Paden City Falls in Shortened-Season Finale
Freshman Running Back Baker Runs for 233 Yards
PADEN CITY — Playing in its final game of the season, the 2020 Paden City football team had to decide how it would be remembered.
Wildcats’ coach Zach Heasley announced Wednesday night that Friday’s home game with Van would be its last contest of the year due to only having 11 players.
Ultimately, Paden City fell 64-28 in its finale at Berger Field but it was how those 11 Wildcats played under the circumstances that left a lasting impression.
“I hope they are remembered by the young men that they are,” an emotional Heasley said of his players. “I don’t think there would be one more team in the state that would do that — to come out with 11 players and play.
“The first half was rough and the second half I didn’t yell or anything. I just told them ‘forget the score, you play forever. Play hard and play with pride and the way to play with pride is to play hard, fast and physical like Paden City football.’
“Execution wasn’t full (Friday), I understand that. But I told them, ‘when you go out in the second half, you’re going to remember that.
“If you play for each other,’ just like they did, ‘good things are going to happen’ and that’s what they are going to remember.”
With only 11 players, everybody played both ways with no snaps off. Paden City freshman running back Joey Baker was a workhorse throughout the night as he racked up 233 yards in a heroic effort.
“He’s a kid who bought into the system, he works hard and understands what we are trying to do,” Heasley said of Baker. “He’s a good kid from a good family and he has three years left.
“Credit the offensive line, too. They opened up holes for him. Also, when you have someone like (quarterback) Zane Yeater back there who can run, it opens things up too.”
Despite being extremely shorthanded, the Paden City defense forced a three-and-out on Van’s opening drive. The momentum translated on to the offensive side of the ball as it took Baker just one play to explode 27 yards past the defense for a Wildcats touchdown and a 6-0 lead that sent Heasley sprinting and jumping down the sideline in excitement.
Van scored back-to-back touchdowns of its own to secure a 16-6 edge but the Wildcats showed no quit.
Baker again showcased his talent with a 54-yard dash to the end zone. He also scored on a two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 16-14 with 2:46 remaining in the first quarter.
That was, however, as close as the Wildcats would get. Van reeled off the next 42 points to grab a 58-14 lead entering the half.
Even down 44 points in the second half, the Wildcats continued to claw as Baker found the end zone for the third time from 17 yards away and Yeater rumbled in from a yard out for the final score of the season. Senior Hunter Fletcher ran in for the two points.
“With 11 players, they are going to get upset and they are going to get down but they are going to feel like they let people down when they didn’t,” Heasley said. “I just said to control what they can control and play hard for the people who came out to watch. I love these boys, I’m proud of them and I would do absolutely anything for them.”
Along with Fletcher, seniors Doneven Clark and Logan Fluharty will no longer suit up on Friday nights for Paden City but these last two weeks have brought them memories that nothing can erase.
“Two of our three seniors are first year players who basically came out so we can have a team,” Heasley said. “It says a lot about their character. They played hard because they are hard working kids.
“Forget about football, this is forever. I told them in the locker room ‘play for your brother, play for this town, play hard and build for next season.'”
So with that, Paden City wraps up the 2020 football season with pride and its eyes on 2021.
Van 64, Paden City 28
Van 22 36 6 0 — 64
Paden City 14 0 6 8 — 28
P — Baker 27 run (run failed), 9:41
V — Green 10 run (Stewart run), 9:27
V — Berry 20 pass from K. Booth (Green run), 6:31
P — Baker 54 run (Baker run), 2:46
V — K. Booth 45 run (run failed), :47
V — S. Booth 70 run (pass failed), 10:34
V — Stewart 73 run (K. Booth run), 5:19
V — Green 73 run (Stewart run), 3:19
V — Stewart 55 run (K. Booth run), 1:47
V — Pauley 50 run (run failed), 1:04
P — Baker 17 run (pass failed), 1:15
V — Berry 59 run (kick failed), 1:03
P — Yeater 1 run (Fletcher run), 10:34
Rushing: Van 29-570-8td (K. Booth 4-120-td, S. Booth 3-81-td, Stewart 5-135-2td, Green 4-98-2td, Berry 4-69-2td, Pauley 4-45-td, Chambers 2-4, Gunnoe 2-13, Blankenship 1-5), Paden City 49-367-4th (Baker 30-233-3td, Yeater 14-28-td, McEldowney 2-(-4), Fletcher 3-10).
Passing: Van 1-3-20-td (all by K. Booth), Paden City 4-25-52-x (all by Yeater).
Receiving: Van 1-20-td (all by Berry), Paden City 4-52 (all by McEldowney).
First Downs: Van 15, Paden City 15.
Penalties-Yards: Van 9-70, Paden City 5-35.
Fumbles-Lost: Van 5-2, Paden City 3-2.