BY JOEL SENSENIG | MIRROR SPORTS — The Anthony Wayne football team overcame a slow start to earn a 31-14 win at home over an upset-minded Tiffin Columbian team last Friday.
The Generals (2-0) got a workmanlike performance from junior running back Ezra Scott, who ran 21 times for 92 yards and three scores. It was his second straight 90-plus-yard performance to open the season as AW’s featured back.
Senior quarterback Max Denman had a steady game, making some clutch throws when he needed to in a 13-for-22, 188-yard, one-touchdown outing. Classmate Nick Kaufman led the receiving corps, pulling down five catches for 92 yards.
Senior linebacker Ben Allen headed up a solid defensive effort for the home team, sacking Columbian quarterback Chase Frankhauser three times.
“We came out with a slow start, and that’s something we have to improve upon,” said AW coach Andy Brungard. “We played really good in the second half.
After a nearly 150-yard receiving performance in week one, the Generals found it difficult getting senior receiver Max Bradfield the ball in open space against the Tornadoes (1-1).
“They were using three defenders to bracket Bradfield, so we had to find a way to get our Z receiver the ball, Brungard said. “Nick Kaufman had a heck of a game in the third quarter. Credit goes to Max and Nick being able to make adjustments at halftime.”
After an initial three-and-out series, the Generals got to work toward the end of the first quarter.
Passes from Denman to junior tight end Dylan Jennings for 16 yards and another to Kauffman for 19 yards put AW down on the Columbian 38-yard line.
Scott, Denman and junior Mason Alberts, who finished with a total of 63 yards on the ground and receiving, took it from there on the ground. Scott opened the second stanza with a 1-yard touchdown run just three seconds into the quarter.
Junior Matt Paull’s point-after made it 7-0.
After a few scoreless possessions, the Tornadoes came storming back at the end of the quarter. Frankhauser completed a number of passes to his receivers on the drive, capped with a 12-yard scoring strike to senior Donnell Brockington with 1:34 to play in the half. Senior kicker Parker Johnson’s kick tied it up at 7.
The Generals came right back, however, unwilling to go into the locker room in a deadlock. Denman connected on two straight passes to Kaufman (13 yards) and senior receiver Chase Alberts (21 yards) to put Paull in position to kick a field goal with five seconds remaining.
Paull’s kick sailed wide, but a Columbian player ran into him after the kick, allowing an untimed down. This time, Paull’s kick was true and the Generals took a 10-7 lead into the break.
Anthony Wayne turned up the pressure on the visitors to open the second half, marching down the field as Denman connected with passes of 24 yards to Mason Alberts and 18 yards to Kaufman. A 14-yard run up the middle by Scott put the ball on the Columbian 5-yard line.
Three plays later, Scott found pay dirt again on a 2-yard score, combining with Paull’s kick to give the home squad a 17-7 advantage.
The AW defense forced a three-and-out series before the offense started to distance itself from the Tornadoes.
The big play of the drive was a 36-yard hookup from Denman to Kaufman on third down, putting the ball on the Columbian 23.
Four plays later, Scott scored for the third time, this one from 4 yards out with 52 seconds remaining in the third.
Paull made it 24-7 with the kick.
After a nice defensive play by Jennings, Columbian punted from its own 2-yard line. Generals senior returner Jacob Gordon took the punt from the midfield area and ran it down to the Tornadoes 20.
Two plays later, Denman found Bradfield open in the end zone for a 14-yard scoring strike. Paull’s extra point made it 31-7 with 11:04 to play.
Columbian did respond on the following drive, which covered 80 yards on 13 plays. It culminated with a 19-yard pass from Frankhauser to junior receiver Nick Koerper, who took the slant pass into the end zone.
Johnson’s kick cut the AW lead to 31-14 with 7:49 to play, but that was as close as things got.
Senior linebacker Jacob Kirby stopped a Tornadoes threat toward the end of the game with an interception, which he returned to midfield.
Brungard said the team has responded well when it’s needed to over the course of the first two weeks.
“I feel like we’ve been resilient,” he said. “When we’ve had to respond in the second half – St. Francis was tight going into halftime, this game was tight going into halftime – we dominated the third quarter this week and the fourth quarter last week. We’ve been resilient when we needed to.”
The Generals travel to Clyde on Friday to face the Fliers, who beat them in a shootout game last season. Brungard said Anthony Wayne has to be prepared to limit Clyde’s running game.
“We’re going to have to stop the run,” he said. “They like to run the ball and play-action pass off of it, which hurt us last year. We’ve got to continue to get better in the secondary and see if we can continue to find ways to put pressure on the quarterback.”
The Fliers (1-1) are coming off a 28-21 loss at Ashland. They opened the season with a 27-24 home win over Start.