*Cover photo credit: Joey Shupert/Southern Ohio Today
WHEELERSBURG — The Wheelersburg Pirates made a bold statement on their first play from scrimmage Saturday.
Quarterback Jake Gregg led Mathew Miller down field for a 60-yard touchdown strike en route to a 47-13 win over Portsmouth West in the second round of the Division V, Region 19 high school football playoffs at Ed Miller Stadium.
“We tried to set the tone early and wanted to come out and make a statement on the first play,” Miller said. “The line did a great job, and we have a great quarterback who can put the ball in the right place.”
Gregg, a 5-10 senior, threw for 141 yards and completed 10 of 16 passed with two touchdowns.
“Our goal was to come out fast and start off big,” Gregg said. “We were ready to play tonight. We just clicked and the line was amazing.”
Wheelersburg (5-1) kept the momentum rolling on the next possession when Derrick Lattimore bolted in on a 22-yard sprint with 6:22 to go in the quarter for the 13-0 lead.
The 5-7 sophomore rumbled for 125 yards and three touchdowns on eight carries.
“This is the best the line has played,” he said. “They did a great job getting me the holes I needed. We worked hard in practice all week and it showed.”
West (4-3) gave up the ball on the next drive when Drew Holsinger pounced on a fumble for the Pirates, who took over at midfield.
Five plays later, Eli Swords dove in from one yard out for a 19-0 lead.
The Senators turned the ball over four times, which resulted in four Wheelersburg scores.
“They played about as good as they could have tonight,” West Coach Bill Crabtree said. “They jumped out early and got ahead and we tried to battle back. But when you start turning the ball over and they take advantage of that, then you are in a bad situation and we dug ourselves in a big hole.”
West, the No. 14-seed, answered when quarterback Mitchell Irwin connected with Jeffrey Bishop on a seven-yard touchdown pass with 2:39 to go in the quarter to cut into the lead 19-6.
The duo would again score on a 43-yard touchdown pass with 4: 52 to go in the fourth quarter for the team’s only two touchdowns.
Irwin, a 5-11 sophomore, finished with 104 yards passing with two touchdowns and an interception.
The Pirates, the No. 3-seed, poured it on when Case Dyer galloped 31 yards into the end zone with 35 seconds left in the first quarter as the Pirates began to take control at 26-6.
With 8:26 to play in the half, Gregg again found Miller for an eight-yard TD strike.
“When I got through the hole the line made for me, all I had to do was beat the linebacker,” Dyer said. “I lowered my shoulder and used what power I had in this small build. Once I got past him, I saw Ian Fannin on the outside taking his guy inside and that opened it up for me.”
Lattimore’s second score came with 4:44 to go in the half on a four-yard plow over the goal line and Wheelersburg led 40-6. He later scored on a 28-yard sprint midway through the third.
“I saw a lot of things that we worked on this week where we got better,” said Wheelersburg Coach Rob Woodward. “We had the benefit of a few days off and we worked hard on a lot of things. Our conditioning is good, and we played with some extra pep tonight. I like the way they came off the ball on all areas. We need to keep this intensity going into next week.”
Wheelersburg will play host to Columbus Bishop Ready on Saturday in the Region 19 quarterfinals.