WINFIELD — In last season’s showdown between Winfield-Mt. Union and Springville, there were three kick returns taken to the house. On Friday night there was just one, but it was the game-changer.
In a back-and-forth showdown, Spencer DeMean gave the Orioles the lead for good on a kick return touchdown with 3:44 left, and that led to a 41-38 Springville win.
The Wolves had taken a 30-26 lead on a seven-yard touchdown run by Christian Gerot with 3:56 on the clock, plus a two-point conversion from Daunte Oepping to Jacob Ford.
Ford and Gerot each had touchdown catches in a first half that ended 14-14. Springville tied the game up with 12 seconds left on a quarterback sneak, plus the conversion.
Ford had 151 yards receiving to go along with the touchdown. Oepping threw for 207 yards, rushed for 63 and finished with four total touchdowns. Gerot scored twice through the air, including a 43-yard score with 10 seconds remaining.
“We just ran out of time,” head coach Scott McCarty said. “Our guys did a really good job of just fighting. I mean, we scored with 10 seconds to go, and we needed to do that just to show that we can compete.”
The Wolves had to play the second half without Juanito Piper, who went down with an injury midway through the game. That put the Wolves down one of their top players on offense, defense and special teams. McCarty says his injury doesn’t look good, but that he hopes the upcoming bye week will give him more time to recover.
“That’s a big loss for us,” McCarty said. “He’s a great kid (and) has worked his tail off all offseason. You hate to see that happen. Hopefully it’s nothing, or something minor.”
The Wolves’ defense looked good early but suffered in the second half when Piper was unavailable. Despite the injury, Piper still led the team with 12 tackles. Seth Schurr had 10.
W-MU won the turnover battle, forcing four take-aways and never giving the ball away. Oepping had two interceptions in the loss. Ford had one, and Noah Sparrow had a fumble recovery.
Springville beat W-MU by 24 points last year, and the majority of both teams were back for Friday’s game. McCarty says the three-point loss is a good growing point, but that it’s time for the Wolves to start winning.
“This senior group was thrown to the wolves as freshmen and sophomores,” McCarty said. “Junior year, we got to go eight man and give them a level playing field. Those kids have put a lot of work in, in four years. I told them you’ve got to start believing your worthy of winning so you can start to win, and you’re starting to see that in this group.”
W-MU fell to 0-1 to start the year. They’ll have a week off before hosting River Ridge, a team out of Hanover, Illinois, on Sept. 6.