Opening night delight
WELLSVILLE–Coming into the season, the Beaver Local football team was in search of playmakers after losing over three quarters of their production to graduation.
Following Thursday’s season-opener at Wellsville, they appear to have found one.
Senior wideout/defensive back Donovan Garcia made his imprint felt on offense, defense and special teams with three touchdowns and an interception in the first half as the Beavers pulled away from the Tigers for a 35-6 victory at Nicholson Stadium.
Garcia got the scoring started with a 15-yard touchdown reception from Ethan Lewis in the first quarter.
After thwarting a Tiger drive with an interception early in the second quarter, he gave the Beavers a comfortable margin with a 61-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 42-yard touchdown reception right before halftime.
“We knew we needed some new guys to step up after losing the guys that we did,” Garcia said. “It feels great to start this way. I wanted to come out and make a statement my senior year.”
Despite Beaver holding a considerable field position advantage most of the night, the Wellsville defense was hanging tough throughout the first half. The score was still only 7-0 with 3:37 left in the second quarter before Garcia helped change the game in a heartbeat.
He collected the punt of Quinton Burgess at the Beaver Local 39, slipped a couple of tackles and was off to the races, making it 14-0.
“At that point, the team was really needing someone to step up and provide a boost,” Garcia said. “Things weren’t really happening for us at that point. I was glad I could give everyone a spark.”
On the ensuing drive, Wellsville quarterback Troy Carter faced heavy pressure from Beaver Local’s Christian Lerussi and flung up an interception to Beaver Local defensive lineman Nick Wukotich.
One play later, Garcia took a screen pass from quarterback Ethan Lewis, slipped a defender and exploded up the middle for a 42-yard touchdown.
“I have to thank the offensive line on that one,” Garcia said. “We’ve been working on that play a lot and they executed great. I just cut up the middle and had blockers all the way.”
“Donovan stepped his game up,” Beaver Local coach Mike McKenzie said. “He’s made tremendous strides and has become the playmaker we’ve always known he could be. Tonight hopefully he gained a lot of confidence.”
The Beavers alternated between junior Ethan Lewis and sophomore Tanner Johnston at quarterback most of the night. Lewis finished 5-for-10 with 145 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Johnston stuck primarily to the ground and had a solid night with 74 rushing yards on eight carries, to go with several pass breakups on defense.
“When we want to do certain things, I think each guy brings a bit of a different look,” McKenzie said. “Tanner obviously in more of a run guy and Ethan is more of a pass guy. I think they both did a good job tonight.”
The Tigers never threatened in the second half and struggled to gain traction offensively much of the night.
Carter finished 7-for-21 for 102 yards and three interceptions. Derrick Suggs was largely bottled up on the ground and finished with 36 yards on 17 carries. The Tigers lone score came late in the fourth quarter on a 42-yard run by Darien Suggs.
“The Suggs boys are tremendous athletes and Carter has one of the strongest arms we’ll see this year,” McKenzie said. “I was proud of the way we handled them tonight. I thought we took great angles to the ball.”
“We have to play harder, we have to fight for each other,” Wellsville coach Moose Ramsey said. “If we don’t execute, we can’t win. Our offensive line has to play better and we have to take care of the ball.”
Beaver Local hosts West Branch next week, while Wellsville travels to Edison.
“We have a lot of little things we have to work on,” McKenzie said. “We had some stretches where we were pretty sloppy tonight and we just have to be cleaner in every phase of the game.”
¯ Running back Garrett Givens, the lone returning starter on offense, finished with 63 rushing yards on nine carries and a touchdown. Junior running back Jacob Kane added an electrifying 85-yard gain on a screen pass in the second half.
¯ The parking money from the game was donated to benefit the family of Lauren Thomas, a Beaver Local junior volleyball player who suffered a stroke while participating at a volleyball camp in July.
¯ The game was also dedicated to the memory of former Wellsville student Ethan Ferguson, who was killed last March after being accidentally struck by a train in East Palestine.
Ferguson was a member of the 2017 Wellsville football team and had transferred to East Palestine shortly before his death. A moment of silence was held prior to kickoff.
BEAVER LOCAL: 7-14-0-14–35
WELLSVILLE: 0- 0-0- 6– 6
B –Donovan Garcia 15 pass from Ethan Lewis (Chase Flati kick)
B –Donovan Garcia 61 punt return (Flati kick)
B–Donovan Garcia 42 pass from Ethan Lewis (Flati kick)
B–Tanner Johnston 6 run (Flati kick)
B–Garrett Givens 7 run (Flati)
W–Darien Suggs 42 run (kick failed)
First downs 13 7
Total Yards 389 209
Rushes-yards 36-228 28-17
Passing 161 102
Comp-Att-Int 6-15-0 7-21-3
Punts 4-32 7-3
Fumbles-Lost 4-1 1-1
Penalties-Yards 9-75 7-45
RUSHING–Beaver Local, Tanner Johnston 8-74, Garrett Givens 9-63, Devon Salsberry 4-83 ; Wellsville, Darien Suggs 2-37, Derrick Suggs 17-36.
PASSING–Beaver, Ethan Lewis 5-10-145-0, Tanner Johnston 1-5-16-0; Wellsville, Troy Carter 7-21-102-3.
RECEIVING–Beaver Local, Jacob Kane 1-85, Donovan Garcia 2-57, Garrett Givens 2-19; Wellsville, Derrick Suggs 4-81, Darien Suggs 2-15.
INTERCEPTIONS–Beaver Local, Donovan Garcia, Nick Wukotich, Garrett Givens.
FUMBLE RECOVERIES–Beaver Local, Daniel Wirth; Wellsville, Jason Tice.