Wolfe gobbles up Rocky River in spectacular 51-28 win

Wolfe gobbles up Rocky River in spectacular 51-28 win
Justin Smith

Mason Wolfe takes a snap from center Walker Graham during the Knights' big Div. III regional semifinal win over Rocky River. Wolfe stepped in for injured quarterback Noah Clark and delivered a five-touchdown performance.


Who’s afraid of the big, bad Wolfe?

The team from Rocky River certainly should be.

The Rocky River Pirates found a big, bad Wolfe knocking at their door, but this time around, the big, bad Wolfe blew down the final door to collect his prize.

In leaving the field following their 51-28 loss in a Div. III, Region 10 regional semifinal game versus West Holmes, the Pirates had to be thinking one thing: If this was the Knights’ back-up quarterback who just torched us, we’d hate to see their starter.

In a spectacular performance, West Holmes junior Mason Wolfe stepped in for injured star quarterback Noah Clark and delivered in every way imaginable in leading the Knights to victory.

How impressive was Wolfe? He connected on 17-of-22 passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns, adding a winding 16-yard touchdown run in what has to be one of the most memorable first-time varsity starts for a quarterback ever.

That he did it in such a pressure-packed game only made it more special.

“I don’t think you’re going to find a better first start of a football game than Mason Wolfe coming into a regional semifinal game for his first varsity start and playing the way he did,” WHHS head coach Zach Gardner said.

West Holmes’ first drive of the night set the tone for what would be a special evening for the offense, and it would be a steady diet of running back Sam Williams-Dixon that would get it done. Williams-Dixon pounded out six chunk-yard carries around a 42-yard pass from Wolfe to Tucker Kaufman that put the Knights at the 3-yard line, and Williams-Dixon plowed in from there for a 7-0 lead.

However, the Pirates made easy work of the Knights’ defense and evened the slate, with star Tommy Bebie charging in from 37 yards.

WHHS regained the lead when Wolfe hit Garrett Eastep, Williams-Dixon and finally Brent Shearer on a swing pass that saw Shearer basically carry the entire Pirates team with him into the end zone for a 14-7 edge.

The game took on the look of one that was going to end up in 60s, with the Pirates rolling downfield with ease, until Blake McCombs punched the ball out of the hands of quarterback Braeden Spies on the 2-yard line, where Williams-Dixon pounced on it.

What happened next took nerves of steel for Gardner, who called for a fake punt on his own 8-yard line. Punter Nick Ginsburg took the snap and raced around the left end for 11 yards and a first down. But after two plays netted minus-13 yards, West Holmes found itself right back in trouble. That trouble turned to elation when Wolfe dropped back and fired a perfect strike to Williams-Dixon, who was streaking down the center of the field. He hauled it in, split two defenders and flew to a 94-yard score, with Ginsburg’s point after making it 21-7.

West Holmes then forced a punt, but a Wolfe fumble gave Rocky River the ball on the Knights’ 18-yard line. That was where the Knights defense came up big again, this time courtesy of an Owen Jeffries interception off a tip from Kaufman that gave the Knights possession at their own 11.

It didn’t take long for that turnover to turn into points. Wolfe found Williams-Dixon on a swing pass, and somehow the slippery sophomore beat two defenders and tiptoed down the sideline for a 75-yard score and a 27-7 lead.

Bebie would find pay-dirt from 9 yards to make it 27-14, and after the Knights were forced to punt with 30 seconds in the half, Rocky River could have taken a knee and gone into the half with a little momentum. Instead, it chose to go deep.

From its own 25, Spies fired a massive pass to the West Holmes 35-yard line, where Williams-Dixon hauled it in. He soared upfield, dodging tacklers and weaving his way to the Pirates’ 5-yard line, where a face mask penalty moved the ball to the 2 with just 10 seconds in the half. Wolfe made the Pirates’ decision to go for it and found Eastep on a perfect lob pass in the right corner of the end zone, Ginsburg’s extra point lifting the Knights to a 34-14 half-time advantage.

Rocky River came out with a huge drive, but Eastep stepped in front of a Spies offering at the West Holmes 3-yard line, thwarting another long drive. It then became the Shearer show, and a 97-yard drive featured the powerful running back, who eventually roared in from a yard out.

Rocky River kept a little hope alive, responding on a drive that culminated on a Bebie 18-yard TD run, but WHHS answered that by recovering an onside kick and plowing ahead 48-21 on Wolfe’s 16-yard scoring run.

That would be more than enough to put this one in the win column for the Knights, and Gardner brought in the back-ups to finish off the win.

“I am so proud of this team with the adversity we faced this week,” Gardner said following the game. “Our kids went out there and played their tails off, executed, and we dominated a very good football team. Our offensive line played phenomenal. What a program victory.”

The win improved West Holmes to a school-best 13-0 while Rocky River bowed out at 9-4. The march to regional finals marks the first time they have been there since 2012.

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