By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item
MANDATA — Cory Warford broke away from the pile and down the right sideline in the fourth quarter, sprinting 50 yards and diving into the end zone. Warford brought his ‘A’ game to the Line Mountain backfield as the Eagles held off a resilient Phillipsburg-Osceola bunch for a 37-27 win Friday night.
“(The win) feels great,” Line Mountain coach Rodney Knock said. “To put 37 points up tonight feels really good. I’m happy for the kids.”
Ryan Reed was tasked with running an offense that won eight games a year ago and seemed to work himself into the role without much trouble, pulling the ball back when he needed to and finding the open man.
“Reed played great,” Knock said. “He put the ball right on the money, made some good reads on the option, ran hard. He’s a tough kid.”
Phillipsburg-Osceola hung within striking distance throughout a game, which was markedly different from a shutout Line Mountain win a year ago.
Facing an 18-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter with time working against them, Curtis Matsko found his touch from the shotgun for the Mounties. Matsko led the Mounties on a quick march down the field in less than three minutes.
A two-point conversion cut the lead to 10 points with 4:19 left.
Without the time to risk giving the ball back to Line Mountain, the Mountaineers attempted an onside kick, but Line Mountain quickly pounced on the ball to set up shop at midfield.
With Warford and Reed sharing carries for Line Mountain, it was a case of simply moving the chains a few times and calling in the victory formation.
Reed grabbed the reins under center for Line Mountain this season and a strong performance from Warford gave Reed an option in the backfield who could rarely be stopped.
Warford gashed the Phillipsburg-Osceola defense to the tune of 200 yards and three scores on 18 carries. When Line Mountain needed a first down or big run to stunt a momentum shift, Warford answered the call.
“I call (Warford) my horse, Knock said. “I like to feed the horse and he stepped up big for us tonight.”
Warford was quick to credit his offensive line for opening holes for him to run through, leading to his large day.
“I told my linemen this week, ‘I give them credit for every yard I get’ and I hold up to my word,” Warford said. “They get all the credit.”
The Mounties made a late run in the first half to pull within eight at the half. The deficit could have been smaller or no deficit at all if not for a clutch play by Line Mountain’s Zach Bobb with the Mounties knocking on the door with a few ticks remaining.
On a ball tipped in front of the end zone, Bobb dived and snagged the ball to cling to a lead heading into the locker room.
Warford’s impact was not limited to offense for Line Mountain, as he was a game-changer as a two-way player.
Early in the second quarter, Warford broke from his middle linebacker slot, intercepting the ball and scoring untouched to run the Line Mountain lead to 18-7.