Down by 12 at halftime against Greece Athena, Victor football coach Geoff Mandile asked his team who would be the spark his team needed.
On a wet, soggy day, sparks came from a number of Blue Devils in the second half to ignite a 22-12 win over the Trojans Saturday afternoon at Greece Athena High School in a Monroe County Division 2 match-up.
Victor (2-1) overcame three first-half turnovers — an interception and two fumbles — thanks to a blocked punt and a powerful running game in the second half.
The first turnover came early in the first quarter, when the Trojans' Josh Dailey made a sliding interception of Victor quarterback Mike Wagner on the second play from scrimmage. It was Wagner's first of only 10 pass attempts.
"We threw the interception on a back-foot throw," Mandile said.
Two plays later, Athena junior Signory Kapend, who rushed 17 times for 122 yards, dashed down the left sideline for a 65-yard touchdown. An extra point missed wide right made it 6-0.
Athena struck again on its next drive on a 41-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Jamie Trimboli, who was 7 of 11 for 115 yards, to Jake Wiegand, who was sprung by Tim Vara's key block. The Trojans' failed their two-point conversion attempt to make the score 12-0.
The Trojans held the Blue Devils in check for the first half by recovering two fumbles — one by junior defensive end Brandon Pruitt with 8:15 left in the second quarter, and another by Wiegand with 6:09 left in the half.
Then the sparks came for Victor.
With Athena punting from their own 32-yard line, Victor's Kyle Collins busted through the offensive line to block it, which the Blue Devils recovered at the 6-yard line.
Two plays later, sophomore Dan Barrow gave the Blue Devils their first score of the game on a 6-yard touchdown run. Victor made the extra point to make it 12-7.
Athena head coach Rob Cerone, in his 19th year, credits Collins' blocked punt as a major turning point.
"It's important to get momentum in high school football," he said. "Momentum changed for us after that."
The momentum continued in Victor's favor with its powerful running game. The rushing attack wore on Athena's defense, something Cerone attributes to his players going both ways.
Mandile, in his third season as Victor head coach, said he has many options when running the football.
"Mike (Wagner) might be our main guy, but we have a bunch of other guys — Mike Kahovec, Dan Barrow, and Pat Barrow — who contribute to our running game," he said.
Cerone would agree.
"It was the tale of two halves," Cerone said. "... We had trouble stopping the run in the second half."
Page 2 of 2 - Wagner led the way with 22 carries for 116 yards, Pat and Dan Barrow rushed eight times for 36 yards and 20 yards, respectively, and Kahovec rushed 10 times for 23 yards. Victor out rushed Athena 226-87 because three Trojans had negative yardage.
The Blue Devils used that rushing attack to mount a nearly 5-minute drive from their own 18-yard line, in which Wagner scored on a 2-yard quarterback keeper to give Victor its first lead of the game. Dan Barrow's 2-point conversion made it 15-12.
With 3:51 remaining, Victor sophomore Mike DeMarco intercepted Trimboli's pass on first down at the 35-yard line, one play after an energizing 20-yard run by Kapend.
DeMarco's interception return gave the Blue Devils excellent field position at the 16-yard line. Athena's defense held strong inside the red zone and forced a turnover on downs.
The Trojans got the ball back at their own 15-yard line with 2:35 remaining, and trailing by a field goal. Collins' sack of Trimboli on first down for Victor, a 5-yard completion to Dailey, and two incomplete passes thwarted Athena's comeback.
After Athena (2-1) turned the ball over on downs, Victor maintained possession for the remainder of the game. On fourth-and-goal with 8 seconds left, Wagner rushed up the middle for a touchdown. The extra point was good, making it 22-12.
The Blue Devils host Eastridge at 7 on Friday, and the Trojans visit Churchville-Chili (2-1) Friday at 7.