VESTAL — And then, the Golden Bears rejoiced, with exuberance beyond what might be expected to follow a three-touchdown, Week 6 victory.
And why not? Friday night’s wind-blown 28-6 dismissal of Union-Endicott snipped the Tigers’ 10-game win streak in this series, leaving Vestal
a 4-2 record to its Division II football rival’s 1-5.
The home team built a two-TD halftime advantage — as the Bears did last season versus U-E — but this time not only protected that, but added to it in a jiffy. Twelve seconds into third-quarter play, Derek Osman was crossing the goal line to complete an 86-yard kickoff return. Richard Gleason’s PAT kick made it 21-0.
Senior quarterback T.J. Wegmann rushed for 66 yards and a score, and passed for 80 and another. And what a gem that TD pass to Rusty Virkler was with a couple minutes remaining. And the Bears did the neighborly thing on their final possession, instructing Wegmann to thrice drop to a knee inside the Tigers’ 10-yard line.
You and the boys talk a bit about that ol’ 10-game slide during the week, T.J.?
“Oh, yeah,” he responded.
Coach Tank Anderson, however, said he did not offer any sort of history lesson until halftime, when he reminded his fellas of that dozen-point halftime lead gagged up in an 18-12 loss at Ty Cobb Stadium last October.
Osman, clearly, was all-ears.
He received the second-half kickoff at his 14-yard line, summoned his feet to do a little of this and a little of that to make way into running room along the U-E sideline, and wasn’t about to be caught in what was arguably the singular most meaningful play of the contest.
Of course, a case could be made for that rushing touchdown produced by Wegmann with 6:46 elapsed.
One play after connecting with Dominic McMahon for a 9-yard gain to the Bears’ 43, Wegmann feigned an exchange to running back Logan Wilan, quickly processed what was forming ahead of him, found a path to the right sideline and high-geared it in for a lead Vestal flat refused to relinquish.
“It’s awesome having a back like Logan Wiland,” the quarterback said. “We did a fake through and they have to respect having Logan there. So they bit down on it, I got some big blocks on the outside— just an awesome feeling.”
The lead blossomed to 14-0 two plays after a bold decision blew up in the Tigers’ paws.
On fourth-and-2 from its 39-yard line with 2:18 to play until halftime, U-E sent Jon Hoyt between the tackles in search of the necessary yardage, but the Bears whacked him at the line of scrimmage.
Vestal’s Sam Bulman picked up 9 yards on the next snap, and then the remaining 30 on a blast through the middle into a sizable chasm in U-E’s defense. Gleason’s PAT made it 14-0.
“We hadn’t stopped them. They were moving the ball the whole time, getting a little bit here and there,” Anderson said of U-E’s ill-fated fourth-down decision. “I told the guys at the time, they’re going to go for it, I expected them to.”
And so, Vestal blitzed aggressively, took over the football — and a couple plays later, the ballgame.
Indeed the Tigers had left some prints in Vestal territory.
U-E’s opening possession went for 51 yards to the hosts’ 7 before a 24-yard field goal try was off the mark, and their second again got into Vestal ground before an errant pitch led to a lost fumble.
In the third quarter, the Tigers advanced 72 yards on 14 plays to Vestal’s 8-yard line, only to have Chris Wright’s fourth-and-5 rush be snuffed out a yard shy of conversion.
Wright was a busy young man, playing part-time at quarterback — with an emphasis on rushing from shotgun formation — and part-time at running back when Anthony Diorio shouted instructions. That pair accounted for U-E’s touchdown on a 2-yard pass with 6:48 remaining in the game.
Oh, about that Wegmann-to-Virkler beauty.
On fourth-and-8 from U-E’s 28, Wegmann accepted the snap and drifted to his left, surveyed, stopped, jumped and lofted a ball to Virkler in space aplenty just across the 10-yard line. Virkler continued unmolested across for the score.
And, yes, the QB shared, it was improvisation from the get-go rather than some rip-off Florida game film when Tebow was at the controls.
The Golden Bears will bring a 1-1 Division II record into its game next weekend against Johnson City. Union-Endicott, 0-2 in division, visits Maine-Endwell.