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An Auspicious Start: Rams Defeat Canton, 35-20 in Season Opener
Greg Schantz eludes a tackle by a Canton defender during the Rams' 35-20 victory on Sept. 3.
Gary Otis's debut as Wyalusing Valley football coach was an auspicious one.
Jared Johnson (J.J.) scored three touchdowns, including one on a school-record 92-yard kickoff return, and fullback Greg Schantz bulled for 128 yards, including 98 in the first half, as the Rams defeated Canton, 35-20.
The Wyalusing defense, led by strong efforts from linemen Tim Millard, Branden Johnson and David Phillippe, held Canton to 196 yards.
"It was a good first win for them," Otis said.
"They made some mistakes," he admitted, "but they kept their enthusiasm up."
The Rams gave the Warriors a steady dose of Schantz to open the game as the 215-pound fullback found gaping holes opened by his offensive line—Millard, Joe Brink, Thad Slocum, Brian Huyck and Mike Longcoy.
Schantz carried on seven of Wyalusing's first eight plays, setting the stage for Ben Fish's 14-yard scoring toss to Jared Johnson.
Jason Naugle added the first of five extra points to give Wyalusing a 7-0 lead with seven minutes left in the first quarter.
"We wanted to establish the running game and feed off it," Otis said.
On Canton's first play, Brink pounced on a fumbled snap to give Wyalusing the ball back at midfield.
Seven plays later, Fish scored on a 23-yard run.
The Warriors had trouble with the snap all night. They put the ball on the ground 11 times, many on miscues between the quarterback and center, losing five of them.
Wyalusing had a chance to put the game away early when Millard recovered a Canton fumble at the Warrior 42 on their next possession.
But a penalty, one of 10 the Rams would commit, and a sack of Fish by Canton's Quay Ward stopped the drive.
The Rams surrendered two turnovers in the second quarter.
Canton recovered a fumbled snap on the Wyalusing 35, but was held on downs after driving to the 9.
Three plays later, Jesse O'Conners intercepted a Wyalusing pass and returned it to the Ram 26.
Six plays later, Brad Watkins connected with Korey Seeley on a six-yard touchdown pass with 32 seconds left in the half.
Branden Johnson blocked John Natoli's extra-point kick, leaving the score at 14-6.
Canton attempted an onside kick, but Millard covered the ball at the Ram 48.
Three plays later, Johnson made a juggling catch for a 44-yard touchdown with three seconds to play in the half.
Canton shaved the margin to 21-12 on Ward's one-yard run with 7:16 left in the third quarter.
Again, the Rams responded as Jared Johnson gathered in the ensuing kickoff at the Ram 8, faked a reverse and found a seam in Canton's coverage down the right sideline for the score.
"J.J.'s got great hands and great speed and he made a couple big plays for us," Otis said of the junior.
Late in the third period, Millard recovered a Canton fumble on the Warrior 6.
Two plays later, Fish scored on a four-yard run.
Late in the game, Ward scored on a two-yard run for Canton. He also ran for the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 35-20 with 3:06 to play.
A coffin corner punt by Fish, who averaged nearly 40 yards per punt, pinned Canton deep in its territory. Branden Johnson's fumble recovery on the Canton 1 with less than a minute to play ended any Warrior comeback hopes.
Canton was led by Watkins, who rushed for 34 yards on 15 carries, and threw for 90 yards.
The Wyalusing defense frustrated Canton's option offense. Millard, who had six tackles, three assists and a sack, and Brink shut down Ward's forays into the middle.
"He put a lot of pressure on in the middle and caused a lot of havoc," Otis said of Millard.
Phillippe earned praise from both Otis and assistant coach Dave Behrend for his outstanding play at defensive end.
"Phillippe has a solid game at defensive end for us," Otis said.