the ground incomplete.
Junior defensive end, Mark Parr, broke through to stop Collins twice and running back, Nate Moses once for losses.
"How about the Parr kid making three straight tackles in the backfield right there at the end of the game?" Filberto exclaimed. "We subbed him there at the end. He hadn't played a play the whole game till right at the end. He did a great job."
It appeared that the Red Riders may be going to take a lead for the first time in four games early as they got the opening kickoff and began a long march of 13 plays that ended with four straight incomplete passes from the Grafton 27 yard line, a couple of them drops to wide open receivers (Weir High at four such drops in the game).
"We could have caught some balls early and it would have been great, but this is great just the way it is," Filberto said.
However, it was Grafton that got the early lead when senior Corey Moore swept left end and weaved through the Red Rider secondary on a 38-yard scoring run. Zachary Rowand's kick made it 7-0 at the 1:49 mark of the second quarter. The touchdown was set up when Jacob Morgan picked off a Larch pass at the Bearcat 10 and returned the football to the Grafton 38.
On Weir High's ensuing possession, Larch ended a 85-yard drive with a one-yard quarterback sneak into the end zone. The Riders set up with Alyssa Shingle ready to kick the extra point, but the holder, Jake Wypasek, Weir High's sophomore backup quarterback, took the ball to his right and tossed it to a wide open receiver in the end zone. It was one of the Red Rider drops.
Grafton took a 14-6 lead to the locker room at halftime when Collins scored on a 5-yard keeper with 58.7 left in the second period. That touchdown and Roward's extra point boot, capped a long 16 play, 65-yard drive that consumed 8:23 of the second quarter.
The Bearcats made their lead 21-6 with 5:04 left in the third quarter when Collins finished off a five-play drive with a one-yard keeper. The drive had started at the Grafton 26 following a Larch punt. A highlight of the march was a 57-yard sprint by Moses.
"In our last two games, we've had the lead going into the fourth quarter, but we've been unable to finish the ballgame," said Bearcat coach, Drew Toth. "Not taking anything away from Weir. Coach Filberto and his kids did a heck of a job today. They just came out in the second half and won the football game. It will be a long two-hour ride home."
Filberto said his Red Riders are hungry for more wins.
"We got the first win," said Filberto. "We're not satisfied, we're going to get the next one next week."
The Red Riders travel to play Liberty Harrison next Friday.