With his team trailing in the fourth quarter, Westminster receiver Clayton Dorsey knew the Owls needed a spark.
So he literally took things into his own hands.
The sophomore broke loose for two long catches to set up the decisive score as Westminster rallied for a 20-17 victory over Manchester Valley in the Ravens RISE showdown Game of the Week Friday night.
With the Owls backed up at their own 10-yard line and facing a third and long, Dorsey caught a pass along the sideline from quarterback Jack Gruenzinger and turned it up the field for a 40-yard gain. Two plays later, Dorsey struck again for 20 yards to set up a first and goal.
“He’s one hell of a player,” Gruenzinger said of his sophomore playmaker. “We’re good at playing from behind, we do a lot. Our team kind of comes together and we do what we have to do. We get the ball to our playmakers and get a score.”
After a completion to junior Mason Fisher moved the ball down to the four, running back Matthew Heath put the Owls up for good with his second touchdown of the game that created the final three-point margin with 5:37 left in the game.
“We didn’t let being down get to us,” Heath said. “We kept fighting and got a win. It was a great environment and great energy. It helped us.”
The Owls’ defense closed things out with a pair of stops, sealing the game with a pass breakup by senior Zachary Busic on fourth down in the final minute.
“We are learning how to play the way we need to play to win,” Westminster head coach Chris Bassler said. “We are really starting to find ourselves and find what works. We’ve got some tough ones coming up so hopefully we can keep it going.”
It was a tough start for the Owls, as a mistake-filled first half nearly cost them the game.
The Mavericks got on the board first following a costly fumble by Westminster. After forcing a three-and-out, Westminster was set up for good field position but fumbled and set Manchester Valley up in the red zone. Mavericks’ senior running back Trent Onkst capped off the short drive with a 3-yard run to give Manchester Valley an early 7-0 lead.
The Owls responded at the end of the first quarter with a 2-yard touchdown run by Heath to tie the game at 7-7.
The teams traded touchdowns in the second quarter, with the Mavericks scoring on a short run by quarterback Jake Boog after recovering a fumble deep in Westminster territory. Again, the Owls responded.
After Dorsey set the Owls up in scoring position with a 22-yard catch, Gruenzinger found junior Mason Fisher for an 18-yard touchdown pass.
Boog used his legs to kick the Maverick offense into high gear on the ensuring drive. He had a pair of long runs to get the ball just outside of field goal range. Then Boog connected on a 21-yard pass over the middle to junior Stacy Brandon to put the ball inside the five with only 10 seconds left.
The Mavericks were unable to punch it in as another pass fell incomplete and they settled for a field goal to take a 17-14 lead into intermission.
“The kids came out and performed very well,” Manchester Valley head coach Bernie Koontz said. “We had some kids go down, some kids step up and step in and execute. It was a good clean game and we just came up on the short end of it. A couple of plays here or there, it could have been the other way.
For Westminster, Bassler hopes that a victory like this could be a building block for his young team.
“We are starting to see a young team that is growing up and learning what it takes to win,” he said. “It’s a long season and we’ve got some tough games coming up here. We are going to need a lot more of [what we did] tonight and clean up some of the bad things.”
Westminster 20, Manchester Valley 17
MV – 3-yard run by Trent Onkst (Timothy Woodley kick good)
W – 2-yard run by Matthew Heath (Owen Harris kick good)
MV – 2-yard run by Jake Boog (Woodley kick good)
W – Jack Gruenzinger 18-yard pass to Mason Fisher (Harris kick good)
MV – Woodley 29-yard kick good
W – 4-yard run by Matthew Heath (Harris kick good)