Michael Wells wanted that play.
With the clock ticking down, New Castle coach Joe Cowart agreed and sent in the call. The result? The sophomore quarterback, making his second varsity start, ran around the left side of the line and darted for the end zone from nine yards out to score the go-ahead touchdown with 23 seconds left.
Wells' touchdown capped a 10-play, 37-yard drive to give the Red Hurricane its second down-to-the-wire victory with a 28-21 win over Montour in Northwest Eight action at Taggart Stadium last night.
“We called (a run). It’s just a direct snap to me," Wells said. "I was telling (Cowart) to call it since (earlier in the quarter). I just felt it was the right play to run because they were blitzing the A-gaps.”
It was the second straight week Wells (12 for 19, 107 yards passing) and the offense were tasked with making big plays in the final moments of the fourth quarter. New Castle (1-0, 2-0) escaped last week's season opener when Wells found Demetris McKnight on a short pass and then the senior running back darted his way to the end zone for a 42-yard game-winner with eight seconds left in the 'Canes' 34-27 win at Shaler.
“Two weeks in a row," Cowart said. "You have to be proud of the way these guys keep battling. When you play good football teams, there are peaks and valleys. Our guys have shown the resolve to overcome valleys and come out on top two weeks in a row against two very good football teams.”
Wells, who played basketball but not football last year, showed his resolve under pressure.
“When I talk about Mike, I talk about how mature he is and his poise," Cowart said. "For a first-year starting quarterback, he’s unflappable. He’s my co-offensive coordinator. Mike’s telling me, ‘Hey coach, let’s do this. I think we can do this.’ He made some big throws and certainly had a huge run there at the end. He just gives you another guy to watch out for on our offense.”
The game-winning drive was allowed to take shape thanks in part to some key plays.
After Wells scored on a one-yard quarterback keeper with 5:37 left, Cowart elected to go for a two-point conversion. Montour didn't allow Jason Williams to get to the edge.
That's when the 'Canes' defense came up big.
McKnight forced a fumble from a Montour running back and Wil Blackshear recovered the ball at the New Castle 37. On third down, Wells hit Williams (four catches, 39 yards) for a 10-yard pickup, but was inches short of a first down. Wells kept it on the next play and, with the help of some linemen, got just enough for a first down. Four plays later, the sophomore was in the end zone.
New Castle again tried for the two-point conversion and this time McKnight was able to plow into the end zone for the 28-21 advantage. Montour took over possession of the ball at their own 15 on the kickoff and moved to their own 39 before a last-ditch play involving several laterals was signaled dead and the game called over.
"I thought as the game wore on, the defense kept answering the bell," Cowart said. "We certainly put them in a bad spot with missing the two-point conversion late, but our guys kept battling. You can hang your head when you score to tie or have the chance to take the lead and you miss it. Our guys were just, ‘We’re fine. We’re fine. Let’s make a play.’ And they did.”
Ball control was the name of the game as Montour had seven possessions and New Castle just six. The Spartans opened the game on a 93-yard scoring drive capped by Gannon Kadlecik's two-yard run. McKnight, who ran for 108 yards on 25 carries, scored on two first-half runs from five yards out as the teams went into the locker room tied at 14.
Looming up next for New Castle? A trip to South Fayette to face the always-tough Lions.
"South Fayette is a great team," Wells said. "If we play our type of football this year, we can beat them. We just have to play every snap our hardest."
MICHAEL WELLS FROM 8 YARDS OUT! New Castle up 26-21 with 23 seconds left pic.twitter.com/iaHU46M8tw— Pete Sirianni (@petersirianni) August 31, 2019
MONTOUR AT NEW CASTLE
MONTOUR 7 7 0 7 — 21
NEW CASTLE 6 8 0 14 — 28
MONTOUR — Gannon Kadlecik, 2-yard run (Robbie Rippole kick).
NEW CASTLE — Demetris McKnight, 5-yard run (kick blocked).
MONTOUR — William White, 1-yard run (Rippole kick).
NEW CASTLE — McKnight, 5-yard run (Michael Wells run).
MONTOUR — Luke Persinger, 1-yard run (Rippole kick).
NEW CASTLE — Wells, 1-yard run (run failed).
NEW CASTLE — Wells, 8-yard run (McKnight run).