Homecoming Fireworks: Dragons come up with plenty of big plays, but fall to Oil City 48-40
Friday’s Region 5 matchup between Warren and Oil City was billed as a potential shootout and it certainly lived up to the hype.
Unfortunately for the Dragons, a Homecoming game that had such promise didn’t reap the final reward.
Oil City’s Christian Cole ran for 300 yards on the nose and four touchdowns as the visiting Oilers outlasted the Dragons 48-40 at War Memorial Field.
“The fans got their money’s worth,” said Warren coach Mark Morelli. “But the same deficiencies that have hurt us all year hurt us tonight. We just can’t seem to get the big play on defense when we need it.”
When Warren’s Noah Myers was stuffed in the middle and bounced outside, racing 14 yards for a score to give the Dragons a 40-36 lead with 7:37 left in the third quarter, it looked as if the team with the ball last may win.
Visions of a 2015 game against Meadville that ended 79-78 in Warren’s favor were in the air, but both defenses buckled down. Oil City’s just made a few more big plays.
On the Oilers’ ensuing offensive possession, Austin Sampson scooped up a fumble as the Oilers were driving inside the Warren (2-7) 40, giving the Dragons the stop it appeared was needed.
“Austin Sampson, I thought at the time, made the turning point in the game,” Morelli said. “But we can’t seem to turn those types of momentum changers into that energy and passion that we need on defense. That’s what’s so frustrating.”
Warren drove 12 plays and 74 yards on the ensuing drive, including an 18-yard halfback swing pass from Myers to quarterback Jake Kupchella and a 7-yard conversion from Kupchella to Marvin Bryant on a screen pass on fourth-and-five from the Oil City 32.
The Dragons had third-and-one from the Oil City 3, but a fumbled pitch gave OC its momentum changing play.
The Oilers (3-6) responded with a 14-play, 90-yard drive, chewing up more than half the fourth-quarter clock, going to Cole for 10 of those plays, and he capped it with an 8-yard score to put OC up 42-40 with 3:50 to play.
Warren turned the ball over on downs and Oil City got the ball back, with Cole scoring from 40 yards to cap his brilliant night. The extra point attempt was blocked, however, giving Warren life down eight.
Starting at their own 33, Kupchella scampered for 10 yards and a first down, but was sacked on back-to-back plays, setting up third-and-25. A 15-yard completion to Ryan Arnold with 33 seconds left gave Warren life, but Kupchella’s fourth down pass fell incomplete.
“We knew this game was going to come down to the team that made the least amount of mistakes and in the fourth quarter, Oil City made the least amount of mistakes,” Morelli said. “We have got to learn, if we are going to get this program on the upswing, how to win in the fourth quarter.”
Early on, the Dragons provided plenty of fireworks and looked as if they made run away with it.
Despite an interception by freshman No. 2 quarterback Micah Passmore (who starts on defense at safety) on a halfback pass to open the game, which led to an Oil City touchdown on an 6-play, 69-yard drive to take an 8-0 lead, the Dragons were able to gain early control.
Taking over at their own 42, an 8-yard run by Myers set up back-to-back long runs by Bryant – a 27-yarder and a 23-yarder for a touchdown that made it 8-6 after a failed 2-point conversion.
Warren forced a three-and-out on OC’s next possession and Kupchella connected with Kohl Nosel on the first of a trio of explosive pass plays, this one a 34-yard strike in the back of the end zone to give the Dragons the lead.
On the second play of the Oilers’ next offensive possession, Chris White was able to corral Cole in the backfield and Aidan Morrison wrapped him up and stripped the ball, giving the Dragons possession at the OC 14.
After Myers picked up a first down, Kupchella swung the ball out to Mitchell Bryant, who broke a tackle and reached across the goal line for a touchdown.
“On the bright side of things, we had a lot of positives on offense,” Morelli said. “The first half we answered everything Oil City threw at us.”
Oil City drove 60 yards on the ensuing drive, capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Noah Petro, his second of the game, to make it 20-16.
Warren responded with a 10-play, 77-yard drive of its own, with the key play being a 47-yard pass from Kupchella to Marvin Bryant. Kupchella called his own number from the OC 4 to give Warren a 26-16 lead.
The back-and-forth half continued, as Oil City went 80 yards on its next drive, with Cole scoring his first touchdown of the game from three yards out.
Kupchella capped his monster first half on the Dragons’ next drive, connecting with Arnold on a beautifully thrown deep ball that Arnold hauled in for a 64-yard touchdown, putting Warren up 33-22.
“Jake had an outstanding first half,” Morelli said. “He puts his heart and soul into football and we’ve got other kids on this team that are busting their tail to win too. We just need more of that.”
The final drive of the first half yielded what was perhaps the most important play of the game.
A pair of long passes from Dylan Chapin to Josh Puleo set up Oil City with a goal-to-go situation and the clock inside of 30 seconds.
Three plays got the Oilers down to the Dragon 2, where they faced a fourth-and-goal with four seconds left on the clock.
Chapin was able to connect with his tight end, Caden Highfield, over the middle for a touchdown, cutting the deficit to 33-28 at halftime.
“We wanted the seniors to come out here and get a win,” Morelli said. “We had a great week of practice. We played well for three quarters, but there’s a lesson to be learned.”
Kupchella finished with over 200 yards of combined offense, with the rest of the Dragons yards spread out pretty evenly.
Warren will conclude its season next Friday, hosting unbeaten Huntingdon.
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Oil City 8 20 8 12 – 48
Warren 20 13 7 0 – 40
O – Noah Petro 46 run (Christian Cole 2-point conversion run) 8:43
W – Marvin Bryant 23 run (2-point conversion failed) 7:29
W – Kohl Nosel 34 pass from Jake Kupchella (Seth Harrington PAT) 4:10
W – Mitchell Bryant 3 pass from Kupchella (Harrington PAT) 2:26
O – Petro 1 run (Dylan Chapin to Caden Highfield 2- point conversion) 10:44
W – Kupchella 4 run (2-point conversion failed) 5:50
O – Cole 3 run (2-point conversion failed) 2:37
W – Ryano Arnold 64 pass from Kupchella (Harrington PAT) 1:43
O – Highfield 2 pass from Chapin (2-point conversion failed) :1
O -Cole 25 run (Cole 2-point conversion run) 9:49
W – Noah Myers 14 run (Harrington PAT) 7:37
O – Cole 8 run (2-point conversion failed) 3:55
O – Cole 40 run (PAT blocked) 1:50
First Downs 26 14
Rushes-Yards 50-397 29-167
Comp-Att-Int. 6-11-0 7-13-1
Passing Yards 81 173
Total Yards 478 340
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 1-1
Punts-Avg. 1-24.0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 3-22 5-53
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Oil City: Cole 36-300, Petro 9-81, Chapin 4-10, Puleo 1-6; Warren: Ma. Bryant 11-75, Myers 11-50, Kupchella 7-42
Oil City: Chapin 6-of-11, 81 yards, 1 TD; Warren: Kupchella 6-of-11, 155 yards, 2 TDs; Myers 1-of-1, 18 yards; Passmore 0-of-1, 1 INT
Oil City: Puleo 3-59, Cole 2-17, Haun 1-15; Warren: Arnold 1-64, Ma. Bryant 1-47, Nosel 1-34, Kupchella 1-18, Mi. Bryant 3-10