Of all the big plays in Friday night’s battle between Philipsburg-Osceola and West Branch, and there were several of them, none was bigger than Cameron Lytle’s 87-yard kickoff return that was a dagger to the heart of the Mounties.
P-O had just clawed its way back into this backyard rumble on the strength of Daniel Slogosky’s 8-yard pass to Levi Hughes with 1:36 left in the first half. The score drew the Mounties to within 21-12 of the Warriors.
But Lytle took the ensuing kickoff on the fly, burst through the middle of the P-O coverage and went the distance for the score that pushed the Warriors in front by 15 and they never looked back in a 54-28 win.
“That was the turning point,” said first-year P-O coach Mike Mann. “When that happened you could see their heads go down.”
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But if that was the biggest play, there were a lot of others that fell into the extra-large category.
There was the 24-yard touchdown strike from Slogosky to Emarion Wallace in the front corner of the end zone on a fourth-and-6 call with 2:46 left in the first quarter. Wallace, who is 6-foot-1, outjumped the defender and fell backward into the end zone for the score.
West Branch followed with a pair of big plays as Kyle Myers hooked up with Dylan Confer from 31 yards out to put the Warriors up 14-6 early in the second quarter and Myers followed that by connecting with Lytle for an 88-yard bomb as Lytle was free behind the P-O secondary. That made it 21-6 with 7:05 left in the first half.
In the second half, P-O blocked a punt and Luke Swartwood scooped up the loose ball and returned it 26 yards to start the third-quarter scoring.
But West Branch’s Dan Ryder scored from the 5 with 15 seconds left in the third quarter, and the Warriors tacked on two more scores to start the fourth on a 3-yard run by Creighton Coble and a 41-yard interception return by Justin Rothrock to blow the game open.
“This was a game of big plays,” Mann said. “We had them third-and-27 and gave up a touchdown pass when we have four of our guys standing around in the secondary. We were able to stuff the run but when we forced them to throw we didn’t understand our responsibilities in the secondary. When they went to the pass they burned us with it.
“But one positive we can take from this game is that we scored more points in this game than P-O has scored in a long time. We just made too many mental mistakes.”
For the Warriors it was a matter of spreading the ball around on offense and that pleased coach Kevin Hubler.
“That should be us all year,” he said. “We have lot of skill kids and I think every one of them scored. And we’re solid up front.
“P-O did a nice job of stopping the run. They expected us to pound the ball and they took that away from us.”