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Wolverines Drop Opener, 31-28
R.J. Bowers
Game Stats

GROVE CITY, PA, September 4, 1999--Despite R.J. Bowers’s (West Middlesex, PA/West Middlesex) 238-yard performance, the Wolverines could not overcome a 24-6 third-quarter deficit, as they fell to visiting Wooster, 31-28.

Bowers, in his first game since suffering a left ankle injury in the 1998 season finale, also posted three touchdowns, including a 69-yard scamper in the second quarter to put GCC on the board.

"I thought the more he played, the better he looked," 16th-year Wolverine head coach Chris Smith said. "As the game went on, I think our offense, as a whole, looked better."

"It was special to be back out there, but right now, I just wish we could have walked away with a win," Bowers said.

Midway through the first quarter, the Wolverines fell behind 7-0 when Wooster tailback Brock Wanless broke through two Wolverine tacklers and bulled into the end zone.

Following Bowers’s 69-yarder, the Fighting Scots countered by going 73 yards in only 58 seconds. First, Scot quarterback Justin Abraham connected with Reggie Ray on a 37-yard strike. On the ensuing play, Abraham found an open Chris Cabot down the seam for a 36-yard touchdown. Abraham, making his first career start, was not sacked on the afternoon by the GCC defense.

"They made it tough for us. They had a couple of big, quick tackles and they were pinching in on us," Smith lamented.

"We really did a great job, I thought, in the second quarter asserting some control," Wooster head coach Jim Barnes said. "We moved the chains a few times and that hurt their pass rush."

However, the Wolverines struck back quickly, marching down the field to the Wooster 8 with 8:00 left in the first half. Wooster’s highly-touted defense dug in and stopped Bowers twice on short-yardage plays, forcing Grove City to turn the ball over on downs. The Wolverines had already missed two field goals at that point of the contest.

The Scot offense drove into Grove City territory before their drive stalled at the Wolverine 45. Matt Mahaffey’s punt bounced at the two-yard line and was inadvertently kicked into the endzone by a member of Grove City’s punt return team. Wooster’s Mike Krackenberger pounced on the loose ball, resulting in a Scot touchdown. The Scots were ready to post another score in the final moments of the first half, but Grove City linebacker Adam Corbett (Champion, OH/Champion) intercepted Abraham’s pass in the endzone.

"It helped, it helped like crazy," Smith said regarding Corbett’s interception. "That was a big play." Although they could not convert at the end of the first half, the Scots held a ten-minute advantage in time of possession at halftime.

A Joe Zombek field goal early in the third quarter stretched the lead to 18 before Grove City began its comeback. In an attempt to keep the ball out of Bowers’s hands, Wooster squibbed the kickoff, giving the Wolverines the ball at midfield. Junior halfback Jack Gillespie (Imperial, PA/Montour) accounted for half of the 52 yards on the drive, while Bowers capped the possession with a five-yard jaunt into the endzone. Bowers also picked up the two-point conversion on a speed option from Steve Lacinski (New Kensington, PA/Valley), cutting the lead to ten.

"I thought (Grove City) had a very nice package this year," Barnes said. "They did a good job of moving R.J. around and they had some nice complimentary plays."

Grove City regained possession of the ball with 10:08 left in the contest when Burt Romanoff (Washington, PA/Trinity came up with the Wolverines’ third interception of the afternoon. On the third play of the drive, Lacinski and Gillespie hooked up on a 26-yard touchdown strike.

"When you play Grove City, you always want to give them a long field," Barnes said. "It was a very good game, back-and-forth."

After a holding penalty on Wooster put the Scots in a third-and-18 situation, Jay Myers’s leaping grab of an Abraham pass gained 32 yards and put the Scots at midfield. Wooster drove down to the GCC 7 before Wanless waltzed into the endzone. Wanless finished with 141 yards rushing.

Bowers’s third touchdown of the afternoon came with 1:42 left in the contest on an 11-yard run. However, Grove City’s onside kick attempt failed, allowing Wooster to run out the clock.

The 85-degree heat and shin splints did not deter Bowers from rushing the ball 34 times, slightly above his per-game average of 33 carries in 1998.

"I feel fine," Bowers said afterwards. "I will say I had to take myself out of the game a couple of times because of a lack of conditioning. Because of the shin splints I have, I haven’t been able to get as many wind sprints in at practice as I’d like."

Defensively, safeties Mike Kashurba (Latrobe, PA/Greater Latrobe) and Josh Sachleben (Ringtown, PA/North Schuylkill) led the Wolverines with 12 tackles. Linebacker Tony Kunczewski (Irwin, PA/Penn Trafford) recorded ten tackles. Cornerback Brock McCullough (Spruce, PA/Purchase Line) intercepted a pass, broke up two passes and added seven tackles.

Grove City hosts another member of the North Coast Athletic Conference next Saturday. Ohio Wesleyan visits Thorn Field. Kickoff is set for 1:30 pm. OWU is 7-0 all-time against Grove City.

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