by Jay Evans
The Warrensburg Tigers were back in action Friday, defeating West Central Conference foe St. Pius 20-14.
The Tigers entered the game coming off a road win against Clinton and looked to keep their momentum heading into Friday’s homecoming bout against the Warriors from St. Pius X, a team the Tigers had not beaten in seven years.
Warrensburg struck first when junior quarterback Ejyah Sheridan found receiver Dalton Knappe from 4 yards out to to put the Tigers ahead by a score of 6-0. St. Pius immediately answered when quarterback Tommy Hoambrecker punched it in on the next possession to give the Warriors a 7-6 lead.
The Warriors were primed to add another score after driving deep into Tiger territory before the half, but a fumble at the Warrensburg 10-yard line derailed the drive and gave the Tigers an opportunity of their own.
The Tigers took advantage of the Warriors’ mistake when Sheridan connected with Knappe from 18 yards out for their second touchdown connection of the game, giving the Tigers a 14-6 halftime lead.
The Tigers faced a scary moment early in the second half when Sheridan left the game with an apparent hand injury after a scramble, meaning junior Jaason Levine had to step up to fill the position. Tiger fans were able to breath a collective sigh of relief when Sheridan entered back in the game on the next possession, but the effects of the injury still lingered.
“My arm hurt so bad,” Sheridan said. “I couldn’t open my hand up or squeeze my hand, but nothing was going to keep me from playing this game.”
The Tigers held strong to their 14-6 lead entering the final quarter of play after forcing the Warriors to punt on each of their third quarter possessions. However, the Warriors broke the scoring drought when running back Will Brockman found the end zone to tie the game at 14-14.
It took at late fourth-quarter drive for the Tigers to pull out a win the previous week against Clinton, and it appeared they would need to do the same on Friday against St. Pius. After forcing the Warriors to punt with less than 2 minutes left in the ballgame. The Tigers offense looked to pull off some more late-game heroics.
Senior running back Connor Burson kickstarted the drive with a 17-yard run into St. Pius territory. However, the game seemed destined for overtime when the Tigers faced a crucial fourth-and-2 with less than a minute left.
Sheridan broke free from several would-be tacklers before heaving a pass to Dalton Knappe. The pass fell to the turf along with several penalty flags. Offsetting penalties for defensive pass interference and ineligible man downfield gave the Tigers a second chance. The Tigers took advantage of the opportunity on the next play when Sheridan ran a quarterback keeper for 3 yards and the first down.
Sheridan followed the critical conversion with his third touchdown pass of the night. This one to receiver Miles Moore to secure the Tigers victory.
“They knew I was going to try to throw to Dalton,” Sheridan said. “So I saw the match-up, perfect throw, perfect catch and we got the dub.”
Sheridan finished the night with 110 yards rushing on 24 attempts to go along with his three touchdown passes.
Tigers head coach Chris Cavanah cited steady improvement week to week as a key to the win.
“I really feel like we’ve gotten better each week and you’re starting to see it with our performance on the field” Cavanah said. “We’ve had two weeks in a row where we’ve gone on a long touchdown drive to win the game, our guys are believing in each other and we’re definitely taking some steps in the right direction”
Cavanah also says strong defensive play has stood out for the team in recent weeks.
“I’m telling you, our defense is good. We really haven’t given up more than a couple touchdowns in any game.” said Cavanah. “That’s a team (St. Pius) that is a lot better than their record would suggest, and when we look back, this might end up being a signature win for us.”
The Tigers match their win total from last season and improve their record to 3-3. They will look to make it three wins in a row Sept. 29 at Center.