WELLSVILLE - Before the Wellsville football team took to Nicholson field for its seasone opener against Toronto on Friday, Bob Thayer, the coach of Wellsville's 1994 state runner-up team, offered words of encouragement for the 2014 squad.
"Just play Wellsville football," senior running back Zack Mellott said. "Go out and play hard-nosed Wellsville football and do good."
The talk worked. Mellott's two touchdowns, along with a 81-yard run from junior quarterback Alik Bradford lifted the Tigers to a 24-7 victory.
The Tigers relied heavily on its running game for its points, with Mellott leading with 163 yards in 23 carries and two touchdowns.
"I'm a little sore," Mellott said. "I don't feel too bad. We won though, and it feels good."
Bradford also made an impact in rushing as he went 114 yards in nine carries, including an 81-yard touchdown run to seal the deal in the fourth quarter.
"That 81-yard touchdown run really helped us," Mellott said.
The defense also made a difference as the Tigers closed down the Knights.
"We played real good defense, especially in the beginning since it took them so long to get the first down," Mellott said.
Along with Mellott and Bradford's performance, Vinny Giordano also made an impact as he went 21 yards in his one carry. Despite Friday's action from the three, coach Rich Wright looks to see involvement from other players.
"Mellott's played a lot of football," Wright said. "We got to get those other guys going. I thought Bradford grew up tonight, and we got a great effort from a lot of the younger players."
Along with Thayer providing the early pep talk, Wright mentioned the closeness between the players from 1994 and today, and how Thayer's motivation helped the team.
"A lot of our guys know those guys because they're related," Wright said. "Coach Thayer came out and told us to play Tiger football, and I thought we did."
The Red Knights (0-1) thought deferring to the second half would work in their favor, but struggling on offense early on, the Tigers took advantage of the Knights' mistakes.
"We got outplayed, probably outcoached. Either way I'm disappointed," Toronto coach Eric Meek said. "We didn't connect in our passing game. They shut our run down."
The Red Knights thought the tide may have turned a little bit in the second quarter when quarterback Blaze Glenn's six-yard touchdown run put the game within five points, only for the Tigers to get two more
"We thought deferring would've helped us," Meek said. "We wanted the ball first in the second half, and coming in 12-7, I felt pretty confident."
In terms of passing, Glenn went 13-for-28 and threw for 179 yards, while Drew Lowery led in rushing with just 17 yards in four carries, and Charles Ross III had 51 yards in his four catches.
The Tigers are on the road next Saturday as they take on Youngstown Christian, which will be played at Poland High School.
W-Frank Jackson 11 pass from Alik Bradford (run failed).
W-Zack Mellott 76 run (run failed).
T-Blaze Glenn 6 run (Danny Zdinak kick).
W-Zack Mellott 26 run (pass failed).
W-Alik Bradford 81 run (run failed).
First downs 912
Total Yards 195368
RUSHING-Toronto, Drew Lowery 4-17, Blaze Glenn 10-15, Max Tice 1-4, Danny Zdinak 3-2, Charles Ross III 6-(-10), Blaine Rawson 1-(-12) ; Wellsville, Zack Mellott 23-163, Alik Bradford 9-114, Vinny Giordano 1-21, TyShawn Franklin 6-16, Branzen Gradhaus 2-9, Frank Jackson 1-3, Andre Sloan 1-1.
PASSING-Toronto, Blaze Glenn 13-27-179-0, Blaine Rawson 0-1-0-0; Wellsville, Alik Bradford 2-7-41-0.
RECEIVING-Toronto, Charles Ross III 4-51, Ty West 2-47, Danny Zdinak 1-31, Donnie Starkey 1-15, Nate Stewart 1-7, Blain Rawson 1-11, Drew Lowery 3-10; Wellsville, Frank Jackson 2-41.
INTERCEPTIONS- Toronto, none ; Wellsville, none.
FUMBLE RECOVERIES-Toronto, Jovan Householder.