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The West Prairie-La Harpe Cyclone football team kicked off their 2006 season by rallying in the second half to defeat the visiting Pleasant Plains Cardinals 21-7.
An ugly, 3 turnover first half performance had WP-LH trailing at half 7-6. The Cyclones made some adjustments and stepped it up in the final 24 minutes to post the victory.
The game started well for WP-LH as an early interception by junior safety Skyler Pence gave the Cyclone offense great field position on their opening possession. WP-LH failed to capitalize however when they gave the ball right back to the Cardinals with a fumble of their own on first and goal.
After a Plains drive deep into Cyclone territory ended on downs WP-LH put together a nice drive of their own. Using 10 plays to cover about 85 yards, the Cyclones finally got on the scoreboard early in the 2nd period on a 14 yard keeper by junior QB Bryan Rodeffer. The PAT kick was partially blocked setting the early Cyclone advantage at 6-0.
The rest of the half saw both teams move the ball, but self-destruct at key points. WP-LH used a 37 yard run by senior Matt Woolam to get inside the Plains' 15 yard line, but then were turned away by an interception.
With about 20 seconds remaining in the half West Prairie-La Harpe took over near midfield. Trying to make something happen they fumbled the ball away to their guests. Plains then seized this opportunity. A deep pass got the ball inside the Cyclone 10 yard line and then the next play saw the Cardinal's QB scramble out of trouble and hit a receiver going away on the backside for the TD. The successful PAT kick gave Plains a 7-6 halftime advantage.
WP-LH then came out of the break and stumbled on their first possession and had to punt. Plains was forced to punt it right back, when the Cyclone defense started to stiffen. Three plays later, senior halfback Joel DeCounter gave the Cyclones back the lead with a 51 yard run on a simple drive play. Rodeffer's run for the 2 point try was good and gave WP-LH a 14-6 advantage.
Plains then came back with a nice drive in the 4th period deep into Cyclone territory. WP-LH came up with the big stop this time. However, senior linebacker Brian Butterfield picked off an errant Cardinal pass by snatching it away from the receiver. Seven plays later, Butterfield would ramble 58 yards from his fullback slot to score the final Cyclone TD. Matt Woolam tacked on the successful PAT kick for the final 21-6 margin.
The Cyclones outgained the Cardinals 387 yards to 204 total yards. WP-LH picked up 334 yards on the ground in 42 attempts and added 53 yards on Rodeffer's 4 of 5 passing night. DeCounter was the top ground gainer with 114 yards on 14 carries, but the Cyclones also got 95 yards from Woolam, 81 from Butterfield, and 36 from Rodeffer.
DeCounter also caught 2 passes for 26 yards, while Butterfield caught one for 11. Senior tight end Tyler Sharpe also added a big first down catch for 16 yards to help the Cyclone offense. Rodeffer finished 4 of 5 passing with the one interception.
The Cyclone offensive line played well at times as the yardage totals show, but must strive for a more consistently high-level of performance. Playing up front for WP-LH were seniors Evan Wisely (center), Brice James (tackle), Justin Ward (tackle), Tyler Sharpe (tight end), and juniors Roger James (gu1ard), Dustin Perry (guard), Jason Coplan (tight end) and Skyler Pence (tight end). Zach Doscher also came off the bench to log a lot of time in a reserve role.
The Cyclone defense also was a bit up and down in a somewhat uneven performance. They held Plains to 4 of 15 passing, but gave up some big plays on the completions. Likewise, the run defense did well at times but needed a more consistent push up front and better involvement from the linebackers.
The Cyclone tackle chart was led by junior safety Skyler Pence and junior defensive end Brytton Mason with 10 tackles each. Senior Brice James came in to give the defensive line a lift with 7 tackles in a reserve role. Also on the tackle chart with at least two tackles each were linemen, Evan Wisely, Justin Ward, Jared Schwerer, and Keith Rittenhouse; linebackers, Dustin Derry, Brian Butterfield, Matt Woolam, and Tyler Sharpe. plus secondary Joel DeCounter, and Derrick Daudelin.
The Cyclones return to action on this Friday night when they travel to Hamilton to take on the West Hancock Titans. The Titans are 1-0 and ranked #10 in Class 3-A. They beat Unity 56-0 last Friday night. The kick-off is set for 7:00 p.m.