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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of  September 19 - 25, 2001


Wolverines get rush from 42-34 Homecoming triumph

463 running yards in wild win over Pilots

Express Staff Writer

Fired up by patriotism and school spirit, a wildly enthusiastic Homecoming crowd at Hailey’s Wood River High School witnessed a wild 42-34 Wolverine football victory over visiting Glenns Ferry Friday on Phil Homer Field.

Eleven touchdowns and 1,196 yards in total offense comprised the fireworks after players from Wood River and Glenns Ferry lined up for a pre-game candlelight ceremony to remember Americans lost in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

The winning difference on a mild night when people needed an outlet to scream loudly and forget their woes was Wood River’s ground game—Hailey outrushing the Pilots 463-49 and controlling it 34 of 48 minutes.

"I felt eventually we were going to pound it out and wear them out," said Wood River coach John Blackman.

The Wolverines (2-1) made their own breaks, turning three of the four Pilot turnovers into TDs and ending Glenns Ferry’s unbeaten boast. "Our defense played well and had control of the game," said Blackman.

After a seesaw first half that featured three ties and three lead changes, Wood River took control in the second half behind the running bursts of senior fullback Christian Ayala (25 carries for 216 yards, 160 coming after halftime).

"Christian did a great job, and I was able to breathe him with Kellen (Chatterton)," said Blackman.

Nursing a tender ankle for much of the first half, Ayala stormed back with a vengeance and scored two of his three touchdowns in the second half, including a 67-yard dive that finally gave Wood River a 42-28 cushion with 11:07 left.

In all, an astounding 10 players contributed yardage to Wood River’s ground assault. Filling in for injured Ayala in the second quarter, junior Chatterton (10-for-78 yards rushing) tallied a pair of touchdowns and helped restore Wood River’s lead at 22-20 going into intermission.

What made the non-conference game close at all was the failure of Wood River’s special teams to stop Glenns Ferry (3-1) in the first half. The Pilots (283 yards in returns before halftime) returned two kickoffs and one fumble for three long scores.

But Glenns Ferry was a wounded team, having lost top rusher and tackler Korey Hall to a broken arm. The Pilots also lost another reliable senior, Cole Darrington, to a first-half injury. Their primary offense was the strong arm of junior QB Scot Uhl (17-of-30 for 235 yards and 2 TD).

In contrast, there was no secret to Wood River’s running game plan. "It was pretty much power, dive and a little counter," said Blackman. "We probably only called four different plays. Our offensive line did a great job."

After Evan Peebles intercepted Uhl’s first pass of the game, Wood River struck quickly—Wes Powell following Jeff Bolton’s block for a 13-yard gain, Nic Nottingham breaking a tackle for a 20-yard run and Ayala plunging for a 6-0 lead.

Extra-point holder Brian Squires transformed a low snap into a two-point conversion when he rolled to the right and found Cole Everman.

Stung by Austin Crone’s 74-yard kickoff return, Ayala’s injury and Mark Black’s 58-yard fumble recovery for a Pilot score, Wood River gamely regrouped. Chatterton’s 51-yard third-down dive led to his own TD plunge for a 14-14 deadlock.

The happiness in the Wood River camp was short-lived. Crone brought back another kickoff, this one 65 yards. But Christian Blackman and Matt Conover stopped the two-point try. The Pilots led 20-14 after a first quarter that dragged on and on for 45 minutes.

In the second quarter, a big rush on Pilot QB Uhl caused a stray pass that Ryne Reynoso intercepted and returned 14 yards to the Pilot 15. Chatterton got a first down on a hard third-down run, then he scored from three yards out on third-and-goal. Dylan Welcome’s conversion run put Wood River ahead 22-20 at the half.

The outcome was still very much in doubt in the third quarter when a hard tackle by Chatterton forced a Pilot fumble that Bolton recovered. Back in the saddle, Ayala rushed for 13 yards—and Squires alertly pounced on his fumble. Two plays later, Ayala followed Bolton and Kenny Kelb into the end zone, 28-20.

Glenns Ferry answered right back for a 28-28 tie. Uhl’s 52-yard TD pass to Zach Simons, and the conversion toss from Uhl to Simons tied the score for the fourth time.

That’s when Welcome’s 37-yard TD run off right end capped Wood River’s longest drive of the game, a three-and-a-half minute, 75-yarder. Reynoso’s successful conversion run made it 36-28. And that’s when Wood River’s defense stood tall.

Uhl’s passing moved the Pilots into Wolverine territory. But gang-tackling by James Angell, Bolton, Chatterton and Blackman stopped Glenns Ferry on third and fourth downs. Wood River took over—and Ayala sprinted up the middle on his 67-yard TD romp for a 42-28 lead.

"Glenns Ferry was basically playing two linebackers and no safety. So Bolton and Kenny took the two down linemen, Nic (Nottingham) walled off the two linebackers and Ayala was off to the races. We just ran the heck out of the dive all night," said Blackman.

Squires’ interception gave the ball right back to the Wolverine offense, which undertook a time-eating 17-play, 71-yard, eight-minute drive that featured two disallowed TDs and finally surrendered the ball at the Glenns Ferry two with 3:07 left.

It wasn’t nearly enough time for Uhl, who worked one minor miracle throwing for 80 yards during a two-minute, 97-yard Pilot TD drive. Wood River recovered the onsides kick and Ayala ran out the clock.

WOLVERINE NOTES—During the game the Wood River crowd was generous, filling big water jugs with donations for the American Red Cross.

Wood River’s ground game has turned the season around. After being outrushed by Wendell 322-114 in its season-opening 14-6 home loss, Wood River has outrushed Middleton and Glenns Ferry 787-194—with 118 carries to 50 for its foes. The ball control game has kept Wood River’s defense off the field. In the two wins, Wood River has controlled the ball for nearly 63 minutes and relinquished it for just 33 minutes. Rushing first downs favor Wood River 28-11. Comparing this year’s team to last year’s 5-4 state playoff team—the Wolverines have 901 rushing yards in three games. Last year it was 1,112 in nine games.

The 76 points Friday represented the most in one Wolverine game since a school-record 56-28 home win over Kimberly Oct. 2, 1991. That game ended a 14-game Wood River losing streak and featured 752 yards in total Hailey yardage including 389 rushing yards….Ayala’s 216-yard rushing performance put the senior up in the hierarchy of Wood River runners including Boe Rushton (356 in 1997), Trent Rushton (303 in 1995) and Tom Sluder (230 in 1989). Ayala also boomed a 66-yard punt in the second.

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