Lowellville – In big games, a lot of the time it comes down to special teams and turnovers. The Lowellville Rockets took advantage of four Wellsville turnovers, one fumble and three interceptions, to power the Rockets to a 27-21 victory. The win pushes the Rockets record to 5-1 on the season, 3-0 in the league. The loss gives the Tigers the identical record.
“We’re just thrilled to get the win,” D’Altorio added. “We have been very successful in the first half in coming out in our no huddle and going on the fly. We’ve done a great job of that and teams are struggling to adjust to that. Our kids kept battling and kept fighting and were able to hold on.”
With just over two minutes remaining in the game, the Tigers had a chance to pull out a tremendous come from behind victory with the ball at their own 30-yard line and trailing by just 6-points. But following a first down at their own 46-yard line, and with still over a minute left in the game, Tigers quarterback Jordan Sloan had a pass picked off by the Rockets defender Van Vanover at the Rockets 47-yard line to turn the Tigers threat away.
“We knew the team that made the least amount of mistakes would win,” Tigers coach Rich Wright said. “They made less mistakes than us. We made some critical errors as coaches and players.”
The Tigers had battled back from a 20-0 halftime deficit as they scored on a 4-yard touchdown run by Brandon Carr with 4:17 remaining in the third quarter. The score cut the Rockets lead to 20-7 with the score.
However, Lowellville answered right back as quarterback Alex Harklerode hit Vanover on a 36-yard pass at the 1:37 mark of the quarter to get the Rockets lead back to 20-points at 27-7.
Wellsville would come storming back as Sloan would race around left end to score on a 20-yard touchdown run to make it 27-14. The score would come with just five seconds remaining in the third quarter.
They would score again at the 6:22 mark of the fourth quarter when Sloan would find Marcus Moxley for a 13-yard pass. That play came on a fourth and two situation from the Rockets 13. That score and the Tigers ability to stop the Rockets on defense set up for the final turnover committed by the Tigers.
The Rockets had jumped out to a 20-0 halftime lead courtesy of an explosive running game and the passing of quarterback Alex Harklerode. The Rockets scored quickly in the contest when they took the opening kickoff and marched 59-yards on 8-plays, with Robert Ciccone blasting into the end zone from 1-yard out.
They would make it 13-0 on a 52-yard pass from Harklerode to Phil Ginnis with just 12-second remaining in the first quarter. The Rocket drive started following a Tigers fumble at the Rocket 10-yard line. That drive, which covered 90-yards on 8-plays seemed to set the tune for the night as the Tigers committed errors and the Rockets capitalized.
The Rockets would use that formula again jus before the half when Ciccone would pick off a Sloan pass to give the Rockets the ball at the Tigers 7-yard line. Following a penalty, and two plays later Harklerode would once again strike as he hit Nick Lucente on a 21-yard pass for a touchdown as the first half clock expired. That score gave the Rockets what seemed like a commanding 20-0 before the Tigers made their second half comeback.
“Alex Harklerode had a great game throwing the ball,” Rockets coach Jeff D’Altorio said. “He just keeps getting better and better, and for him to come out and throw some of the passes that he did is just another threat for us.”
Next week the Rockets travel to Western Reserve for another ITCL Lower Tier first place battle. The Tigers will also be on the road as they play at Sebring next Friday.