Your Prep Sports
SOLON – Trailing 21-0 with under six minutes to play on a rain-soaked night few fans could have blamed West Branch for call it a night a little early.
That’s just not an option at West Branch.
“We are taught to never give up,” West Branch sophomore Andy Henson explained succinctly.
Rather than toss it in the Bears battled back and nearly pulled off an upset for the ages.
West Branch (1-2) cut a 21-point lead to seven with a pair of late touchdowns and had possession late but had its final drive come up short in a 21-14 loss to Cascade (2-1) on a rainy Friday evening at Spartan Stadium in Solon.
“It was 21-0 and we could have folded but we didn’t, we stuck in there,” West Branch senior quarterback Gavin Hierseman said. “Our team motto this year is ‘all grit, no quit’ and that’s what we are going to do the rest of the way.”
Constant rain throughout the week forced the game to be moved from The Little Rose Bowl in West Branch to Solon.
Rain fell for much of the game on Friday in a contest where the play was at times as sloppy as the conditions.
Both teams committed 10 penalties for a combined 180 yards and Cascade and West Branch teamed up for six turnovers.
In the end the Cougars made enough plays to escape with a win.
Cascade got 84 yards and a touchdown from sophomore tailback Jack Menster, Tanner Simon returned an interception 46 yards for a score and junior quarterback Justin Roling threw a 69-yard TD pass as the Cougars won their second straight.
The loss was the second straight for West Branch which fell to West Liberty 20-7 last week.
“We improved a lot from a week ago, we really wanted to become more physical and we were more physical tonight,” West Branch coach Butch Pedersen said. “We just made four or five key mistakes.”
Roling connected with senior wide receiver Cael McDermott for a 69-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter that gave the Cougars a 6-0 halftime lead.
Simon picked off a Hierseman pass and raced 46 yards untouched down the sideline to make it 14-0 Cougars with 5:19 left in the third quarter.
A 7-yard scoring scamper by Menster with 30 seconds left in the third quarter put Cascade up 21-0.
The dagger for West Branch appeared to come when McDermott picked off a Hierseman pass in the end zone with 5:46 left.
Instead that was just the start for the Bears.
“We just kept fighting,” Henson said. “We were able to get back into that game.”
On the ensuing Cascade play following the interception West Branch recovered a fumble.
Three plays later Henson scored on a 10-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 21-7.
The West Branch defense responded by forcing a 3-and-out and the Bears caught a break when the snap on the Cougar punt attempt was mishandled.
On the first West Branch play Hierseman hit Henson for 41 yards and two plays later the two connected again for a 7-yard touchdown.
West Branch had one final chance after Cascade turned it over on downs at the Bear 29 with 2:03 left.
The Bears moved to the Cougar 33 yard line but Hierseman’s pass on fourth-and-10 fell incomplete halting the comeback.
“We had some guys start to hang their heads a little and we said ‘this isn’t over’,” Hierseman said. “We got the ball back and we had a chance to finish it. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen but it was a good game. They are a good team, give credit to them.”
Hierseman, who missed the West Liberty game with an injury, completed passes to six different receivers while going 29-of-49 for 279 yards and a touchdown.
Peyton Miller caught eight passes for 38 yards, Henson had seven grabs for 87 yards and Simon Palmer caught four for 43 yards.
“Last year it was one receiver doing a lot and this year we can throw the ball to a lot of people,” Hierseman said. “Timing is going to get better, it’s just working with them but that will be
West Branch outgained Cascade 327 to 234 and held a 17 to 9 edge in first downs but had a pair of drives stall inside the 20 yard line and missed field goals of 36 and 32 yards.
“We were driving on them we just couldn’t finish,” Hierseman said. “We didn’t finish some drives but that will be there.”
West Branch will attempt to snap it’s two-game losing skid when it travels to Wilton (1-2) next week. The Beavers fell to Durant 35-28 on Friday.
“Overall, the attitude is great, they know they probably could have won that game,” Pedersen said. “We played hard and we didn’t give up at the end and I thought that was huge.”
First downs 17 9
Rushes-yards 25-48 29-85
Comp-Att-Int 29-49-2 7-14-2
Passing yards 279 149
Total yards 327 234
Punts-avg. 5-35 3-41
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-2
Penalties-yards 11-95 10-85
West Branch 0 0 0 14 – 14
Cascade 0 6 15 0 – 21
CAS – Cael McDermott 69 pass from Justin Roling (Kick failed)
CAS – Tanner Simon 46 interception return (Carson Staner pass from Roling)
CAS – Jack Menster 7 run (Isaac Nava kick)
WB – Andy Henson 10 run (Cael Fiderlein kick)
WB – Henson 7 pass (Fiderlein kick)
RUSHING – West Branch: Andy Henson 18-48, Kinnick Boelk 1-19, Dominic Culver 1-(-1), Gavin Hierseman 4-(-10), Team 1-(-8). Cascade: Jack Menster 19-84, Casey Koppes 1-7, Tanner Simon 3-7, Justin Roling 4-(-1), Team 2-(-12).
PASSING – West Branch: Gavin Hierseman 29-49-2 279. Cascade: Justin Roling 7-14-2 149.
RECEIVING – West Branch: Peyton Miller 8-38, Andy Henson 7-87, Carver Boelk 5-27, Simon Palmer 4-43, Kaleb Sexton 4-54, Cash Woody 2-30. Cascade: Tanner Simon 2-22, Cael McDermott 1-69, Jackson McAleer 1-33, Mason Otting 1-16, Luke Ruggeberg 1-5, Jack Menster 1-4.