The top-seeded Big Walnut football team put on a show in what could be the final game on its natural grass field, pulling away from ninth-seeded Canal Winchester 38-7 in a Division II, Region 7 quarterfinal Friday night in Sunbury.
The field is set to be ripped up and replaced with turf next week. The high school teams will play in a new stadium next season while the middle school teams will get an upgrade, as they will move up and play in the older stadium.
“It’s important for us to drink the water, but remember who dug the well,” Big Walnut coach Rob Page said about playing the final scheduled varsity game in the stadium … and what a game it was.
The Golden Eagle defense started out strong and forced a three-and-out on Canal Winchester’s first drive.
The BW offense then went down the field in a hurry thanks to a few long Nate Severs runs and a facemask penalty on the Indians. Sophomore quarterback Jake Nier smartly decided to keep an option and scored the game’s first touchdown from six yards out with 7:22 left in the first quarter.
The Indian offense responded with a touchdown drive of its own and tied it up at seven with 2:14 in the first quarter. Senior QB Reece Musick got the Canal Winchester offense going with his legs and punched in a QB sneak.
The Big Walnut defense stepped up after that, though, as senior lineman Christian Takatch forced a fumble and senior Lane Pritchard recovered it.
BW junior Cam Gladden scored the next seven points for the Eagles. He caught a 32-yard TD on a deep post route and then knocked in the extra point to expand the BW lead to 14-7 with 5:57 left in the second quarter.
“I’m proud of how physical we were,” Page said. “Nier really stepped up. That 197 that Severs had didn’t really feel like a huge game, but it adds up.”
The Eagles were able to force a punt to get the ball back right before the end of the half, but saw the dive stall once they got to the red zone. Gladden then expanded the Eagle lead to 17-7 with a 23-yard field goal in the closing seconds of the first half.
Severs finished the half with 113 rushing yards and the Eagles had 150 as a team. He went over 2,000 for the season in the win.
On the first play of the second half, Severs sprinted through the middle of the defense untouched for a 65-yard score, ballooning the lead to 24-7.
Still not satisfied, the Golden Eagles got the ball back quickly and went right back to work. Nier went for a 40-yard scamper, then Severs took three straight snaps out of the wildcat and took it in from a yard out to make it a 31-7 game. The drive put Severs over 180 rushing yards on the night.
BW added another score in the third quarter, this one a 19-yard TD from Nier to junior receiver Grant Coulson to put the running clock into effect.
Page added that he has been very impressed by Gladden and Coulson, who have really stepped up the past two weeks with the absence of star receiver Nicky Pentello. The Eagles have been a lot more comfortable running three- and four-receiver sets with their emergence.
Still, there’s work to be done.
“I would be lying if I said I was satisfied,” Page said to his team after the game.
Next up, Big Walnut will face Massillon Washington in Friday night’s third round at a site to be announced.
“This is why we train,” Page said. “To get the chance to go against the best in November.”