Wildcats go … well… wild

Waterford dominates Berne Union, 34-14

JORDAN HOLLAND The Marietta Times Waterford’s George Pantelidis (21) catches a pass over Berne Union’s Wyatt Miller (1) during a high school football playoff game Saturday night. Waterford won, 34-14.

WATERFORD — It was evident from the start that the Berne Union Rockets were bound and determined not to allow Waterford All-Ohio running back Braden Bellville to run wild on them in Saturday night’s Division VII, Region 27 Quarterfinal at Waterford Elementary School.

While the Rockets did manage to keep Bellville out of the end zone, Waterford quarterback Peyten Stephens took things into his own hands as the senior passed for three touchdowns and ran for two more to lead Waterford to a 34-14 victory,

The fourth-seeded Wildcats scored 14 points in each of the first two quarters to pull out to a 28-7 lead at the intermission and were never seriously threatened the rest of the way as they won a home playoff game for the second time in the past three seasons.

“They (Berne Union) made it pretty clear early that they weren’t going to let Braden do most of the scoring on our team so we started airing it out and we realized ‘Hey, we are killing them,'” said Stephens, who was involved in all five of the Wildcat scores. “We just kept on going and going and going and eventually they took away the pass so I took off and started rushing for touchdowns. They didn’t have answers.”

Waterford got the ball first and took no time at all getting on the scoreboard when Stephens connected with George Pantelidis on a 22-yard scoring pass with 9:57 left in the opening period to take a 6-0 lead.

The Rockets answered swiftly as they put together an 11-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by a 16-yard touchdown run by Chaz Dickerson.

The extra point was good by Chase McCartney and Berne Union temporarily held a 7-6 lead with just over four minutes to play in the opening quarter.

The Wildcats wouldn’t stay down for long at all as they responded with a 65-yard, six-play drive that ended when Stephens took a keeper 14-yards to paydirt and then also completed the two-point conversion to give his team a 14-7 lead.

Stephens scored his second touchdown of the opening half on a three-yard run in the second quarter and then found a diving Zane Heiss in the back of the end zone for a highlight reel pitch and catch that extended the Wildcat lead to 28-7 at the break.

“We have got targets all over the field and he (Stephens) hit them tonight,” said Wildcat head coach Eric McCutcheon. “We came out on all cylinders in the first half. We kind of got slowed down a little bit for some particular reason in the second half but the first half we just dominated.”

The Wildcat defense came into the game on quite a roll as they had allowed a grand total of 24 points over their past four games and rose to the occasion once again in the second half as they forced the Rockets into a punt and a turnover on downs on their first two possessions of the second half.

In addition to his great game on offense, Stephens got into the act on defense as well as he registered a pair of sacks and knocked down a Zane Mirgon pass at the line of scrimmage.

After a third straight stop by the Waterford defense, Stephens and the offense went back to work as they took advantage of a short field to go 40-yards on three plays with Nick Fouss hauling in a 12-yard pass from Stephens to push the lead to 34-7.

Berne Union scored the final touchdown of the game in the final period on Dickerson’s second touchdown run of the game but it wouldn’t be near enough as Waterford advances to take on top-seeded Lucas next Saturday night at a site to be determined.

Stephens completed 11-of-17 pass attempts in the game for 189 yards while gaining 22 yards on eight carries.

While Berne Union may have been able to slow down Bellville they certainly weren’t able to stop him as the Wildcats’ all-time career rushing leader tallied 117 rushing yards on 20 carries.

Fouss led the Wildcats in receiving with four catches for 50 yards while Pantelidis caught two balls for 58 yards.

Dickerson also eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the Rockets by rushing for 106 yards on 21 carries while Mirgon completed 13-of-24 pass attempts for 139 yards.

The Rockets’ season comes to a close with an 8-3 record while the Wildcats (9-2) will live to fight another day.

“This one is going in the memory book, especially since it’s a playoff game,” said Stephens. “This is the last time I’ll ever play on this field. It’s the best feeling in the world and we can’t wait to get started again this week. It’s good to know it’s not over yet.”