Thompson makes right moves in Waynesburg win
Waynesburg’s Jake Forsythe gains a few yards for the Yellow Jackets in the first quarter of Saturday’s game while Muskingum’s Darell Jones tries to slow him down.
Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
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WAYNESBURG – Because Bernie Thompson zagged when everyone, including the defensive back covering, thought he was going to zig, Waynesburg University managed to avoid an embarrassing loss to Muskingum Saturday at Wiley Stadium.
Thompson snagged a pass on a curl route from quarterback Carter Hill near the right sideline. Cornerback Darell Jones came up to make the stop, but Thompson cut toward the middle of the field and broke free for a 23-yard touchdown that iced a 21-17 season-opening victory over the Muskies.
The win was the 50th in the head coaching career of Rick Shepas at Waynesburg.
Had Thompson turned to the sideline, he would have taken a solid hit by Jones, who was favoring that side. Instead, his move to the middle of the field resulted in only a glancing blow that Thompson broke away from and scored the game-winner.
“I told the players on the sideline to have faith,” said Thompson, a 5-7, 145-pound junior wide receiver. “Something good was going to happen.”
Thompson made it happen with his only catch of the game and only his third college touchdown.
“The play was just a crossing route in the slot,” Thompson said. “Carter came back to me, and I was waiting for the (hit by the defender). He definitely thought I was going to the sideline. I instinctively made the move to the right and then made a move against the safety to get in.”
Thompson’s catch capped a furious rally by Waynesburg, which allowed Muskingum to score 17 unanswered points after taking a 14-0 lead in the second quarter.
Waynesburg was trailing 17-14 with 1:09 left to start the drive at its own 35. Hill hit Jake Danks for 17 combined yards, then found Andrew English for 29 yards on a crossing pattern that made it first down at the Muskingum 23. One incompletion later, Hill found Thompson for the game-saver.
“When they are in the middle of the field, we teach (the wide receivers) the way the quarterback throws to the shoulder, that’s the way you turn,” said Shepas. “If the ball is on the inside shoulder, you turn inside. If it’s on the outside shoulder, you turn to the outside. The quarterback can see where (the defender) is coming from.”
Muskingum took a 17-14 lead with 4:01 to play when quarterback C.J. Snider made a thrilling scramble for a 66-yard touchdown on a third-and-6 play at the Muskies 34.
They appeared to put the game away on their next possession when Shane Dotson broke around the ride side and scored from 29 yards out. But Muskingum was called for a holding penalty, negating the score.
“The holding call? I’m not sure where that came from,” said Muskingum head coach Al Logan. “The flag came from 30 yards away. It’s always a game of three, four plays, and they made more of those plays.”
Waynesburg built a 14-0 edge in the first half when Willie Leavell caught a 24-yard strike from Hill with 4:14 remaining in the first quarter, and Andrew English snagged a nine-yard pass from Hill 4:20 before halftime.
That’s when Muskingum began to turn the game’s momentum.
The Muskies marched 79 yards on 12 plays, scoring when Snider hit James Washington with a four-yard score with just nine seconds remaining until halftime.
“We were up 14-0 and playing good defense,” said Shepas. “Then, we flattened out.”
On their first possession of the second half, the Muskies used a Snider-to-Washington connection again to cover 38 yards and set up a 32-yard field goal by Caleb Carpenter. That cut Waynesburg’s lead to 14-10 with 11:29 left in the third quarter.
The game settled into a punting contest – six of them – until Snider broke off his long touchdown run to give Muskingum the lead.
“Everyone was shocked,” Thompson said of losing the lead. “But this team doesn’t quit. We don’t get down. We knew we had time.”
During that see-saw time in the game, free safety Bryan Gary, making his first start for Waynesburg since tearing his ACL in Week 8 last year, made four of his game-high 12 tackles. One of them was a crunching blow to the mid-section of running back Shane Dotson that sent him out of the game for a while.
“He was just a monster,” Shepas said. “It was ridiculous.”
Snider finished with 141 yards on 20 carries and 157 yards passing on 14 completions of 20 attempts. Washington had nine receptions for 122 yards and a TD.
Hill completed 19 of 34 passes for 122 yards and three TDs. Waynesburg’s running game produced just 76 yards on 26 attempts.