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Westminster ‘Stuffs’ Grove City for 24-21 Win

Written by: on Sunday, November 9th, 2008

By Bill Albright
Western PA Writer

NEW WILMINGTON — Any way you look at it, Saturday’s meeting between Grove City and Westminster provided both sides of the emotional coin.
On the Westminster side of the field, it was jubilation as the Titans put up a goal line stand in the final three seconds for an exciting 24-21 win.
However, on the other side of the Harold Burry Stadium turf, it was a tough pill to swallow for the Wolverines as they literally came up inches short of what would have been their second win in a row and their fourth in their last five outings.
“It was a great, hard-fought game,” said Westminster coach Jeff Hand. “When you have two fairly, evenly-matched teams going against each other, it was fitting to have it come down to the last play. I guess that is the way it is supposed to be.”
Although they led for much of the game, it took the final three minutes of the game for Westminster to decide the issue.
Leading by as many as 10 points on two occasions, the Titans (5-4, 3-3) saw those leads (10-0 and 17-7) evaporate into a 21-17 Grove City lead midway through the final period.
That is when the Titans decided to take matters in their own hands on both sides of the ball as they came from behind in the final three minutes to defeat their neighborhood rivals.
Taking over on their own 26 with less than three minutes left and trailing by four, Titan junior quarterback Kevin Franz engineered what turned out to be the eventual winning drive.
“When the defense got the ball back for us, that is when we (the offense) said, hey, this is what we play football for,” said Franz about his mindset. “Facing 70 yards in the last three minutes, that is what you practice hard for, looking for a way to win the game.”
Mixing the pass with the run, the Titans were faced with a third-and-2 at the Grove City 8.
That is when Franz found freshman wide receiver Justin Morgano open in the left corner of the end zone for an 8-yard scoring pass with 46 seconds left. Trevor Young’s PAT made it 24-21 Titans.
Prior to the TD strike, Franz converted on a pair of third down plays when he hit Jon Gubish for 16 yards and a first down before connecting with Morgano for 21 yards to the GCC 16.
“We saw them (Grove City) run a lot of man coverage,” explained Franz. “We decided that the next time we get inside the 10 or 15, we were going to run a corner where the outside guy runs a skinny post and the inside guy runs toward the corner of the end zone. That is what we called and he (Morgano) was there to make the catch.”
Despite surrendering the lead to their hosts, the Wolverines (5-4, 2-3) didn’t go quietly.
Led by quarterback Andrew DiDonato, Grove City drove down until they faced a second-and-goal 18 inches from paydirt with three ticks left on the clock.
After calling a time out, GCC coach Chris Smith elected to go for the win instead of attempting the tying field goal, but the Wolverines were denied the victory as DiDonato was stacked up short of the goal line by linebacker Jordan Blinn and nose tackle Jeff Bever as time ran out.
“There was no question in my mind that we weren’t going to try to kick that field goal,” said GCC coach Chris Smith. “We had the ball a half yard away from the goal line and we had the choice of running the power or trying the sneak. We tried the sneak, but we just didn’t get in.”
Although the Titans had the edge that counted on the scoreboard, the Wolverines had the edge in most of the statistical categories. GCC held a 31-17 edge in first downs, yards rushing (218-125), total offense (233-136) and time of possession (34:34-25:26).
Just like one year ago, Grove City was able to move the ball with consistency between the 20-yard lines, but the red zone was not kind to the Wolverines. Moving inside the red zone three times on their first four possessions, the Wolverines were turned away on a pair of stops and a lost fumble.
“It was frustrating to have that happen, especially with the great effort we had today,” said Smith. “To be able to come back and be in a position to win the game, you hate to have things like that not reward the players for their efforts.”

Skipping the Sidelines

Home Cooking: The Titans obviously enjoy playing in the confines of Burry Stadium. With the win over GCC, the Titans have now won seven straight games at Burry while completing a perfect 5-0 2008 campaign on their home turf. For Grove City, the frustration of playing in Titanland continues as the Wolverines have not won on Titan territory since 1961.
Versatility Plus: Not only did GCC quarterback Andrew DiDonato try to throw the Wolverines to a victory, he also showed his versatility by trying to run them to the winners’ circle as well. In the heartbreaking loss, DiDonato not only threw for 236 yards without tossing an interception, but he also called on his legs 24 times for another 127 yards, giving him a total of 363 yards of total offense. One of DiDonato’s jaunts, a 6-yard effort, resulted in the Wolverines third and final touchdown of the game.
He is Just a Puppy: With Grove City’s Brian Mercer nursing a leg injury, it was time for someone else to step and carry the load and freshman Blaine Miller has done just that. In the Wolverines loss to the Titans, Miller carred the ball 18 times for a net of 77 yards while not losing a single yard on any of his 18 totes. Miller also scored two of Grove City’s three touchdowns on runs of 4 and 12 yards. And by the way, Miller also found time to catch three of DiDonato’s passes for another 32 yards.
Secretaries of Defense: In addition to “stuffing” GCC quarterback DiDonato to preserve the win for the Titans, linebacker Jordan Blinn was all over the field, recording a game-high 20 tackles. Two of Blinn’s tackles were for losses, while he was credited with a sack of DiDonato. In addition to Blinn, the Titans also had another pair of defenders who registered multiple-digit tackle totals as Jake Wilczynski counted 11 and Jeff Bever was one behind his teammate with 10. For Grove City, Adam Eichler led the way with 10 stops while adding a forced fumble and an interception of Franz to his numbers.
The Ground Pounder: Nick McKolosky isn’t one of your bigger running backs in the league, but he is one of the most productive. In Saturday’s win, McKolosky again showed his ability and durability by carrying the ball 30 times for 132 yards while scoring two of the Titans three touchdowns. McKolosky was denied the ‘Hat Trick’ when his first-quarter scamper of 31 yards was negated by a holding penalty. Although denied the touchdown, McKolosky was credited with 10 of his 132 yards on the play.

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