PDT Sports Writer
WHEELERSBURG — The lowest point total Fairland had been held to all season entering Saturday’s Division V, Region 17 Quarterfinal was 27 points. If the No. 6 Dragons had a wish to score fewer points, No. 3 Wheelersburg was happy to oblige as the Pirates used five interceptions off Fairland quarterback Chance Short and a second half shutout by their defense to claim a 40-21 win within the friendly confines of Ed Miller Stadium.
The victory also erased any playoff demons the Pirates had after losing as a No. 3 seed 24-13 to No. 6 Baltimore Liberty Union.
“When you’ve got a Fairland offense that’s attacking and running play after play after play, the ability to communicate what you want to do from the sidelines out to the sidelines is tough,” Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward said. “Our assistant coaches did it, our players responded to it and it translated tonight. Big stops in the red zone, big stops when we needed them to get done and I’m blessed to work with a tremendous staff here.”
After the Dragons deferred to the second half, the Pirates started the scoring 63 seconds into the game with an 11-yard run by Christian Ellis. Fairland capitalized on an Eddie Miller interception midway through the first as Evan Maddox rushed into the end zone on a 15-yard scamper.
Camron Parsley gave the home team its second lead of the quarter on a 1-yard run that capped off an 11-play, 63-yard drive. However, Maddox reached the end zone on a 40-yard burst through the middle with under a minute in the stanza.
Miller gave the Pirates their third lead in the half on a 1-yard sneak but Daylor Lewis’ extra point attempt was blocked. The Green and White capitalized and took its first lead of the game when Maddox found pay dirt for the third time in the half, this time on a 22-yard rush.
Wheelersburg regained the lead on Parsley’s second 1-yard dive of the half but Miller’s pass on the 2-point try failed to make it 26-21, a score that would hold until intermission.
In the second half, the Pirate defense stiffened and held the Dragons to 179 yards of total offense in the second half and intercepted Chance Short four times during the final 24 minutes. Woodward said the differences were improved tackling and masking coverages by dropping linebackers into the secondary.
“We dug our cleats in the ground when it counted (starting) in the third quarter, wrapped up and made tackles,” Woodward said.
Wheelersburg salted the game away with a 70-yard pass from Miller to Austin May midway through the third and a 17-yard run by Micah McAllister late in the game. Miller was 5-of-16 passing for 173 yards with a touchdown pass and two intereptions but made up for it with 195 yards rushing on 25 carries and another score in his last game that bears the name of his grandfather.
Ellis finished with 48 yards on the ground while McAllister added 42, both received praise from Woodward.
“My gosh did (Ellis) step up and make big plays and just do a tremendous job,” Woodward said. “That’s a senior for us. We joke that he’s back there and he never gets the running calls, he always gets the pass protections and does a great job at it.
“…(McAllister) has instilled the confidence in our coaching staff that he can get in there when it’s needed. We kind of know when you see No. 45 in there, we’re going to pound it and ground it a little bit and he does, he accepts it.”
The Pirates will take on No. 2 Martins Ferry in next Saturday’s semifinal. The Purple Raiders scored with under two minutes in the game to win 30-28 and avoid an upset bid by No. 7 Westfall.
“I’m just excited to have the opportunity and we’re looking to bring that same football team that we played tonight for four quarters back next week,” Woodward said.
Cody Leist can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking sports news, follow Cody on Twitter @CodyLeist.
F 14 7 0 0 — 21
W 14 12 7 7 — 40
W — Ellis 11 run (Lewis kick) 10:57
F — Maddox 15 run (Vidal kick) 7:39
W — Parsley 1 run (Lewis kick) 2:10
F — Maddox 40 run (Vidal run) :44.9
W — E. Miller 1 run (kick blocked) 9:06
F — Maddox 2 run (Vidal run) 7:46
W — Parsley 1 run (pass failed) 4:57
W — May 70 pass from E. Miller (Lewis kick) 6:58
W — McAllister 17 run (Lewis kick) 1:50
First Downs 21 18
Rush Att-Yds. 30-223 59-361
Pass Att.-Comp.-Int. 35-17-5 16-5-2
Pass Yds. 214 173
Total Yds. 437 534
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-0
Turnovers 5 2
Penalties-Yds. 10-124 9-85
Punts-Avg. 2-30 1-6
RUSHING: F — Maddox 19-163, N. Campbell 6-41, Sowards 1-13, Short 2-3, D. Murphy 1-(-2); W — E. Miller 25-195, Ellis 10-48, McAllister 5-42, D. Miller 6-42, May 6-22, Howard 3-5, Claxon 1-4, Parsley 3-3.
PASSING: F — Short 17-35-5 214; W — E. Miller 4-15-2 146, D. Miller 1-1-0 27.
RECEIVING: F — Sowards 4-102, Rankin 2-54, Campbell 6-40, Murphy 3-19, Christian 1-14, Vidal 1-8, Maddox 1-4; W —May 3-100, D. Miller 1-46.
Records — Fairland 7-4; Wheelersburg 10-1.