PHILIPSBURG — The West Branch football team celebrated Senior Night Saturday evening at Mountaineer Stadium, but it was a freshman who crashed the party in a 42-7 win over Moshannon Valley.
Freshman quarterback Tyler Biggans threw four touchdown passes and ran for another, leading the Warrior offense as it scored on its first three drives and piled up 368 yards of total offense.
Biggans completed six of his 12 pass attempts for 198 yards and had TD passes of 23, 45, 40 and 35 yards. He also had one pass picked off.
“I think you’d be crazy not to expect some nerves, some mistakes from a freshman, but Biggs did a heck of a job,” West Branch head coach Kevin Hubler said. “He did exactly what we asked him to do. He executed the game plan. He did a real nice job stepping in there for us.”
West Branch jumped on Mo Valley from the onset, forcing a three-and-out on the Knights’ initial possession and taking over at its own 40 after a 15-yard punt.
Warrior senior running back Will Herring took the handoff from Biggans on the first play from scrimmage, dashed through a gaping hole at the line of scrimmage and darted 60 yards for a touchdown just 2:20 into the game. Herring ran 15 times for 135 yards in the contest.
Another Knight three-and-out and another short punt helped West Branch set up shop at its own 45.
After an initial first down, the Warriors were bottled up on two straight running plays and faced a third-and-13 from the Knight 46. Biggans hit Noah Hoffner for a 23-yard completion to convert the first down, then went right back to the senior receiver, hitting him in the end zone for a 23-yard score and a 14-0 lead after another Betts’ PAT.
Mo Valley fumbled on the first play of its next possession and Biggans recovered at the Knight 34 to put his offense back in business.
Three plays later, Biggans called his own number on a 2-yard score and West Branch led a shellshocked Black Knight team 20-0 with 4:21 still to play in the opening quarter.
“We talked all week about how we wanted the opposite of what happened to us last week (against Juniata Valley),” Hubler said. “We were down 14-0 before we even took a breath. We wanted to flip that script today, put the pressure on Mo Valley and take it to them early.”
The second quarter featured mostly punts and penalties by both teams, but a big turnover late in the half gave the Warriors the opportunity to put more points on the board before the break.
After forcing a West Branch punt, the Knights gave the Warriors the ball back when they mishandled the ball on the kick. West Branch recovered the muff on Mo Valley’s 45 and quickly moved to the 30 when the Knights were whistled for pass interference on the very next play.
The following two plays by the Warriors gained no yards and they were pushed all the way back to the 45 after a holding penalty. But on third-and-25, Biggans connected with Herring on a screen pass and watched his running back do the rest.
Herring broke several tackles right after catching the pass, got a couple blocks and then was off to the races on a 45-yard touchdown with 38 seconds left in the first half.
West Branch got the ball to start the third quarter and was on the move when Biggans was intercepted by Ethan Webb inside the Knight 20. Webb returned the ball to the 43 and Mo Valley took full advantage of the turnover by marching 57 yards in seven plays to get on the board.
Levi Knuth had an 18-yard run early in the drive and hit paydirt on a 15-yard run that made the score 27-7 after Michael Kephart’s PAT.
But after allowing the Mo Valley touchdown, the Warriors took back the momentum and squashed any hopes of a Knight rally by traveling 61 yards in seven plays to regain the 27-point advantage.
“That sudden change is always something that can kill a football team,” Hubler said. “We have a turnover and that sudden change is just a huge momentum swing. We have to do everything we can to fight back and get the momentum back in our favor.”
Biggans hit Camden Kopchik for a 40-yard TD pass to finish off the drive. Kopchik had one-on-one coverage after the Knights had to pay more attention to Hoffner, who burned them for 78 yards on three catches in the first half. Hoffner caught four balls for 113 yards in the game.
“That’s the benefit of being a complete offense,” Hubler said. “If you’re trying to do things to take away one of our receivers, that means you are vulnerable somewhere else. If you try to take away our run game, you’re vulnerable in the pass game. That’s why we preach being balanced and let our guys make plays.”
After making the TD catch on offense, Kopchik turned around and made a big defensive play, intercepting Knight QB Webb on the next series and returning the ball to midfield.
Biggans connected with Hoffner three plays later for a 35-yard touchdown and the pair teamed up for the 2-point conversion to make the score 42-7 with 10:13 left to play. The 35-point difference put the mercy rule in motion.
Mo Valley got the ball back two more times, but fumbled and lost yardage on each possession, forcing punts. The Knights fumbled seven times in the game, losing three. They turned it over a total of four times and had 10 of their 11 possessions end in either three-and-outs or turnovers.
“Anytime you can put pressure on a team, good things can happen,” Hubler said. “Defensively, I thought we came out really well with an excellent game plan from Coach (Chad) Koleno. It put pressure on Mo Valley and forced them into things, and we took advantage.
“We have work to do,” Mo Valley head coach Michael Keith said. “That was the sloppiest football game I’ve ever been part of as a coach. You can’t make those kinds of mistakes. You can’t give them the big plays we gave them and expect to win a football game.”
Mo Valley dipped to 0-2, while West Branch evened its record at 1-1.
Both teams are back in action Friday.
The Knights host Northern Bedford, while the Warriors entertain Mount Union.
NOTE: The game was played at Philipsburg-Osceola’s Mountaineer Stadium because renovations at West Branch’s L.T. Drivas Memorial Field are not yet completed.