WEIRTON - Weir finally ended one of the longest football losing streaks in school history Friday night, coming from behind to defeat Grafton 22-21 in a thriller.
The victory is the first for the Red Riders in the new Jimmy Carey Stadium, which was inaugurated in August of 2012, and the victory snaps a 13-game losing streaking dating back to the final game of the 2011 season (Nov. 4).
The victory also is the first for Red Riders coach Tony Filberto, who is in the second season of his second stint. It makes Weir's record 1-3 and dropped the Bearcats to 0-4.
"This is the first win in the new Jimmy Carey Stadium and it means so much to our team, to the student body and the community," a jubilant Filberto said. "You saw a lot of kids with a lot integrity and a lot heart. We were down pretty good at halftime, but we said we're going to win this football game.
"They proved it here in the fourth quarter, but especially in the whole second half. The kids did a great, great job. Our coaches did a great job controlling the players and our kids did a great job."
The Red Riders were led by junior quarterback William Larch, who ran the ball 16 times for 112 yards and passed it 16 times for 85 yards. He had a 1-yard touchdown run and a 21-yard scoring pass, but it was a trick play for the 2-point conversion after the final Weir touchdown that was the game-winner.
Junior running back Matt Hartman scored from 3 yards out with 7:42 left in the game to pull the Red Riders within one at 21-20. Following a timeout, Larch got the snap and lateralled to Hartman, who tossed the ball back in the left flat to a wide open Larch for the 2-pointer that put the Red Riders in the lead for the first time this season.
Larch scored two 2-point conversions, the first one coming when the Red Riders capitalized on a Clarence Bennett punt return of 35 yards from his own 44 to the Grafton 21.
On the first play from scrimmage and the second play of the fourth quarter, Larch found a wide open Hartman on a swing pass to the left for a touchdown. It was the third touchdown pass of the season for Larch.
Larch got the call for the conversion run and found the going rough as he tried to maneuver over the right side, so he cut back hard toward the goal line where he was met by three Bearcats. Larch's determination and momentum got the ball into the end zone to cut Grafton's lead to 21-14.
"He was going to get in, wasn't he?" Filberto said. "William Larch is a great football player surrounded by a lot of great football players. He runs hard."
On Grafton's third play with the next possession, freshman quarterback Cole Collins gained 5 yards on a keeper, but fumbled the ball forward where an alert Matt Thompson, pounced on it at the Bearcats 46-yard line to set up the winning score.
The Riders kept the ball on the ground for six straight plays getting to the Grafton 41. Faced with a third-and-9 from there, Larch fired a strike to a streaking Bennett down the left sideline for 38 yards to the 3. On the next play, Hartman blasted up the middle for the go-ahead touchdown.
"Hartman had a good night and so did a lot of other players," Filberto continued.
After that score, the Bearcats controlled the football for 7:20, but the Red Riders defense stiffened making several key tackles for losses as the clock began to run down. Grafton finally gave up the football when a fourth-down pass from the Weir 35 was well defended and fell to the ground incomplete.
Junior defensive end Mark Parr broke through to stop Collins twice and running back, Nate Moses once for losses.
"How about the Parr kid making three straight tackles in the backfield right there at the end of the game?" Filberto exclaimed. "We subbed him there at the end. He hadn't played a play the whole game Until right at the end. He did a great job."