The Eagles played five 4A schools in the first six games. Wellsville returned just three starters on each side of the ball.
Wellsville opened the season 0-3, but righted the ship to go 6-1 since, including a convincing run through district and a 64-15 win Tuesday over Burlington in the 3A bi-district playoff game in Wellsville.
Wellsville (6-4) advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the second straight season. The Eagles play 2 p.m. Saturday at home against Caney Valley, which eliminated Galena. Last year Galena took out Wellsville in the second round of the playoffs.
Wellsville used the early part of the schedule to gain experience.
“We started playing well about the Anderson County game,” Wellsville coach Mark Luedtke said. “It kicked in from there. We had a tough start. We were inexperienced.”
The offense got rolling after the three losses where the Eagles averaged 12 points a game. Since then, Wellsville averaged 43 points a game. The 64 points was a season-best.
“We are playing as a team,” senior back Shane Hillman, who rushed for 217 yards and scored four touchdowns against the Wildcats, said. “The lineman have come together on offense. Everyone is blocking. We have some momentum going.”
“We all love the game,” he said. “We are playing for each other.”
Both teams wanted to run the ball, but the passing game is what got the offenses rolling in the playoff game. The first quarter was a feeling out period, but the two teams combined for 45 points in the second quarter. Most of the damage came on big passing plays.
Wellsville receiver Carter Mann caught two touchdown passes from Luke Meyer, who completed his four passes in the first half for 86 yards.
Burlington struck with a 76-yard touchdown pass and another 55-yard reception to set up the other score.
“Carter is a good receiver,” Hillman said. “He had size on them.”
Hillman said the secondary learned from those two long plays in the first half.
“We made a couple of mistakes,” he said. “We prepared for the wheel route. They tripped us up on that. We have a couple of young defensive backs.”
Wellsville did have two interceptions, including a 57-yard interception return from Kenneth Hopkins to close out the scoring.
“We focused on covering the flats,” Hillman said. “When we play that everything falls together.”
Wellsville went exclusively to the running game in the second half.
“Our wing went really well in second half,” Luedtke said.
The coach said Meyer has turned his game up a notch on both sides of the ball.
“He has become a great leader,” Luedtke said. “He has done great things with both his feet and his arm. He is a good inside linebacker.”
W — Hillman 13 run (pass failed).
W — Mann 12 pass from Meyer (Hillman pass from Meyer).
W — Mann 38 pass from Meyer (Meyer run).
B — Bemis 76 pass from Metzger (Whitworth kick).
W — Osbern 85 kickoff return (Meyer run).
W — Hopkins 10 run (run failed).
B — Ratzlaff 2 run (Lutz run).
W — Hillman 52 run (Hopkins pass from Meyer).
W — Hillman 44 run (pass failed).
W — Hillman 40 run (run failed).
W — Hopkins 57 interception return (Meyer run).