by Jason Herd
For the Pharos-Tribune
On Sept. 6, Frontier and Caston met in Fulton for their annual Midwest Conference clash.
Both teams were winless at the time and searching for an identity. The Falcons hadn’t won a game since Aug. 27, 2010.
Up 14-0 on the Comets at halftime, it looked as if that losing streak would finally end. But Caston stormed back with 21 unanswered points and stole a dramatic win.
In Friday’s sectional semifinal rematch, things began with eerie similarities. The Falcons took a 14-0 lead toward the end of the third quarter. But there was one difference. This time Frontier refused to let Caston back in, using an inspired defensive performance to beat Caston 27-0 and advance to the Sectional 42 final next week.
Both squads appeared to be prepared defensively, as offensive yards were few and far between for the majority of the first half. Frontier took possession on its fourth drive of the half at the Caston 44 and finally started putting things together. Junior Rhett Ezra carried the load, taking the Falcons deep into Comet territory with gains of 13 and 6 yards to the 14-yard line. Senior Brandon Gallinger found the end zone from 6 yards out to give Frontier its first and final lead at the 6:30 mark of the second.
Caston stuck to the run, which was the winning strategy in the first meeting. But the Falcons appeared to be well prepared this time, dropping Comet rushers in their tracks at every turn. The potent read option that has produced for Caston of late suddenly went stale. Whether it was a defensive tackle in the backfield or a linebacker blitzing an open gap, it looked like white jerseys were coming out of the woodwork, swarming Caston on every play.
Despite no offensive attack, the Comet defense stood tall for much of the first half, helped in part by several Falcon false start penalties. After a promising drive with big gains by Ezra and Garrett Bick, Caston junior Trey Young ended the drive with a tackle for loss at the Caston 34, forcing a punt.
The offense was stymied again and Caston punted the ball away, giving Frontier more good field position at the Comet 42. Junior quarterback Tyler Wireman dove into the end zone at the :37 mark of the third, putting the Falcons up 14-0. Frontier racked up 309 yards on the ground, compared to Caston’s 33.
With the rushing game grounded, senior quarterback Quentin Douglass went to the air, hitting Brayton Jellison for 8 yards, then Young for a 40-yard reception to the Frontier 20 as the fourth quarter began. A defensive pass interference penalty bailed the Comets out of a fourth down try, and they seemed poised to get points on the board from the Falcon 9. But Douglass bobbled the snap from center and Frontier recovered with 9:32 left in the game.
The back-breaking play took the last bit of hope out of the Comets, as Bick shot through the heart of the defense and scampered 83 yards for the decisive score just moments later. Bick would strike again after another failed Comet drive, taking the first handoff and scoring again from 21 yards out at the 6:18 mark of the final period.
Frontier will play Pioneer next Friday for the sectional championship and try to avenge a 47-13 home loss to the Panthers on Sept. 27. The Falcons have lost 15 straight games to Pioneer, dating back to the 2000 season.