WHEELERSBURG — Twelve combined turnovers between the Minford Falcons and the Wheelersburg Pirates highlighted what was highly anticipated a match-up.
The Pirates (7-1, 3-0) were able to overcome five turnovers of their own and beat the visiting Falcons (7-1, 2-1), 35-7.
Starting quarterback, Eddie Miller, threw for 158 passing yards and added 152 rushing yards and three touchdowns while the defense forced seven turnovers helping the Pirates win their seventh straight game.
“Eddie has done such a tremendous job this year,” Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward said.
Minford won the toss to start the game, but having possession of the ball in this game apparently meant nothing to the opposing defense.
On the third play from scrimmage in the game, the Falcons fumbled the ball and Wheelersburg defensive back Dillion Miller recover the ball. It gave the Pirates a chance to score in the opening minutes of the game.
However, after fumbling the ball and recovering it, Miller tossed a pass to the right side. The ball was deflected and tipped by several players only to find the hands of Minford’s Sean Berry, handing the ball right back to the Falcons.
“They played solid defense and made us make some early mistakes early on,” Woodward said.
After both teams exchanged possessions, Wheelersburg was once again driving. On a 2nd-and-7, Pirates running back, Aaron Cowgill ran right up the middle for what seemed to be the games first score as he fell into the end zone.
“I thought we did a better job running the football,” Woodward said. “Our line did a much better job of coming off the ball in the second half.”
However, the referees ruled a fumble and the Falcons recovered in the end zone for a touchback as the score remained 0-0 with 49 seconds left in the first quarter.
“It really felt like we got in the end zone a couple of times but didn’t quit make it for whatever was seen,” Woodward said.
On the ensuing drive, Minford fumbled again as the ball trickled into the end zone with Wheelersburg recovering. Again, the referees ruled that Falcons starting quarterback, Cody Stapleton was down before the ball reached the end zone.
The second half continued as fans from both sides saw one more turnover and three punts combined before Wheelersburg ended the scoreless drought with 35 seconds remaining in the half.
Seconds before the half, Cowgill, who finished the game with 101 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns, rushed the ball into the end zone from 4-yards, giving the Pirates a 7-0 lead as Wheelersburg went into halftime leading 7-0.
“We played pretty good defense tonight and I thought our defense played pretty well tonight,” Daniels said. “We just struggled every time we seemed like we got something rolling we would put the ball on the turf,” Minford coach Brett Daniels said.
Both teams combined for seven turnovers in the half. The Pirates defense also allowed only 58 total first half yards to the Falcons and a combined six punts and only 12 total first downs where established in the half.
“Defensively we played tremendous and I thought our defense played stellar tonight and did a great job of tackling,” Woodward said.
Wheelersburg picked off right where they started in the second half. The Pirates capped off a 12-play drive when Miller punched the ball in the end zone from 12-yards for the score.
The touchdown extended Wheelersburg lead to 14-0 as the Falcons needed a quick response.
The Pirates defense, however, responded as the Falcons fumbled from the second play from scrimmage in the second half. Wheelersburg recovered and the offensive attack came right back.
This time the Pirates capped off an 8-play drive as Miller again rushed the ball into the end zone on a 3rd-and-goal from the 1-yard line. It was his second rushing touchdown of the half in just over three minutes, giving Wheelersburg a 21-0 advantage.
Turnovers seemed to haunt Minford as they turned the ball over on their first three possessions in the second half as the Pirates took advantage.
“We just had many fumbles tonight and it hurt and field position killed us tonight,” Daniels said.
Cowgill, who already scored a touchdown in the second half, broke free for an 8-yard score in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, giving the Pirates a commanding 28-0 lead.
Minford was not finished, later in the quarter the Falcons broke their streak of three straight possessions with turnovers. After forcing an interception thrown by Miller, the Falcons capitalized.
It took Minford just two plays as Stapleton, who finished the game with 57 passing yards and a touchdown, found an open Grant Piquet on the left side for a 34-yard touchdown pass.
The pass cut the lead to 28-7 with 9:59 remaining as the Falcons seemed like quitting was never an option.
On the ensuing kickoff, Minford recovered an onside kick as the momentum quickly shifted in the Falcons favor.
“The kids played their butts off tonight,” Daniels said.
However, turnovers were the story all night for both teams as Stapleton threw an interception to the Pirates.
Miller, who already had two rushing touchdowns on the night capped off the win with a 5-yard score with 4:12 remaining to extend the lead to 35-7.
“Hats off to them, their kids played hard they played fast and posed a lot of problems to us,” Woodward said.
The Falcons finished the second half turning the ball over two more times and 6-of-7 drives in the second half resulted in a turnover as the Pirates handed the Falcons their first lost of the season.
“You just can’t turn the ball over as many times as we did tonight against a solid program like that,” Daniels said.
Wheelersburg will travel to Valley to take on the undefeated Indians as the Falcons will play host to the Waverly Tigers.
Minford 0 0 0 7 7
Wheelersburg 0 7 14 14 35
:35 W- Cowgill 4 run (Miller kick) 7-0
8:12 W- E. Miller 12 run (Miller kick) 14-0
4:56 W- E. Miller 1 run (Miller kick) 21-0
11:43 W- Cowgill 8 run (Miller kick) 28-0
9:59 M- Piquet 34 pass from Stapleton (Parsons kick) 28-7
4:12 W- E. Miller 5 run (Miller kick) 35-7
First Downs 5 24
Total Net Yards 145 442
Rushes-yards 18-88 54-284
Passing 57 158
Comp-Att-Int 3-11-2 15-27-2
Punts-yards 6-35.6 1-52
Fumbles-lost 8-5 5-3
Penelties-yards 4-25 10-95
RUSHING: Minford_ Carter 6-44, Justice 5-25, Berry 3-15, Stapleton 3 -2, Piquet1-6; Wheelersburg, Gifford 7-24, Claxon 3-7, Miller 30-152-3, Cowgill 14-101-2.
PASSING: Minford_ Stapleton 3-11-2-57, 1 TD; Wheelersburg, E. Miller 14-25-2-158, D. Miller 1-2-14
RECEIVING: Minford_ Farrar 1-13, Piquet 2-44-1, Wheelersburg, Pyles 2-29, D. Miller 5-55, Claxon 7-74, E. Miller 1-14