Wellington 15, John I. Leonard 7: Wolverines bank on defense to pull upset
Friday, September 14, 2012
by Joseph Kairalla
The Wolverines used several big plays and a defense that bent but wouldn't break to shock John I. Leonard 15-7 on Friday night.
With the win, Wellington improved to 3-0 while the Lancers dropped to 2-1.
"Tonight was just another example of these kids believing in themselves," first-year Wellington coach Tom Abel said. "It's been a long time since this program saw themselves as winners -- but that's changing."
After a scoreless first quarter, John I. Leonard took a 7-0 lead when quarterback Adam Johnson connected with Tavares Martin on a 39-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter.
The Wolverines answered on the ensuing drive when quarterback Cole Smallridge faked the inside handoff and sprinted down the left sideline for a 54-yard touchdown run. The onside kick was botched, leaving the score at 7-6.
After the score, the Lancers failed to field the kickoff, and the Wolverines recovered the ball at the Lancer 25-yard line. The drive eventually stalled and ended in a missed 42-yard field goal attempt by Nicholas Rubinowicz, but it was one of several costly special teams blunders by John I. Leonard.
It looked as if the Lancers would add to their lead on the next possession, but a fourth-and-goal pass by Johnson fell incomplete giving Wellington the ball back with just over 3 minutes to play in the first half.
"Our defense played great when they had to," Abel said. "They're really coming together as a unit and are the strength of this team."
With 1:32 to play in the first half, the Wolverines showed their big-play ability again. This time it was sophomore Shamar Jackson breaking several tackles and scoring on a 66-yard run, giving Wellington a 12-7 lead they took into the half.
"Once I broke free, I knew no one was going to catch me," Jackson said. "I got to show off my track speed."
Midway through the third quarter, the Wolverines made another crucial play on special teams. They blocked a punt and took control inside the Lancer 20-yard line. That drive resulted in a huge 29-yard field goal by Rubinowicz that would account for the final scoring of the game. But the action was far from over.
Twice in the final eight minutes of the game the Lancers drove inside the Wellington 10-yard line, only to come away scoreless both times.
"Again -- defense, defense, defense," Abel said. "That's what we preach."
On the Lancers final drive, quarterback Johnson was pulled in favor of Daniel Deshommes. The Lancers were without head coach Wayne Monroe for the third straight game -- so it was unclear who made the decision. Johnson had no trouble moving the Lancers down the field, but finishing drives was another story. Johnson looked surprised by the move and said he wasn't injured.
"It was the coaches' choice," Johnson said.