Scoring two late touchdowns in just 15 seconds, the West Liberty Comets won their season opening football game Friday night, coming from behind to beat a hard-nosed Mediapolis team, 24-14, on their home field.
Taking advantage of two errors by the hosting Bulldogs late in the game, West Liberty eeked out a victory in a game that was a lot closer than the final score indicated, the lead changing hands throughout the night.
West Liberty Coach Jason Iske said he had confidence in his team they could stop Mediapolis defensively and put together a game winning drive. “I just never imagined getting the ball back so soon,” he said.
It all started after West Liberty, behind 14-10 with six minutes remaining in the game, was forced to punt on a fourth and 10, giving the ball to Mediapolis on their own 48-yard line.
But a high snap went over Bulldog quarterback Regan Thornburg’s head and Lake Newton, a Comet senior, hustled to recover the loose ball, giving West Liberty renewed life at the Bulldog 32-yard line. It took three first downs before West Liberty found themselves on the one-foot line with a first and goal situation after some great running by junior Jahsiah Galvan, who finished the night with 244 yards on the ground.
But Galvan could only get the Comets to the goal line before senior fullback Colby Simon bulled into the end zone at 2:22, giving West Liberty their first lead of the game since late in the third quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, the ball tumbled low on the ground before it took a West Liberty bounce over the head of the Bulldog returnee and, again, Newton was all over the ball, recovering the pigskin on the Bulldog four yard line.
“He’s a gamer,” said Iske of Newton’s hustle on the field. “In big moments, he’s always around the ball.” Iske also credited veteran coach Gus Garcia for keeping the kick on the artificial turf, letting the ball “bounce around.”
Again, Comet coach Jason Iske went to Simon, a 6-4, 240 pound state runner-up wrestler. This time, Simon looked to be down at about the line of scrimmage, but, pushed by teammates, carried three Bulldogs to the end zone for the game clincher on first down. Kicks by Galvan after both touchdowns gave the visitors a 24-14 lead.
Iske said they had rested Simon earlier in the quarter to make sure he was fresh when they needed him for the end of the game against a tired Bulldog defense. He said it was the perfect spot to use Simon, who only had four carries for nine yards.
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