WAPAKONETA — Friday’s huge Western Buckeye League football showdown between three-time defending league champion Wapakoneta and undefeated Elida had the feel of a playoff game.
Wapakoneta, after losing its first two games on the season, came into Friday’s contest with two straight wins. Elida was trying to keep its unblemished record intact.
The fans were not disappointed.
Wapakoneta battled back from a 12-point third-quarter deficit to pull off a hard-fought 36-33 victory over Elida at Harmon Field.
In the fourth quarter, the Redskins scored 18 unanswered points to put the game away.
With the win, Wapakoneta moves to 3-2 overall and 3-1 in the WBL. Elida slips to 4-1, 3-1 WBL.
“We make things interesting,” Wapakoneta coach Travis Moyer said. “That’s been the character of our football team all year. This is a resilient group – a group with great character, and we don’t always make things easy on ourselves. But these kids continue to fight, and they understand it’s a 48-minute game. I’m extremely proud of my football team tonight.”
For the game, Wapakoneta’s Wing-T offense rolled up 298 rushing yards,
For Elida, it was the arm of senior quarterback Isaac McAdams, who was 20 of 30 passing for 239 yards and two touchdowns. Cole Harmon was McAdams’ favorite receiver, catching eight passes for 130 yards and two TDs.
Early on, it was Elida moving the football.
On the very first possession of the game, the Bulldogs marched 65 yards on 10 plays for a touchdown. Elida capped off the scoring drive with a 3-yard pass from McAdams to Harmon. On that scoring drive, McAdams was 4 of 5 passing for 49 yards. With the extra point by Noah Adcock, Elida led 7-0.
Wapakoneta responded before the end of the quarter with a quick six-play, 80-yard scoring drive to knot the game at 7 apiece. Rob Gerstner capped off the drive with a 1-yard run to the end zone to tie up the game at 7-7. The score held up to the end of the first quarter.
Wapakoneta took its first lead at the 4:10 mark of the second quarter, on a 7-yard pass from quarterback Brady Erb to Evan Kaeck. With the point-after, Wapakoneta led 14-7.
Right before the half, Elida mounted a 12-play, 85-yard scoring drive. McAdams cashed in with an 11-yard run for the score. However, the extra point attempt by Adcock was blocked, making the score 14-13, Wapakoneta.
After a nip-and-tuck first half, Elida quickly changed things in the third quarter.
On Wapakoneta’s first possession of the second half, the Redskins fumbled the football, and Elida’s Dan Tullis recovered it on Wapakoneta’s 17-yard line. Four plays later, Daniel Unruh ran it in from 6 yards out for the score, making it 19-14 Elida. On the two-point conversion, Elida’s attempt to run it in was stopped.
Then, it was Elida’s defense stepping up.
At the 8:56 mark of the third quarter, Erb was picked off by Arzaiah Little, who ran it back 46 yards for the touchdown. With the point after by Adcock, Elida now led 26-14.
However, the Redskins had an answer.
On the ensuing drive, Wapakoneta marched 87 yards on five plays for a score. Mitchel Apple broke loose in the Elida secondary for a 37-yard TD run. With the extra point, the Elida lead was cut to 26-21.
But, here came Elida.
On the next possession for the Bulldogs, McAdams found Harmon in the secondary, and the senior went 68 yards for the score. With the extra point, Elida’s lead stretched out to 33-21.
However, Wapakoneta was not to be outdone.
On their next possession, the Redskins drove 80 yards in eight plays to cut the deficit to 33-28, with 40 seconds left in the third quarter. Gerstner ran it in from three yards out.
Then, with 8:26 left to play, Wapakoneta cashed in once more. Apple ran it in from five yards out. With the two-point conversion, Wapakoneta now led 36-33.
Elida was unable to respond on its final drive.
“Zach Miller came up big for us all night, defensively,” Moyer said. “When we needed the stops, we got them. They (Elida) are a great offensive team. They’re really skilled and athletic.”
For the game, Apple led Wapakoneta with 153 yards rushing on 15 carries. Gerstner rushed for 79 yards on 10 carries.
“We got beat up front, defensively,” Elida coach Bill Speller said. “We didn’t control the line of scrimmage, and they were able to control the game, basically.
“Penalties killed us. Right now, we’re leading the league in penalties. A championship team does not lead the league in penalties. We cannot keep doing that to ourselves.”
The Lima News sports department can be reached at 567-242-0451.