Wooster 26, Grove City 17
Bowers rushed for 127 yards on 35 carries and both Wolverine touchdowns, one from two yards out, the other a one-yard plunge that trimmed Wooster's lead to 19-17 with 3:12 left in the third quarter. He also caught a 16-yard pass, returned a punt for four yards, and brought back three kickoffs for 117 yards, including a 65-yard scamper that set up Grove City's only other score, a 29-yard field goal off the foot of sophomore Ben Shreve (Union City, PA/Union City).
"R.J. played his heart out," said Wolverine head coach Chris Smith. "He gave us everything he had and then some."
Bowers' 264 all-purpose yards ranks second in school history behind his 341-yard effort last year against Bluffton. His 202.6 all-purpose yards per game in 1997 ranked fifth in Division III.
Wooster, ranked as high as sixth in national preseason polls, opened up a 12-0 lead on 22 and 11-yard touchdown passes from Rich Judd to Reggie Ray. Shreve's field goal and Bowers' two-yard touchdown run cut the margin to 12-10 at 2:27 of the second quarter. The Fighting Scots took a 19-10 lead into intermission when Mike Murray intercepted a Steve Lacinski (New Kensington, PA/Valley) pass and ran 31 yards to paydirt with two seconds left before halftime.
Wooster's Brock Wanless posted the game's final score on a 47-yard run from scrimmage with 1:27 left in the third quarter.
"What a hard-hitting football game," Smith added. "I thought we had a chance to take the lead on a couple of occasions but came up just short. I am very proud of the team and the coaches for their effort."
Defensively, senior linebacker Casey Creehan recorded a team-high nine tackles. Senior linebacker Ed Fox (Middletown, PA/Middletown) and sophomore cornerback Brock McCullough (Spruce, PA/Purchase Line) had seven stops apiece. Junior cornerback Jeremy Bowers (Hartville, OH/Lake) and freshman free safety Mike Kashurba (Latrobe, PA/Greater Latrobe) intercepted a pass each.
The Wolverines had won eight regular season games in a row since losing to Wooster in Week Two last season, 10-3.
Grove City plays at Ohio Wesleyan Saturday, September 12, at 1:30 p.m. Smith commented, "Wesleyan is a good football team. It will be a big challenge for us to play them at their field."
FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF PENNSYLVANIA PLAYERS
OF THE WEEK:
OFFENSIVE: R.J. Bowers (West Middlessex, PA/West Middlesex) ... sophomore fullback ... 6-1, 230 ... collected 264 all-purpose yards, including 127 yards rushing on 35 carries ... caught a 16-yard pass, returned three kickoffs for 117 yards, and had a four-yard punt return ... scored twice on runs of two yards and one yard ... set up the team's other score with a 65 yard kickoff return ... Coach Smith, "R.J. ran hard from beginning to end. He refused to let anyone beat him."
DEFENSIVE: Ed Fox (Middletown, PA/Middletown) ... senior outside linebacker ... 6-1, 225 ... recorded seven tackles, including 2-1/2 sacks and two others for loss ... also credited with four quarterback hurries ... Coach Smith, "Ed really had a great week of practice and it showed in the game. After missing the last part of the 1997 season, we were pleased to see Ed respond in a big way."
SPECIAL TEAMS: L.J. Gibb (Queens, NY/State College (PA)) ... senior defensive back ... 6-2, 200 ... Coach Smith, "L.J. played outstanding on special teams. He filled his assignments extremely well." ... Ben Shreve (Union City, PA/Union City) ... sophomore punter/kicker ... 5-10, 190 ... booted a 29-yard field goal and was 2-for-2 on extra points ... averaged 45.3 yards on six punts (long of 53 yards) ... Coach Smith, "Ben just had a super day kicking the football. He split the uprights when we need him to and boomed a couple of punts that helped the defense."
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