WELLSTON — Wellston has been hit with all sorts of adversity this season from a youthful start to being snake bitten with injuries.
Yet, the Golden Rockets have found that chemistry and are playing their best football at the right time.
Despite suffering through roughly an hour lightning/rain delay halfway through the game, the Golden Rockets maintained their poise despite a late charge from Meigs to hold on for a 35-28 victory on Friday in the final game played at C.H. Jones Field.
“When we had our rain delay in the beginning of the season against Piketon, we didn’t handle that very well,” Wellston coach Mike Smith said. “We came back that following Monday and spent a few minutes talking about how to handle those long delays. We did much better this time around and I’m proud of how these guys responded on the field.”
With the playoff picture beginning to take some shape, the Golden Rockets have won four of their last five games and made a late surge to lock up a potential playoff spot.
“These kids have played with a ‘next man up’ mentality all season long. We’re down seven starters from the beginning of the season and we’ve made adjustments all season,” Smith said. “The kids have stayed ready and made the most of their opportunities.”
The pouring rain throughout the game limited most chances through the air for the big play, but it didn’t deter both teams from trying.
Meigs struck first through the air as Coulter Cleland connected with Morgan Roberts on a screen, and he did the rest as he sprinted 86 yards to the endzone to put the Marauders ahead 6-0 following a blocked point after try.
Wellston drove down the field and answered back though as Isaac Molihan rolled to his left, saw an open field and dashed 19 yards to the endzone to tie the game 6-6 after a blocked point after try.
After exchanging some empty possessions into the final minutes of the second quarter, Wellston took its first lead of the game as Evan Brown plunged into the endzone from a yard out for a 14-6 game following a successful two-point attempt with 3:05 left.
Though it figured to go into halftime, Cleland had other ideas.
On the first play following the kickoff, the senior signal caller took off running and dodged Wellston defenders before finding a seam on his way to a 54-yard touchdown run, cutting the score to 14-12.
“He’s such a great talent, and there’s a reason he’s going to playing football at the college level,” Smith said. “Can’t take anything away from him, he’s as good of a quarterback as I’ve ever seen and prepared against.”
That’s when Mother Nature took over for the next hour to halt the game. But once play resumed, Wellston struck. On the kickoff, Brenton Breech weaved his way through traffic down the left sideline and took it all the way back for a touchdown to push the score up to 20-12 at halftime.
The long delay took most of the offensive rhythm away from both teams, though Wellston managed to get a safety on a high snap from Meigs to push its lead up to 22-12 heading to the fourth.
Off the safety, Wellston found its way into the endzone again off Brown’s second one-yard score of the game to extend the lead up to 28-12.
However, the Marauders weren’t going away quietly. Just two minutes later, Cleland found paydirt from five yards away following by completing the two-point conversion for a 28-20 ball game.
Wellston proceeded to chew up five minutes of clock behind a strong ground game from Bodey Kemp, who ended the drive by scoring a one-yard touchdown to push the lead back to two possessions at 35-20.
Meigs was forced to punt, but managed to get the ball back with 1:38 left following a turnover on downs by Wellston. On the first play, Cleland took it himself and 66 yards later found the endzone to cut the lead down to 35-28.
Then the Marauders recovered the onside kick, which put the pressure on. Cleland went deep and connected with a receiver for the touchdown, but it was ruled back due to a penalty.
A couple more penalties on Meigs set it up with 4th and 36, and it got 25 yards back before being tackled to seal the deal on a Golden Rocket victory.
“We played our guts out and played hard. Did we do everything perfect? No, but we got what mattered the most which was the win,” Smith said. “Meigs outweighed us on the offensive line quite a bit, but the kids stuck with it through the conditions and I’m proud of them.”
Wellston returns to the field on Friday in TVC action at Vinton County. A win secures a playoff spot for the Golden Rockets.
“It’s going to be a fight all over the place: scoreboard, dog piles and everywhere else,” Molihan said. “We’ve been ready for this game since the summer and it’s going to be a fun one.”