MASON, W.Va. — There were just enough fumes left in the tank to reach the finish line.
The Wahama football team stormed out to a 24-6 first half lead and ultimately held on while snapping a six-game losing skid Friday night during a 24-20 decision over visiting Miller in the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division opener for both programs at Bachtel Stadium in Mason County.
The White Falcons (1-1, 1-0 TVC Hocking) led wire-to-wire in the 48-minute affair, but the hosts also needed every second of all four quarters to secure their first win of the 2019 campaign.
The Red and White used 12 plays and eight plays to produce a pair of 61-yard scoring drives on their first two possessions, giving WHS a sizable 16-0 cushion with 3:06 remaining in the opening stanza.
Trevor Hunt scored the first touchdown with 7:54 left in the first on a 3-yard run, then added a 6-yard scamper at the 3:06 mark. Abram Pauley added a 2-point conversion run on the initial score, then Hunt successfully found the end zone for another 2-point conversion following the second TD run.
The Falcons (1-1, 0-1) — who did not manage a single first down in the first quarter — appeared to be in serious trouble until Nathan Thompson recovered a fumble on the opening play of the second frame, giving MHS possession at its own 49-yard line.
The Purple and White did muster their first first down of the night with over 10 minutes left in the half, but were eventually forced to punt the ball away after coming up with that first turnover.
WHS started its ensuing drive at its own 11 and ultimately ended up looking at a fourth-and-five situation at its own 40. The White Falcons elected to try a fake punt, but Miller stopped them short of the marker and took over possession after a loss of downs.
On the very next play, the guests were on scoreboard as Colby Bartley found Kylan McClain on a 42-yard bomb that closed the gap down to 16-6 with 6:38 remaining in the half.
The White Falcons, however, needed three plays and three MHS penalties to cover 62 yards on their next drive, which resulted in a 2-yard TD run from Nick Brewer. Hunt added another successful 2-point conversion run while giving the hosts a 24-6 advantage with 5:40 left until halftime.
The Falcons responded on their ensuing drive by covering 61 yards in eight plays, with Hunter Wellspring hauling in a 10-yard TD pass on fourth-and-nine with 1:48 remaining — making it a 24-12 contest at the break.
Both teams traded punts on the first six possessions of the second half, but Miller finally managed a breakthrough with 19 second left in third. Bartley scrambled 21 yards to paydirt, capping a 7-play, 59-yard drive that closed the gap down to 24-18 entering the finale.
Wahama followed by driving the ball down to the Miller 28-yard line, but fumbled the ball away as Trey McCoy recovered at the MHS 18 — giving the guests possession 25 seconds into the fourth.
The White Falcons forced a punt, then drove the ball down to the Miller 12 before ultimately losing possession on downs with 4:24 remaining.
The Purple and White retaliated with a sustained drive that covered 85 yards in 17 plays before ultimately ending nine feet away from the goal line.
Facing a fourth-and-one with 8.3 seconds left at the WHS three, Bartley was stopped for no gain — allowing the hosts to take over possession with 1.3 ticks remaining on the scoreboard.
Wahama quarterback Brayden Davenport went under center for the final snap, then made sure that the game clock expired before falling down in the end zone — which resulted in a safety. Those two points allowed Miller to close to within the final 4-point margin as time ran out.
The win allowed the White Falcons to snap a two-game losing skid against Miller while also picking up their first victory in a league opener since the 2014 campaign. Both Wahama and Miller are exiting the TVC Hocking Division at the end of this school year for different conference affiliations.
WHS coach James Toth wore a well-earned smile after releasing a long-overdue sigh afterwards. As he noted, this hard-fought victory was key to getting things headed in the right direction for this once-proud football program.
“I thought we played a really good first half, but then we got a little banged up and a little cramped up there in the second half. It did seem to take some momentum away from us,” Toth said. “To our credit, our guys fought through it and made the plays we needed when we needed them. In the end, a win is a win … and we are going to take it.
“To get serious for a second, we started five freshmen tonight and people say you cannot win varsity football games when you start freshmen. I really want to commend our guys for coming out and giving a real team effort. We needed this win and this program needed this win in the worst way. This one really helps us moving forward.”
Wahama outgained the guests by a 345-324 edge in total yards and also posted a 21-14 advantage in first downs, with 11 of those coming in the first quarter alone. Miller did finish the night plus-2 in turnover differential and did not commit a single turnover.
Hunt led the White Falcons with 102 rushing yards on 18 carries, followed by Pauley with 92 yards on 13 attempts.
Davenport completed 5-of-10 passes for 33 yards and also ran for 57 yards on 12 totes. Pauley hauled in three passes for 14 yards, while Hunt snagged two passes for 19 yards.
Bartley paced MHS with 194 rushing yards on 25 carries and also completed 8-of-23 passes for 102 yards and two TDs. Wellspring led the Miller wideouts with six catches for 57 yards.
WHS was flagged five times for 40 yards, while Miller was penalized seven times for 51 yards.
Wahama returns to action Friday when it makes its first road trip of the season to Racine for a TVC Hocking contest against Southern. Kickoff at Roger Lee Adams Memorial Field is slated for 7:30 p.m.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.