By PAUL BOGGS
Photo’s by Kent Sanborn
The Wheelersburg Pirates, and Makya Matthews, got knocked down.
However, against Ashland last week, they got up.
Now, will Wheelersburg stay up and make something serious of its season, which started at 0-2 with blowout opening losses against Ironton and Columbus Hartley.
This week, following their dramatic 34-33 overtime comeback victory over previously-undefeated Ashland, the Pirates travel across the Ohio River into Kentucky to take on the Greenup County Musketeers.
Kickoff on “The Farm” for Friday night is set for 7:30 p.m.
The Pirates are attempting to follow the pattern of their Southern Ohio Conference Division II brethren, the Minford Falcons, whose read-option offense burned the host Musketeers for 410 yards on 43 carries last week – en route to a 45-27 win.
Greenup County comes into the contest at 2-2, and still has standout quarterback and Marshall University signee Eli Sammons.
But Wheelersburg has much-needed momentum, and the Pirates picked themselves up by rallying past the Tomcats.
Ashland scored the opening 13 points, prior to Wheelersburg scoring the next 21 over the next two quarters.
In the fourth quarter, Wheelersburg kicker Braxton Sammons booted a pair of field goals – including the 45-yarder with nine seconds remaining to force the 27-27 tie and the extra period.
In the overtime, the Tomcats scored first, but Matthews – who was injured against Ironton and didn’t play in the Pirates’ 44-6 loss to Columbus Hartley – had the winning touchdown run with Sammons kicking the extra point.
Matthews made a major difference, catching nine passes for 135 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown from quarterback Aaron Masters that put the Pirates on the board.
He also rushed nine times for 32 yards, and was one of three Wheelersburg ballcarriers with at least that many carries and yards.
While Matthews’ return was indeed an individual highlight, Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward discussed the importance of the Pirates overcoming early-season adversity as a team.
Head Coach Rob Woodard
- Current Team
The Pirates plan on doing that against the Musketeers.
If they can follow the Falcon blueprint, Matthews, Carson Williams (nine carries for 33 yards vs. Ashland) and Evan Horsley (12 carries for 46 yards) may have big rushing games.
Minford’s only ballcarriers, quarterback Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis (266 yards on 23 carries) and running back Ty Wiget (144 yards on 20 carries), combined for the 410 yards with the read-option attack.
In addition, a ground assault prevents the six-foot, six-inch tall Sammons from going on an aerial raid.
Sammons completed 15-of-34 passes for 233 yards and three touchdowns in the loss to Minford.
“Eli Sammons is an outstanding player for Greenup who can sling the ball all over the field. He is also a vital part of their running game this year,” said Woodward. “We must continue to improve and control the things we can control as a team and work to improve.”
And, another win would put the Pirates right back to 2-2 – with another important and colossal contest looming next week at undefeated Jackson.
Portsmouth West at Wellston
A pair of 2-1 squads looking to continue a solid start to the season meet for the fifth consecutive campaign come Friday night.
In one of the more interesting matchups this week, the Portsmouth West Senators – after defeating Jay Lucas’ current club – travel to face his former squad in the Wellston Golden Rockets.
West will also aim to extend its winning streak over Wellston to four, as this series started four years ago – with West winning the last three (34-8 in 2016, 31-6 in 2017 and 35-0 in 2018) by a combined score of 100-14.
The Golden Rockets recorded the series’ first victory – a 46-6 romp in 2015.
Kickoff inside Wellston’s C.H. Jones Field is set for 7:30 p.m.
The Senators, after a turnover-plagued performance against Portsmouth, bounced back nicely with a 21-12 triumph last week at Coal Grove.
Coal Grove is coached by Lucas, who returned to his alma mater after spending the past two seasons leading Wellston.
The Senators’ patented ground game got going with William Journey, who rushed for 112 yards on 23 carries.
Their defense also pitched a shutout over the final 31 minutes and 46 seconds.
The Golden Rockets, after a 23-6 season-opening setback at Jackson, have handled rebuilding programs Piketon (44-22) and Hebron Lakewood (30-7) in their two tilts since.
This will be Wellston’s first home bout this season, as the Senators are indeed a step up in competition for the Blue and Gold.
But Ben Johnson, the Senators’ head coach, knows Wellston and first-year head coach Mike Smith present a difficult challenge.
Wellston senior Rylan Molihan had his second straight 100-yard rushing game last week – after the Golden Rockets totaled just 48 offensive yards at Jackson.
Molihan went off for 266 yards on 22 carries at Lakewood, and has three rushing touchdowns in his last two games.
“Wellston has a new coach, and they are running a lot more spread offense than what you typically would see out of a Wellston team,” said Johnson. “It’s 2-1 vs. 2-1, so it’s going to be a big game up there. We have to go to their place, it’s like this (Coal Grove) it’s a hostile environment, and we have to be ready to play our ‘A’ game.”
Northwest at Oak Hill
For the past five seasons, this was often the game which decided the Southern Ohio Conference Division I championship.
Although, Oak Hill – thanks largely to winning the numbers game – won each of those five meetings against Northwest, part of four SOC I championships for the Oaks over the same span.
But now, Northwest is the biggest fish in the SOC-I pond, as Oak Hill has moved up to the larger-school SOC II.
Still, this week’s now non-league encounter in Oak Hill is indeed intriguing, as the Mohawks are off to a 2-1 start while the Oaks are 1-2.
Kickoff inside Oak Hill’s Davis Stadium is set for 7 p.m.
Northwest won its last two games in easy fashion (35-7 over McClain and 52-16 at Huntington), while Oak Hill – coached by first-year mentor and 2009 Northwest graduate Paul Carver – had a 20-0 shutout of Rock Hill for its first victory.
Both clubs are young overall, playing primarily juniors and sophomores and even a few freshmen, and both prefer to run the ball.
The Mohawks must defend Oak Hill senior running back Triston Diltz, who went off against the Redmen for 198 yards and two touchdowns on only 10 carries.
His two TD covered 83 yards on the first and 65 on the second.
Northwest will likely run by committee – with junior Nathan Rivers, sophomore Brayden Campbell and freshman Wyatt Brackman.
That trio combined for 417 yards on 42 carries in the Mohawks’ scalping of Huntington last week.
Oak Hill has won the last seven meetings in the series, as the two – prior to the past five years – previously played in 2007 and 2008.
Those two years were also non-league affairs, as Northwest was the one in the SOC II.
In the other six all-time meetings, Northwest has won four (1973, 1974, 1982 and 1985), while Oak Hill has taken two (1978 and 1983).