Weedsport Grinds Down Hannibal In Football Season Opener

By Kyle Higley, sports intern

The Hannibal and Weedsport Warriors  kicked off their 2009 high school football season at Eddie Goodwin Memorial field in Weedsport.   Although, the game was close throughout the first half, Weedsport’s ground attack proved to be too much in the end as they ran past Hannibal 40-12.

Hannibal’s defense had no answer for Weedsport’s quarterback Abe Jordan and running backs Brian Quigley, Matt Seager and Austin Ashby as they rushed for an unofficial total of more than 300 yards and 6 touchdowns.

“They made a couple of adjustments (in the second half), and we had a couple of miscues on long runs there,” said Hannibal head coach John Manion after the game.

Hannibal’s offense was led by running back Zach Bukolt, who had 6 catches for 75 yards, along with a 75 yard touchdown run.  Mike Sherman added Hannibal’s only other points as he scored on a 30-yard touchdown reception early in the first half.

Weedsport received the game’s opening kickoff, but saw their first drive stall early as they failed to convert a third and three from their own 40-yard line.  Bukolt got Hannibal’s opening drive started with a 15-yard punt return.  Bukolt then kept the drive alive by converting the teams first third and long as he hauled in a 9-yard screen pass, and moved Hannibal into Weedsport’s territory.

Hannibal’s opening drive looked to be coming to a halt as they faced a fourth and five on the Weedsport 30-yard line.  However, quarterback Alec Nelson hit Hannibal running back Mike Sherman on a perfectly run fourth-down post route for the game’s opening touchdown with 6:24 left in the first quarter.

Weedsport responded quickly as 30 seconds later quarterback Abe Jordan took a naked bootleg to the Hannibal 3-yard line, a 60 yard gain.  Two plays later, Jordan finished the drive on a 2-yard quarterback keeper.   Justin Rose converted the extra point and with 5:59 left in the first quarter Weedsport led 7-6.

The remainder of the first half saw both defenses bend, but not break.   For a moment it appeared  Weedsport would extend its lead when Jordan broke loose again for 50-yard touchdown run, only to see it negated by a holding penalty.  Jordan still managed to finish the first half with 4 carries for 72 yards, and a 7-6 lead.

Weedsport saw its first drive of the second half start out with a bang as Brian Quigley scampered for 55 yards before he was finally brought down at the Hannibal 14-yard line.  Quigley would finish off the drive with a one yard touchdown run with 8:15 remaining in the third quarter.  A failed extra point gave Weedsport a lead of 13-6.

Looking to answer, Hannibal started the next drive on its own 35-yard line with 8:09 left the third quarter.  After picking up a first down with three straight run plays Hannibal quarterback Alec Nelson once again looked to the air.   Nelson Found Rob Burnett for a 40-yard gain, and moved the Hannibal Warriors to the Weedsport 15-yard line.  In what would turn out to be the most crucial series of the game, the Warriors saw their next play result in holding penalty moving them back to the 25-yard line.   Nelson then found Bukolt on a 10 yard screen pass, regaining the ground they had lost on the previous play.  After, an incomplete pass and a fumbled snap the Hannibal Warriors now faced a third and 14 on the opponent’s 19 yard-line trailing by 7.  Once again Hannibal looked to the air, but this time Nelson was unable to find any of his receivers.  Hannibal turned the ball over on downs.

Weedsport took full advantage as they moved the ball downfield in just six plays.  This drive was highlighted by Brian Quigley’s 50-yard run and capped off by Matt Seager, who found the goal line one play later on a 10-yard run.  After another failed conversion, Weedsport led 19-6 with 3:37 remaining in the third quarter.

The rest of the game was dominated by the Weedsport ground game. Their next drive would again see Quigley break off a 50 plus yard run.  However, this time Quigley would finish the drive himself crossing the goal-line from one yard out as the third quarter came to a close.

Entering the final quarter trailing 27-6 Hannibal struck back as Zach Bukolt finally found space against the Weedsport defense and took a hand-off from Nelson. He ran 75-yards and turned it into six points.  Following a failed two point conversion, Weedsport still led 27-12 with 10:58 left in the game.

The Hannibal defense still had no answers for Quigley as he took the next play from scrimmage 80-yards and put the Weedsport Warriors up 33-12.  With the game out of reach Austin Ashby would later add a 26-yard touchdown run, giving Weedsport the victory by a final score of 40-12

Hannibal head coach John Manion is encouraged and optimistic about the remainder of the season.  “We have got to work on our line play, and cut down on our turnovers,  just try to take steps forward.  Non-league games are there for a reason. We are just going to try and get better and keep working at it,” said Manion.

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