ALLPORT — The Philipsburg-Osceola Mounties football team started its season on a winning note Friday night, as they traveled to L.T. Drivas Memorial Field and took down the West Branch Warriors 41-16 in a big road win.
The Mounties were efficient in all aspects — getting first downs through the air and ground — while also making huge stops on the Warriors when they needed it the most.
Kaleb Stamm led the Mounties with 108 yards on 26 carries. Senior Hunter Weitoish had two big plays, a 74 yard punt return touchdown and a 79-yard TD reception to seal the game late. Meanwhile, signal caller Ryan Whitehead was 11-of-19 for 182 yards and two scores.
“It was a great game on both sides and it was a lot of fun,” P-O head coach Brian McGonigal said.
The Mounties outscored the home Warriors 26-9 in the second half, holding West Branch to just 15 rushing yards and 81 passing yards after the Warriors aired it out for 172 yards in the first half. Stamm also got 98 of his 108 rushing yards in the second half as the Mounties wore down the West Branch front line.
“We got the sense that (West Branch) was getting tired up top,” McGonigal said. “So we just figured we’d keep pounding the ball and Kaleb (Stamm) was like, ‘Just keep feeding it to me,’ and we did. I was proud of them of how they played after halftime. In the past, going into the half and giving up a score before halftime, in the past that group would’ve hung their heads. But this group rallied at halftime and said when they go back out there, they’re putting points up on the board and we’re going to take it to them. And they did and I was really proud of them for their attitude.”
West Branch made it into the Mountie red zone all throughout the evening, but got a grand total of zero points off of four of the trips that included a few unsuccessful fourth down attempts and a lost fumble.
“You can’t get into the red zone and not come away with points,” West Branch head coach Kevin Hubler said. “When you’re a younger and inexperienced team and think that you’re going to be able to win ball games ... whenever you get down there, you have to take advantage.”
P-O took the early lead with a 23-yard touchdown reception by Chase Chapman from Whitehead on third-and-4 with 5:53 left in the first quarter. After a three-and-out by West Branch and a Whitehead interception from Ayden Gutierrez, P-O took a 15-0 lead as Stamm punched in his first TD of the night from four yards out shortly into the second quarter.
West Branch got on the board finally with 33 seconds left in the first half as Noah Hoffner hauled in a 37-yard bomb in stride from Gutierrez, with Sarah Betts kicking the extra point to set the score 15-7 P-O at the half. Hoffner had 150 yards receiving alone in the first half and had a grand total of nine receptions for 190 yards on the night.
“Noah (Hoffner) had a heck of a game,” Hubler said. “But kudos to the other guys drawing coverage. Noah’s a great receiver and Ayden (Gutierrez) threw some great balls to him tonight. Noah had two questionable calls that I thought could’ve went our way but they did not. The stats could’ve been even higher but that’s a glimpse of what Noah can bring to the table for us. I think our receiving core is going to be a highlight for us this year. We’ve got Eddie (Dale), Trent (Bellomy), Cam (Kopchik) and even some younger guys that can step in with those guys.”
Weitoish’s first big play of the game came minutes into the third quarter as he took an Eddie Dale punt 74 yards to the house, setting up a 21-7 lead.
The Mounties then started to establish the run, with Stamm punching it in from 14 yards with 5:23 left in the third quarter for a 28-7 lead.
However, the Warriors started to battle back — first by getting a safety after P-O snapped it into the back of the end zone on a punt and then Hoffner caught another TD from Gutierrez — this time from eight yards out — and the lead was cut to 28-16 with 1:33 left in the third quarter.
But from there, it was all Mounties as they sealed the deal with two fourth quarter scores.
The first score came on a Jeremy Whitehead 2-yard run with 7:59 left in the game — a drive that took 12 plays and 73 yards, 11 of which were runs.
The final score of the night came from Weitoish as Ryan Whitehead found him deep on a third-and-1 for a 79-yard score that set the final at 41-16.
“Hunter (Weitoish) is a real fast kid,” McGonigal said. “We thought we could probably beat them outside and we took that opportunity on third and short. We thought we could take a shot there and seal it.”
McGonigal said he was proud of his entire team for coming out and getting the win in the first game of the year, praising players for playing physical.
“I’m proud of Ryan Whitehead,” McGonigal said. “He played a tough game. He got his hand stepped on after a tackle and got a stinger coming up on a tackle. Most kids would’ve said they’re done but he really fought through that. Chase Chapman had a great game on defense. Nate Gustkey did a heck of a job for us (in the secondary). I’m proud of the whole team and their effort.”
Hubler said his Warriors did a little bit of everything in the game, but couldn’t put it altogether.
“There were glimpses of everything,” Hubler said. “We just didn’t sustain anything and wasn’t consistent with anything. The offense would go for a little bit and then it wouldn’t. Our defense would be playing ball for a little bit and then it wasn’t. We’ve just got to get to that point where we’re playing (consistently).”
With the win, P-O goes to 1-0 on the year and travels to Bald Eagle Area next week.
“We’ll take it one day at a time,” McGonigal said. “We’re going to celebrate this one and have fun. I’m sure we’ll have our hands full with Bald Eagle Area next week because they’re a great team and they’ve got a lot of big kids coming back. We’ll be traveling down there for another tough game.”
West Branch falls to 0-1 and visits Moshannon Valley next week.
“We’ve got to take this, look at the film and fix our mistakes,” Hubler said. “It’s a long year. We lose track, but that’s the biggest school we play all year. We get so amped up for this game and we like to get a win right away to start the season off right. But I think it’s a good measuring stick for us on where we go from here. The ICC historically is a very middle of the pack-heavy league. There’s always a chunk of teams that can beat each other on any given night. And I think we’re in that middle of the pack.”