Overtime thriller

West Fairmont’s Ryan Tennant (right) helps tackle Morgantown’s Daniel Strosnider (34) during the Polar Bears’ 20-14 overtime loss against the Mohigans Friday night.

For the second time in three weeks, West Fairmont’s football team suffered a gut-wrenching loss in the final seconds of the game.

However, Morgantown recorded two wins Friday, but earned one on the field that night in dramatic fashion.

It was quarterback Ben Miller who outdueled his counterpart Logan Moore as each made just his third career start.

In an early North Central Athletic Conference showdown, Miller rallied the Mohigans from a late deficit to prevail 20-14 in overtime against the Polar Bears at East-West Stadium.

“There was no way we were losing this game,” Miller said. “I wasn’t going to let it happen.”

Miller certainly held up his end of the bargain, accounting for all three Morgantown touchdowns — two rushing and one passing.

The Mohigans only held a 7-0 halftime lead after Miller sneaked in from two yards out midway through the first quarter.

Morgantown fumbled away an opportunity to score on its first drive and then was stopped late in the first half, thanks to West’s goal-line stand and Brian Wagner’s blocked field goal attempt.

“I thought we controlled the entire first half, but we lost a lot of opportunities,” MHS head coach John Bowers said. “Really, we could have been ahead 21-0, 24-0 or even 28-0. We kept shooting ourselves in the foot.”

The Polar Bears squandered their lone scoring chance in the opening 24 minutes, not once, but twice.

Joey Buonaiuto dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone, then Johnathan Haun kicked a 39-yard field goal attempt wide left.

West managed just 55 offensive yards in the first half, compared to 185 for Morgantown.

While the Polar Bear defense continued to bail the offense out for much of the game, tailback Jerry Kelly finally found a running lane.

Late in the third quarter with West on its own 5-yard line, Kelly took Moore’s toss to the right, hit the hole and raced 95 yards to paydirt. That tied the game at 7-all with 2:08 left in the third.

“I wouldn’t say I saw that coming because I just take each run one step at a time,” said Kelly, who was limited to four yards on four carries in the first half. “The line opened something up for me, and I hit it.”

That put a charge in the Polar Bears, whose defense continued to stuff the Mohigans’ run game and hound Miller in the backfield.

Following another missed field goal by Haun — wide right on a 32-yarder — late in the fourth quarter, West’s defense got a three-and-out highlighted by Jeremy Ammons’ tackle for a loss.

Morgantown punted away, then interfered with Ryan Tennant on a fair catch, which placed West 37 yards away from the go-ahead score.

On the first play, Moore connected with Buonaiuto across the middle for 34 yards down to the MHS 3. Two plays later, Kelly plunged in from one yard out, giving West a 14-7 lead with 1:05 remaining in regulation.

Kelly finished with 116 yards on 14 carries with both scores while Moore completed just 8 of 25 passes for 135 yards and an interception.

“That Jerry Kelly is one tough son of a gun,” Bowers said. “And that quarterback is going to win a lot of games for them. Logan Moore is a great football player.”

Then it was Miller time.

Morgantown’s junior QB needed just four completions — two 31-yard passes to Daniel Strosnider — to march his offense 79 yards.

And on second down from the 14, Miller hit tight end Tyler Anderson on a fade route in the corner of the end zone for the equalizing touchdown with 22.5 seconds left.

“Defensively, we played the way we wanted to play for 47 minutes,” West head coach J.L. Abbott said. “Then on that last drive, we had a couple of guys get caught with their backs to the ball. It happens. It’s not supposed to, but it happens.”

In overtime, Moore threw an interception to Tyrell Rembert in the end zone on second down.

And Morgantown nearly gave it right back after Jeff Allen rumbled 17 yards before fumbling inside the five. But Carson Hott was there to save the day and recover the ball at the 3-yard line.

“Just before that play, I told Jeff not to fumble it,” said Miller, who completed 9 of 18 passes for 183 yards. “He still did, but we got it back and got the job done. We just weren’t going to lose tonight.”

From there Miller plunged in for the game-winning touchdown run.

“That’s the mark of a good man in the fact that Ben learned a little bit about last week’s game, took some adversity, applied it tonight, and was able to lead us down for the tying and winning scores,” Bowers said.

Morgantown improved to 2-1 overall and 1-0 in the NCAC after starting the day 0-2. But Martinsburg had to forfeit its first two victories — including one over MHS — because the Bulldogs used an ineligible player.

Meanwhile, West dropped to 1-2 overall and 1-1 in the NCAC after letting another win slip away late.

“It’s not one player’s fault tonight,” Abbott said. “There’s no excuses. We win as a team and we lose as a team. Everyone is responsible for this loss, and we’ll try and learn from it.”

E-mail Andrew Manzo at dmanzo@timeswv.com.

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