NuMINE — In what has been a September filled with mixed results for West Shamokin, the month’s final day provided a more favorable result.
If the year’s ninth month were a book, Louis Stevenson’s “Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” might be an apt comparison.
The Wolves bounced back from a scoreless performance a week ago that included 40 Penns Manor points with an emphatic 48-20 win over River Valley on Friday at home in a Heritage Conference football game.
Much like their dramatic, walk-off win against Homer-Center two weeks prior, the Wolves featured a lethal run game that amassed 300 yards. Micah Linhart did the heavy lifting, gaining 166 of those on 27 carries.
It wasn’t until the second half that Jon McCullough’s team created breathing room between they and the second-year Panthers. With just a one possession lead coming out of the halftime break, West Shamokin outscored River Valley 27-6 over the final two quarters. More importantly, the win was more about what the Wolves didn’t do that might have had the largest impact on the outcome. Unlike their messy performance against the Comets, the Wolves’ ball security on key possessions helped win the turnover margin, 2-0.
In spite of the Jekyll and Hyde run that has yielded inconsistent outcomes for a team that is set on breaking the school’s winless drought in the postseason, they did mirror one thing from their contest against the Comets. Rarely does a team come out in the winning end when losing the time of possession battle, the Wolves had the ball for three minutes longer than Penns Manor. On Friday, they once again possessed the ball longer than River Valley, this time by nearly 13 minutes.
River Valley did, however, have the Wolves on the ropes over the first 24 minutes. The Panthers defensive unit allowed a Wolves touchdown on the first drive of the game that ended with a 26-yard Linhart scamper. But that was all they allowed over the remainder of the quarter. A blocked punt on West Shamokin’s second drive set River Valley up in prime field position at the Wolves’ 20 yard line. It took just two plays for the Panthers to punch it in, capping off the swing in momentum with a 15-yard gallop to knot the conference clash up at seven a piece.
The Wolves jumped ahead 21-7 on the back of senior Dylan Wolfe. Wolfe scored late in the first on a 65-yard pitch and catch, and later in the second frame on a 1-yard plunge. Luckily for River Valley, they had one final push left before the intermission. With just over three minutes left in the first half, the Panthers orchestrated a 10-play drive that ended in a touchdown. This could have been the momentum needed to change the tone, but it was the Wolves’ bark that was ultimately louder than River Valley’s bite.
West Shamokin forced a fumble early in the third and turned the change of possession into seven points on the very next play on Lou Swartz’s 28-yard run to the end zone. The bruising quarterback’s run took any and all wind out of the Panthers’ sails and their second half chances.
River Valley (0-6) faces Purchase Line in Week 6 on the road, while West Shamokin (4-2) hopes to maintain their winning formula on the road at Northern Cambria.