YORK TWP. — With a playoff berth still within reach, Wellington’s football team needs all the help it can get — that includes the fans.
A little show of support from the faithful that braved the cold Friday night at Edwin Steingass Field helped recharge the Dukes at halftime as they rolled to a 41-14 Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division win over Buckeye.
“What really got us fired up, and I haven’t seen it since I got here, we came out at halftime and our fans made a tunnel coming out to try and fire the kids up,” Wellington veteran coach Matt Stoll said. “I thought that was so special and great to see and it all was in a positive light.
“So hopefully we can get in and we can keep continuing.”
Coming into the night, the Dukes (7-3) were clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Division IV, Region 14 standings with Huron, Galion and Ontario still mathematically alive for the seventh and eighth positions.
But Wellington did what any good team does, it took care of business and didn’t worry about the computer points.
“It would be great for our whole community (to get in the playoffs),” Stoll said. “These kids have worked their butts off and they come to practice every day working to get better and that’s something we always try to stress.”
The Dukes were rewarded. The latest projections have them in the postseason.
After a sluggish second quarter that saw an upset-minded Bucks team post a pair a touchdowns — one on an interception return by Kyle Haines and the other on a 27-yard pass from Billy Doerge to Mike Rain — the Dukes went back to basics in the second half to take control.
Behind the play of the two-headed monster of Quinton Dendinger (14 carries, 140 yards, 2 TDs) and Clay Wright (28, 135, TD), Wellington ran its old-school wing-T offense to perfection, paving the way for 20 unanswered second-half points.
Combine that with quarterback Dylan Weidrick, who threw for 81 yards and two scores, and Buckeye’s defense was on its heels on a muddy turf for most of the final two quarters.
“We just had to re-establish control at the line of scrimmage and get back to the plays that we were running,” Stoll said. “It wasn’t anything fancy tonight. We were just running basic wing-T football and I was really glad with the big plays that we made.”
Late in the third, Dendinger — who had a 61-yard TD run in the first half — punched in another rushing score to cap a clock-grinding 12-play, 70-yard drive that took more than six minutes off the clock.
Two possessions later, Weidrick would find Nathan Gray from 24 yards out and from there the Bucks would go three-and-out on their final two possessions, before fullback Alex Rush would ice the win on a 12-yard run.
“They were doing what they did well,” Buckeye coach Billy Burke said. “We didn’t read some keys very well and we missed a lot of tackles. We fell down making a lot of tackles and you need to stay on your feet and corral guys, but credit to them.”
Early on, it looked as if the Dukes weren’t going to allow Buckeye to get past midfield as Wellington recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff and four plays later went up 7-0 on a Weidrick 13-yard strike to Gray for the first of two touchdowns.
Wright and Dendringer followed with rushing scores of their own, before the Bucks controlled the second quarter.
“It was very crucial when we came out in the third quarter to go down and score and I think that put the monkey back on their back,” Stoll said. “I’m very proud of our young men. We have a great group of seniors that just led the way for us and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Galion wins and we get to play another week, that’s for sure.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.