LANCASTER – Friday night’s first-round Class AAA playoff game between Wren and Lancaster shaped up to be an exciting one, with a key defensive stop possibly deciding the game. Fans got the close game many expected, with the visiting Hurricanes leaving Lancaster Memorial Stadium with a 43-41 win in a wild affair.
“I don’t know that they (Lancaster) panicked. I don’t think they did. I think they stuck to their game plan and did what they do well,” said Wren coach Jeff Tate. “We hung in there, and we were just able to find a way. Our kids just played relentlessly and they believed in one another, and thankfully, you get a big win.”
The game started innocently enough. The teams battled to a 7-7 draw after the first quarter.
Then, the second quarter happened.
The Hurricanes and Eagles combined for a wild quarter in which 50 points were scored. Seven of the 10 possessions resulted in scores. Lancaster secured an interception at its 8 just before the half, taking a 35-29 lead to the locker room.
“We’ve had a few like that before,” said Tate of the first half. “We were hot, they were hot. That happens when you’ve got good athletes. I feel like ours are well-coached, and I know theirs are very well-coached.”
As wild as the period before it may have been, the third quarter was much more methodical in its output. Wren (7-4) controlled the ball and the clock, limiting Lancaster (8-3) to just two possessions and a handful of plays. One of those plays, though, saw Darius Robinson pass to James Killian from 45 yards to pull the Bruins within two at 43-41. The two-point attempt was not successful, however, giving the visiting Hurricanes a two-point advantage as the final quarter approached.
Wren’s clock-controlling approach served the Hurricanes well into the fourth quarter, as they continued to convert third and fourth downs to extend drives. Wren had just three possessions in the quarter – two ending on downs – but forced Lancaster to punt on their only two drives of the quarter. Wren had a third-and-13 on the 35-yard line after the Bruins were forced to burn their final timeout, but quarterback Jay Urich scrambled and hit star receiver Bailey Rogers for a 16-yard gain that finally put away the homestanding Bruins.
“We were very fortunate to get a win,” said Tate. “We’re proud of our kids and our program.” Wren will advance to play at Chapin in round two next week.
Though much of the action in the game was on the offensive side of the football, the key plays came on the defensive side of the ball for Wren in the second half. Lancaster had five first-half possessions, with four resulting in touchdowns and the other ending the half. The Bruins managed to get the ball just four times in the second 24 minutes, with Wren forcing three punts.
Lancaster forced a turnover on downs with 5:29 remaining, and attempted to march down the field to regain the lead. An offensive pass interference slowed the Bruins’ momentum, however, and Lancaster was forced to punt the ball back to Wren with 3:29 to play. Wren received the ball at their own 14, but was able to grind out another drive, after which Lancaster did not again see the ball.
Wren quarterback Jay Urich received high billing leading up to this contest, and lived up to expectations. The junior completed 23-of-39 passes for 182 yards, many in key situations that helped to extend drives and keep the Bruin offense off the field. Urich also added 137 yards on the ground, scoring two rushing touchdowns.
“Jay gets better every week he plays. He’s a great kid, a great young man and a great competitor. I thought he had an outstanding game,” said Tate.
Lancaster’s Ant Foster and Farrika Grier both had outstanding games for the Bruins. Foster and Grier combined for 287 yards on 32 carries. Bruin quarterback Darius Robinson found tight end James Killian on two strikes through the air. Killian caught three passes for 62 yards.
Lancaster coach Bobby Collins was disappointed after the loss, but spoke highly of Wren and their offensive firepower.
“Did I know it was going to be a dogfight? Yes. I’ve been telling our kids for the past two weeks that this was going to be the best offense we’ve faced this year,” said Collins. “This is a really good football team. Coach Tate’s been doing it a while, and it showed tonight.”