Ward puts on a show in Canton’s exciting loss

CANTON — Solving a complicated calculus question might be easier than picking the most impressive catch Timmy Ward made Saturday afternoon.

There was the diving 27-yard reception as two defenders smothered him. There was the Odell Beckham-like one-handed grab that produced another first down. Or there was the 13-yard touchdown catch on fourth down where Ward caught the ball over two defenders and kept his feet in bounds, NFL style.

Ward put on a show Saturday at Miller A. Moyer Field and the Canton playmaker nearly helped will his team to an improbable comeback. Ward caught 13 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns while also returning a fumble 67 yards for a score, but Wyalusing held off a furious comeback, knocked down a pass at the goal line as time expired and escaped Canton with a 25-21 win.

Wyalusing won the game, but Ward stole the show. Only a sophomore, Ward announced to District 4 what a weapon he can be.

“Everybody in the stadium knew where we were going and it didn’t matter. He just makes plays,” Canton coach Tyler Sechrist said. “He’s that kind of kid.”

“I did it for my team. I wouldn’t have gotten open if we didn’t have those other wide receivers running those routes and opening me up,” Ward said. “It gave (quarterback) Michael Smithers better opportunities to show what he could do for college recruiters and it was a blast.”

Canton (0-2) opened a 13-0 first-quarter lead as Ward caught a 41-yard touchdown before ripping the ball away from a receiver and going 67 yards untouched nearly four minutes later. But Wyalusing (2-0) scored the next 25 points and took a 12-point lead with 9 minutes, 41 seconds remaining. That is when Ward really went into overdrive. Over the last 10 minutes, Ward caught six passes for 137 yards and his acrobatic 13-yard touchdown cut the deficit to 25-21.

Wyalusing nearly put the game away two series later, but Nick May recovered a fumble at the Warrior 5-yard line, giving Canton one last shot with 2:49 remaining and no timeouts. Ward made a super 27-yard catch on 3rd-and-long, then did his Beckham impersonation for 23 more yards on 3rd-and-12. Smithers (265 yards) found freshman Ben Knapp for 12 yards and a 5-yard face mask penalty gave Canton a first down at the Rams 30-yard line. Disaster then struck as three penalties and a sack forced Canton into a 4th-and-32 from its own 47-yard line.

Against the odds, Ward slipped behind the defense and Smithers made a brilliant play. The junior quarterback rolled right and made a 37-yard throw while being pulled as Canton moved to the 10-yard line with 12 seconds left. Smithers ran for five yards on the next play, giving the Warriors the ball at the 5-yard line with three seconds left. Wyalusing hurried Smithers on the final play and the secondary covered well as his pass toward the right side of the end zone was knocked away.

Still, going 90 yards against a good defense and against difficult circumstances spoke volumes. While those watching learned that Ward could be quite a player, Canton learned it could be quite a team moving forward.

“We learned we can play with some of these better teams,” Ward said. “This is a turning point for our program. We now know we can play with anyone we want to. Last year we really bond as a team as much. This year we’re brothers. We love each other, we would do anything for each other and this just makes it that much better.”

Canton starts only two seniors but made big strides in just one week despite playing without last year’s leading receiver and second-leading tackler Levi Gaiotti. The Warriors repeatedly made big plays whenever it looked like Wyalusing was pulling away and kept fighting back when things looked bleak a week after losing 64-12 at Wellsboro.

May and Uriah Bailie both recovered fumbles inside the 10-yard line and Bailie also intercepted a pass. Smithers made 10 tackles, Dennis Saar and Kaden Martell combined for four tackles for loss and Smithers made some big throws under heavy pressure. The loss stung, but it in a wide-open District 4 Class A field, Canton showed it could become dangerous.

“It makes you feel a lot better walking off the field as a coach even if you lose when you battle like that,” Sechrist said. “When your guys do that and drive 90 yards at the end when it’s easy to just give up, especially after last week, that shows a lot. We drilled into their heads that we have to play 100 percent every play and they fought and I’m proud of them. We just need to keep fighting and I think our day is coming.”

Wyalusing fought back as well, scoring 19 straight second-quarter points and turning a 13-point deficit into a 19-13 halftime lead. Quarterback Calvin Burke threw for 135 yards and two touchdowns while also running for a team-high 83 yards and catching a 9-yard touchdown pass. Burke hit Connor Barton with a 51-yard touchdown and Riley Good with a 9-yard scoring strike as Wyalusing took its first lead with 15 seconds remaining in the first half.

The Rams slowed Canton’s offense in the middle quarters, but never figured out a way to stop Ward. The sophomore receiver, who also can play running back, was the Canton offense most of the afternoon, producing 249 of its 302 yards, never dropping a pass and turning 9 of his 13 catches into first downs and/or touchdowns. Ward’s 13 catches were tied for the second-highest by an area receiver in the 2000s and his 249 yards were only 18 from breaking the 2000s record.

“He’s just a great athlete,” Sechrist said. “He’s just one of those guys you go to.”

Wyalusing 25, Canton 21

Wyalusing 0 19 0 6–25

Canton 13 0 0 8–21

First Quarter

C–Timmy Ward 41 pass from Michael Smithers (Curtis Lammy kick), 10:15

C–Ward 67-yard fumble return (kick failed), 6:34

Second Quarter

W–Carl Gowin 5 run (Domanick Otis kick), 9:49

W–Connor Barton 51 pass from Calvin Burke (kick blocked), 4:09

W–Riley God 9 pass from Burke (pass failed), :15

Fourth Quarter

W–Burke 9 pass from Shane Fuhrey (kick failed), 9:41

C–Ward 13 pass from Smithers (Ward pass from Smithers), 8:03

TEAM STATISTICS

W C

First Downs 19 12

Rushes-yards 38-221 23-37

Passing yards 192 265

Comp-Att-Int 17-28-1 15-40-2

Fumbles-lost 3-3 1-1

Penalties-yards 10-95 9-56

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING–Wyalusing, Calvin Burke 9-83; Shane Fuhrey 7-57; Carl Gowin 9-44, TD; Riley God 4-18; Domanick Otis 6-10; Jon Morrison 3-9. Canton, Michael Smithers 17-44; Timmy Ward 2-(-3); Cody Williams 4-(-4).

PASSING–Wyalusing, Burke 10-19-1, 135 yards, 2 TDs; Fuhrey 7-9-0, 57 yards. Canton, Smithers 15-39-2, 265 yards, 2 TDs; Uriah Bailie 0-1-0.

RECEIVING–Wyalusing, Morrison 6-50; Conor Barton 4-70, TD; Kasar Cameron 2-39; God 2-11, TD; Burke 1-9, TD; Will Martin 1-7; Otis 1-6. Canton, Ward 13-249, 2 TDs; Ben Knapp 2-16.

INTERCEPTIONS–Wyalusing, Barton, Martin. Canton, Bailie.

RECORDS–Wyalusing 2-0. Canton 0-2.

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