VALE — West Lincoln head coach Tom Sain said the Rebels’ special teams were a concern for him before Friday’s football season opener against Valdese Draughn, but junior Daniel Schesny’s performance should put those fears to rest.
Schesny, at 6-foot, 175 pounds, returned two kicks for touchdowns and sparked the Rebels to a spectacular come-from-behind victory over the Wildcats, 28-21.
“He did that on junior varsity a lot,” Sain said. “He did a good job on special teams for us tonight. That was good, especially to come off of a junior varsity team and do that in his first varsity game.”
Schesny returned a kickoff 87 yards down the right sideline, with a little help from his blockers, to cut Draughn’s lead to 13-7 with 9:30 left before halftime. He then touched off West Lincoln’s 21-point second-half rally with a 79-yard punt return that left Draughn holding a short-lived 21-14 advantage with 7:52 left in the third quarter.
“Momentum is big,” Sain said. “Any time you can get it on your side, you have to capitalize on it. I think once the guys felt that, it gave the offense a boost of energy.”
The Rebels (1-0) outscored the Wildcats 21-0 in the second half and survived a late-game Draughn (0-1) drive into the West Lincoln red zone to seal the victory. Senior quarterback Miguel Corella followed up Schesny’s punt return with a 62-yard scoring run down the right sideline with just over two minutes left in the third quarter, and senior fullback Daniel Davila capped an 11-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Rebels their first lead of the game at 28-21 with 3:21 left to play.
Draughn senior Gavin Morton took the ensuing kickoff 52 yards and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty levied against the Rebels set up the Wildcats at the West Lincoln 16. Draughn senior Donnie Patton took a carry on third-and-2, but the Rebels forced a fumble and came up with the ball. Four plays later, Corella took a knee to close out the game for their fourth season-opening win in the last five seasons.
The Wildcats struck first with a 26-yard scoring run by Dominique Patterson with 2:29 left in the first quarter. A pair of 1-yard runs by Patton in the second quarter lifted Draughn to a 21-7 halftime lead.
“It was challenge at halftime,” Sain said. “We were down 21-7 but we made some adjustments. We went in and talked about what we needed to do to improve, what would make us better. The guys came out and executed and we got a few breaks. The heart of this team impressed me. They have will and determination and they came out in the second half and put it all together. They never quit. They got better at halftime and make the decision that they were ready to play.”
Davila led West Lincoln’s ground attack with a game-high 18 carries for 70 yards. Corella logged 12 carries for 61 yards. Morton led Draughn with nine carries for 60 yards.
West Lincoln travels to North Lincoln this week. The Wildcats host Freedom.