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By Jimmie Earls
Sun Sports Writer
“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
That is one of the oldest sports cliche’s in the book, and if any game were a prime example of that phrase, then the Washington County Commanders’ home opener against Western Hills last Friday night was a textbook case.
The Commanders got off to a quick lead when junior receiver Quan Turner ran the ball for a 56-yard yard touchdown. Junior Seth Mattingly’s extra point gave WC a 7-0 lead 49 seconds into the game.
Four minutes later, senior John Morrison found the end zone for the Commanders. Another PAT by Mattingly put WC ahead 14-0.
Meanwhile, Western Hills couldn’t find any rhythm, and the Commanders got the ball back 30 seconds later on a turnover.
It didn’t take long for the Commanders to strike again as senior quarterback Michael Gash hit Turner in the end zone on a tipped pass that Turner hauled in for the score. Mattingly’s point after attempt was blocked, but with less than six minutes remaining in the first quarter, WC held a 20-0 lead.
That’s when the Wolverines made a big adjustment and started putting things together.
Near the two-minute mark, Western Hills senior QB Dylan Curry drove the Wolverines down the field for their first TD.
That seemed to stall the Commanders and gave the Wolverines the incentive to do more damage.
“Those first seven minutes of the game was by far our best seven minutes of the year,” said WC head football coach Mark Perry. “We couldn’t have started any better, going up 20-0 on a good team. We practiced harder and had more preparation going into the game. Our loss wasn’t from a lack of effort, we just did a lot of little things wrong. We have a lot of inexperienced players on both offense and defense. A team like Western Hills, that has their whole team returning, can come back from being down 20-0 to score 59 points. As soon as they scored their first touchdown, they got the momentum and never lost it. It’s a learning point and that’s what these early games are all about before we get into district playoff time. That’s when you want to be peaking.”
After racking up that early 20-0 lead, WC gave up 44 unanswered points.
WC got back on the board when sophomore QB Trae Abell broke into the end zone on a keeper. The extra point was blocked to make the score 44-26 Wolverines. That was as close as the Commanders would get as Western Hills tacked 15 more points on the board and won 59-26 for their first victory of the season. With the loss, WC falls to 0-2 on the year.
Gash completed 11 of 19 attempts (58 percent for 90 yards, while Abell completed 50 percent of his throws, going 5-for-10 for 81 yards.
Morrison led WC receivers with 83 yards on three catches with one TD. Turner had five catches for 14 yards and two TDs. Connor Riney had one catch for 32 yards, Ben Simms totaled 24 yards on three catches, Kyle Curtsinger had five catches for 14 yards and Tyler Smith caught a pair of passes for eight yards.
On the ground, Turner totaled 118 yards on 10 carries, while Abell racked up 56 yards on nine carries. Tyler Loving had eight yards on one carry while Gash lost 21 yards on his four carries.
This Friday, the 0-3 Taylor County Cardinals fly into Springfield for a battle to see which team will earn their first win of the year.
Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m., and you can catch all of the action live on 100.9 MIKE FM with the pre-game show hosted by Hal B. Goode taking to the air at approximately 7:15 p.m.
For game highlights and photos, pick up next week’s print edition of The Springfield Sun, and online at www.readthesun.com.