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by Chris Errington
(September 12) For three quarters of Friday night's contest with East Fairmont, Robert C. Byrd's defense kept it in the game. Two bold fourth-quarter Eagle decisions won the contest.
Andy Wilhelm's 3-yard touchdown run on fourth down and a subsequent successful on-side kick led to 20-unanswered points as Robert C. Byrd improved to 3-0 with a 20-3 victory over the Bees.
"Those decisions are mine and the coaching staff's," Eagles coach Richard Iaquinta said. "It's just a matter of what we see at the time. Tonight they worked out for us."
Trailing 3-0 following Tony Veltri's 27-yard field goal on the first possession of the game, Robert C. Byrd's offense finally began to move the ball late in the third quarter. With the power running game beginning to wear down the Bees, who dressed just 27 players, the Eagles used 14 consecutive runs to move from their 28 to the key fourth-and-goal play.
Iaquinta's disdain for the chip-shot field goal to tie almost backfired.
On an option play to the left, Wilhelm nearly lost the snap. With three Bees players crashing in to seemingly trap him in the backfield, Wilhelm sidestepped one before diving past two others to just get into the end zone for the go-ahead score.
East Fairmont was shocked. But what came next really hurt.
Luke Wallace made the first of his three big plays in the fourth quarter when he recovered Jon Curran's ensuing on-side kick at the East Fairmont 35. No Bees player was within 10 yards when Wallace made the recovery.
"That on-side kick really took the air right out of us," East Fairmont coach L.D. Skarzinski said. "The first thing we tell the kids on kick return is to make sure the ball is actually kicked. They fell asleep and it turned the game around."
Six plays later, Max Williams broke two tackles and rambled up the middle from 12 yards out to give the Eagles a 13-3 lead with 7:34 remaining.
After being outgained 112-55 in the first half, Robert C. Byrd controlled the ball nearly the entire second half. The Eagles ran 35 plays to East Fairmont's 16 and held the ball 17:17 compared to the Bees' 6:43. East Fairmont managed just two first downs in the second half as Robert C. Byrd outgained it 183-86.
"We knew if they got the lead they'd keep it on the ground and grind it out, and that's exactly what they did," Skarzinski said. "They just took it to us in the second half."
After the first of Wallace's two fourth-quarter interceptions on the Bees' next possession gave Byrd the ball at East's 33-yard line, the Eagles put the game away.
Two runs gained a first down, before Gabe Garvin broke free for a 23-yard touchdown run and the 20-3 lead.
Williams' second interception ended the Bees' final drive deep in Robert C. Byrd territory.
"Luke stepped up tonight. I was really pleased with our defense as a whole," Iaquinta said.
After a poor start was blamed for the Eagles finishing 17th in Class AAA and just out of the playoffs a year ago, Iaquinta said there's no big reason for this year's undefeated start.
"It's just a matter of the kids making a few more plays at the right moment," Iaquinta said. "This could be the difference between making it and not making it."