Wolverines get defensive in district victory
MALVERN - East Mills turned the ball over three times, scored just three second half points, gave up two safeties, had a field goal blocked and were out-yarded 308 to 266
In fact, the only area the Wolverines led Bedford in Friday’s Eight Player District 9 slugfest was the only one that mattered.
The Wolverines made just enough plays and just enough defensive stops in a rugged 24-18 win over the Bulldogs on Homecomign weekend in Malvern.
“Offensively, we were bad,” said East Mills co-head coach Kevin Schafer after the game.
The coach went on: “We thought before the game they were about even with us. But the way we were doing things we should’ve lost. When you look at the statistics, we should have lost. Pass blocking wasn’t great, out route running wasn’t great, and the ball wasn’t coming out quick. It was everything.”
Despite Schafer’s claims, the Wolverines did show some punch early. They scored their first touchdown on the third snap from scrimmage when quarterback Zach Thornburg raced into the endzone on a three-yard scramble.
But after turning the ball over three times and punting twice on their next five possessions, their lead was 7-6 with just over five minutes to go in the first half.
After forcing Bedford’s third punt of the half, the Wolverines put together quick back-to-back touchdown drives – sandwiched around a stop on defense – to go up 21-6 with three minutes still remaining in the half.
The Bulldogs used their remaining time to march down the to Wolverines’ 6-yard line but the drive would come empty as time expired.
Bedford would get their chances after halftime. After forcing an East Mills punt, the Bulldogs used a return to set them up inside the Wolverine 15-yard line Four plays later, quarterback Conner Nally called his number and scored from four yards out. The two-point conversion made the score 21-14.
The two teams traded empty possessions before East Mills finally started to move the ball in the third quarter. Taking over at their own 26, they marched 50 yards in eight plays to set up Ryan Stortenbecker’s 21-yard field goal.
The field goal would be the Wolverines’ only points of the second half.
But the defense filled the gap.
The Wolverine defense held firm on a grueling 11-play, 53 yard drive with a stop on fourth-and-goal at the nine and then held firm on another fourth down at their own 20 on the ensuing Bulldog possession.
The Wolverine offense, however, didn’t have its finest moments. On back-to-back offensive possessions they gave safeties – the first on a holding penalty in the endzone and the second on a bad snap through the endzone.
Nursing a 24-18 lead, the Wolverines leaned on the defense over the final seven minutes.
On Bedford’s final four possessions of the game, East Mills forced a turnover and came up with three big fourth down stops, none bigger than the final drive when the Wolverines broke up what appeared to be a long pass completion.
“Defensively, we made plays – and I’m sure they out-yarded us by quite a bit – but when they got close we held them out a few times and that was key,” Schafer said.
Bulldog quarterbacks Tristen Cummings and Nally were a combined 10-of-31 passing for 99 yards. The Wolverines also picked off three passes. They finished with 209 yards rushing on 46 carries.
“Our defensive backs played better than they had been,” Schafer said. “We didn’t give up as many plays and we had guys in sports knocking balls down. We got a break on the incompletion there late or they would have had it at midfield. I thought our pass rush got better as the game went long.
“They got a lot of pressure on us with their front three and Number 11 (Quentin King) gave us fits. When one guy can get pressure on you, that’s trouble.”
Thornburg had 239 total yards for East Mills. He threw for 167 and ran for 72 yards, including all three of the Wolverines’ touchdowns.
Stortenbecker had a monster day in all three phases for East Mills. The senior caught two passes for 91 yards, had a 21-yard field goal and was 3-for-3 on points-after-touchdowns, and wrapped up game-high 13 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss on defense.
East Mills is back in action Friday hosting East Union in Malvern for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
EM 07 14 00 03 24
B 06 00 08 04 18
EM – Zach Thornburg, 3 run (Ryan Stortenbecker kick).
B – Silas Walston, 2 run (conversion failed).
EM – Thornburg, 6 run (Ryan Stortenbecker kick).
EM – Thornburg, 4 run (Ryan Stortenbecker kick).
B – Garrison Motsinger from Conner Nally, 8 pass (two-point conversion good).
EM - Ryan Stortenbecker, 21 field goal.
B – Safety.
B – Safety.