Jackets triumph: Williamstown edges Wheeling Central, 27-25

WILLIAMSTOWN -A new receiver emerged as Jake Tracewell’s favorite target as Williamstown defeated Wheeling Central 27-25 in the Friday’s first round of the Class A state playoffs.

Tracewell threw for four touchdowns, including two to running back Dakota Watson, who finished the game with six receptions for 93 yards while rushing five times for 51 yards.

“That was the biggest game of the year right there,” Watson said. “To be honest, Wheeling Central always beats us.”

The fourth-ranked Yellowjackets improved to 9-2 and will meet the winner of this afternoon’s game between Bishop Donahue at Man. Time and date of next week’s quarterfinal game will be determined during Sunday’s meeting for the playoff coaches at the WVSSAC building.

The 13th-ranked Maroon Knights, who were 5-1 in playoff games against Williamstown, end the campaign at 6-5.

“This win is special,” Williamstown coach Terry Smith said. “Any playoff game, you are going to play a tough team. It’s special for these seniors because we get one more week to be together. And defeating Wheeling Central makes it even more special.

“We have to get up early to watch (today’s) playoff game, but we will do it.”

With the game tied at 6 at halftime, both sides displayed their best rendition of an offense as both scored a touchdown every time they had possession.

On Williamstown’s opening possession, Tracewell either called his own signal on a running play or attempted a pass on nine of the 10 plays which resulted in the senior completing a 12-yard touchdown pass to Logan Lindsey right at the pylon near the goal line. The point after put the Yellowjackets in front 13-6 with 7:31 remaining in the third quarter.

Wheeling Central came right back and alternated carries between quarterback Isaac Rine and C.J. Burch while moving the ball 62 yards in eight plays. Burch’s 33-yard touchdown run cut the deficit to 13-12 with 3:03 showing in the period.

On the second play of the fourth quarter, Williamstown faced fourth-and-8 from the Wheeling Central 28. Tracewell dropped back in the pocket and connected with Watson on a fly pattern for the touchdown. Despite a failed extra point, the Yellowjackets maintained a 19-12 advantage.

On the ensuing series, the Maroon Knights made their way to the Williamstown 34 where it appeared as if the drive had stalled. But on fourth-and-9, Rine found receiver John Burkhalter open for a 27-yard gain. Two plays later out of the power-I, Burch crossed the goal line from 4 yards.

The two-point conversion failed as Tracewell batted a pass away intended for the end zone and the Yellowjackets remained in front 19-18 at the 6:24 mark of the fourth quarter.

Watson’s 34-yard run on Williamstown’s next drive helped set up Tracewell’s 7-yard scoring strike to Hunter Neely. When Wheeling Central was whistled for offsides on the extra point attempt, the Yellowjackets decided to try to for two. The decision worked like a charm when David Hastings plunged his way into the end zone for a Williamstown 27-18 lead.

Again the Maroon Knights answered when Rine hooked up with Joe John for a 15-yard touchdown completing with 1:05 showing on the clock.

With no timeouts remaining, the Maroon Knights tried a squib kick. Williamstown’s Noah Bellew settled on top of the ball, and the Yellowjackets took two knees to run out the final seconds.

“The line was getting a good push there in the second half,” said Tracewell, who ended the game completing his final 10 pass attempts.

Tracewell led Williamstown with 78 yards rushing on 24 carries, while Burch finished with 158 yards on 27 attempts.

“It seemed like anywhere Jake went there were two to three guys there,” Smith said. “Dakota stepped up when we had to have it. Their whole team was all over Jake, so we had to get it to somebody.