The Warrensburg linemen charge through their opponents like a locomotive to give their running-back a 7-yard gain during a recent game against Bishop Gibbons that the Burghers won 64-18. Warrensburg’s offensive line has been credited for the team’s success in their come-from-behind victory Sept. 22 against Salem..
With sheer guts and determination, the Warrensburg football players engineered a game-ending 78-yard drive — and a dramatic comeback win — Saturday Sept. 22 against Salem.
And it was the players themselves who determined how to accomplish it, coach Mike Leonbruno said.
With time expiring on the clock and nearly 80 yards to go downfield, Leonbruno called for the team to run the ball outside so the squad could perhaps pick up more than 3 to 4 yards per carry through the congested middle — the team’s signature play this year. The team’s core players, however, asked to stick to grinding it out up the middle, Leonbruno said.
“I let them go with it, and that’s what took us down the field for the touchdown,” he said, noting their 14-play, 78 yard drive that ended up in a touchdown. “I am extremely proud of them.”
Sophomore Quarterback Marcus Perrone punched it over the goal line in a three-yard run with only 27 seconds on the clock. Colt Ovitt then added on the game-winning two-point conversion run so his team beat Salem 14 to 13.
Warrensburg’s earlier touchdown came in the second quarter, when Marcus Perrone tossed a well-aimed pass to Sophomore tight end Shea Irish, who grabbed the ball for a 22-yard gain.
Leonbruno is quite aware of a new determination, enthusiasm, and confidence in his players — first noted by Burgher fans when the team crushed Bishop Gibbons a week earlier, 64 to 18 to break various recent-history scoring records at Warrensburg High.
He said that his players applied their confidence and determination at about 8 minutes left in Saturday’s game when Salem scored their final touchdown, and the Burghers fumbled — and the contest seemed to be mired in the ailment that’s been plaguing the Burghers for years: turnovers.
Unlike in prior similar situations, the players didn’t give up hope, Leonbruno said.
“That is when we would have crumbled, but they stayed tough and proved themselves,” Leonbruno said. “It was very exciting.”
Rather than let the powerful Salem team put the game out of reach, the Burghers gutted it out, with their defense regaining the ball on their own 22-yard-line with Salem unable to make a first down to get into the Burgher red zone.
That’s when the Burghers accomplished their final grind-it-out drive for the win.
It wasn’t easy, however, to get to that last-chance effort. Warrensburg had suffered three fumbles. Worse, they allowed Salem to gain a quick score early in the game when one of Salem’s linebackers blocked a punt and fell on the ball in the end zone for their debut touchdown.
“To come back like they did, our players showed grit and confidence,” Leonbruno said, vowing to redouble instruction on skills that might avoid such frequent turnovers.
The Burgher linemen had their job cut out for them Saturday, because Salem was big, fast, strong and physical. They proved themselves, however, by keeping Salem’s potent offense in check, or mowing down opponents so their talented runningbacks — as light as 134 pounds — could move downfield.
Leonbruno said that his team’s power plays through the middle have their advantage — they not only move the ball downfield, they wear the opponent’s defense down, which opens up scoring opportunities, he said.
Not only was the Burgher line effective in their blocking, but the offensive proved their depth. Malachai Prosser led the Burgher rushers with 101 yards on 20 carries, followed by Nolan Maltbie with 31 yards on 7 plays, and Connor Scott with 25 yards on four carries. Ovitt tallied 14 yards on four plays.
Although the team earns credit for ground-gaining, Perrone completed four of five passes for 96 yards. Prosser hit two of three for 50 yards.
Also key in the effort was the Burgher defense, which Leonbruno said has improved lately.
“I’ve been trying to get the kids to tackle lower, and they’re doing it — they tackled well against Salem,” he said. “The game was an awesome effort.”