Late in the second quarter, the game between the Watterson and Beechcroft high school football teams was still in doubt.
Sure, the Eagles were ahead 21-7, but Beechcroft had just scored on a 5-yard run by sophomore quarterback Maurice Hale with 3 minutes, 1 second remaining in the half and the Cougars had the ball back on their own 20-yard line.
Not content to run out the clock, Beechcroft attempted two passes, the first resulting in an incompletion and the second to a quarterback sack by junior linebacker Matt Stafford. Watterson quickly called time out and got the ball back at the Cougars 45-yard-line with 41 seconds to go.
That's when things began to unravel for the visitors as the Eagles won 42-14 to improve to 1-1 as the Cougars fell to 1-1.
Eagles junior quarterback Andy Elberson hit senior wideout Erik Oman on passes of 13 and 15 yards to move the ball the Beechcroft 17. After an incomplete pass stopped the clock with 24 seconds to go, Elberson hit senior running back Anthony Melaragno for a 6-yard gain to the 11. Following a timeout, there was confusion in the Cougars secondary and Elberson calmly hit senior wide receiver Jack Gammon, alone by at least 10 yards, for a touchdown with 11 seconds left.
"Watterson is a very tough football team, and we just couldn't get any sort of rhythm going," said Beechcroft coach Bruce Ward, whose squad was outgained 322-213 in total offense. "We made a lot of little mistakes, and they just got compounded."
After the Eagles lost on the road last week to Pickerington North 38-3, Elberson said it was nice to be home.
"The atmosphere tonight was just awesome," he said. "This was a lot of fun."
The Eagles set the tempo on their opening drive, mixing the run with the pass and moving the ball across midfield to the Beechcroft 49 before Elberson took a snap from the shot-gun formation, faked a hand-off and tossed a perfect pass down the left side to Oman who caught the ball in stride at the 20 and ran untouched into the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
"That pass was in the game plan. We saw it on film and worked on it during the week," Elberson said. "The safety really bit on the play-action and that was it. Perfect, really."
The temperature at game time was in the mid-90s and the humidity was high. The referees called timeout three times during the first half so that the players could get fluids. Although both teams had players going both ways, Beechcroft fielded more two-way starters than did the Eagles. Little wonder, then, that Watterson came out in the second half determined to wear down a fatigued Cougars defense.
The Eagles returned the second half kick to their own 42 and then settled down to run the ball. Senior running back Isaiah Murray had runs of 29, 9 and 6 on the drive and senior fullback Mario Dean had runs of 7 and 9 yards before closing the drive with a 1-yard run with 9:23 to go in the third quarter to make the score 35-7. Watterson ran on its first 13 plays during the second half.
"Football is a funny game," Eagles coach Dan Bjelac said. "You'd think the offensive line would be as tired as the defensive line, but you run off seven or eight straight runs and the offensive line has all sorts of energy and the defense gets down and tired. It's the psychology of the game."
BEECHCROFT 0 7 7 0 -- 14
WATTERSON 7 21 7 7 -- 42
W--Oman 49 pass from Elberson (Clegg kick)
W--Elberson 16 run (Clegg kick)
W--Murray 9 run (Clegg kick)
B--Hale 5 run (Berry kick)
W--Gammon 11 pass from Elberson (Clegg kick)
W--Dean 1 run (Clegg kick)
W--Green 37 run (Clegg kick)