Horace Greeley Stays Unbeaten in Win Over Goshen Gladiators

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By Andy Jacobs
Horace Greeley quarterback Ryan Wohl is chased by a quartet of Goshen players during Friday night’s 21-7 Quaker home victory.

Horace Greeley football fans haven’t had much to cheer about in recent years, but on Friday night they packed the home bleachers under the lights and refused to let a pesky light rain dampen their enthusiasm.

That’s because the Quakers, new members of the Independent League, are suddenly playing winning football. Just months after enduring a winless spring season, Greeley cruised to its third straight victory to start the 2021 campaign, defeating the Goshen Gladiators 21-7 in a contest that seemed all but decided by halftime.

“Well, we’re still learning how to win. We’re not used to it,” said Quakers head coach Joe Kearns shortly after his team’s latest triumph, this one on Senior Night that was highlighted by 12th-grade quarterback Ryan Wohl’s two touchdown runs in the opening half. Another senior, running back Boden Bounds, added a third rushing TD as Greeley built a 21-0 halftime lead and never looked back.

Wohl scored on runs of eight yards midway through the first quarter and 25 yards early in the second, but it was his surprising and spectacular punt early in the game that seemed to set the tone for the evening. With the Quakers facing fourth-and-10 at their own 42-yard line on the first possession of the game, and seemingly intent on trying for an improbable first down, Wohl took the snap from center but then quickly booted the football away.

The ball rolled all the way down to the Gladiators’ 1-yard line, where it was downed by Greeley’s Connor Melis. On first down, Goshen, a Section 9 school in Orange County that was a late addition to the Quakers’ schedule, fumbled the ball and it squirted out of the end zone for a safety, giving Greeley an early 2-0 advantage.

“Yeah, that’s an unbelievable kick by our quarterback, who’s a tremendous player,” said Kearns of the 57-yard punt by Wohl. “It definitely gave us some momentum. It’s kind of amazing that a punt would give you that kind of momentum, but it definitely did.”

Melis returned the ensuing Goshen kickoff nearly to midfield and the Quakers promptly marched 51 yards in eight plays, sparked by Wohl’s fourth-and-two 25-yard pass completion to a wide-open Melis and capped off by Wohl’s eight-yard scamper around right end for the game’s first touchdown. The Quakers’ two-point conversion attempt failed, so they had to settle for an 8-0 lead with 6:09 left in the opening quarter.

Goshen managed to cross midfield late in the quarter but eventually turned the ball over on downs. The Quakers proceeded to go 54 yards on 10 plays, scoring again on Wohl’s 25-yard burst up the middle on a fourth down with five yards to go. One play earlier, he had connected on a key 10-yard pass to junior CJ Hessert. The point-after kick by Nate Tucker gave Greeley a 15-0 lead with 9:48 to go before halftime.

Greeley’s Owen Schoonmaker (left) and Nate Tucker await the next play against Goshen for a Quaker defense that only allowed one touchdown on Friday night.

Asked about the versatility of Wohl, who had completed passes to three different receivers on the Quakers’ first touchdown drive, Kearns said, “He’s unbelievable. He’s a dual-threat, and he’s a really smart kid. And he’s actually one of the nicest kids in the school. Everybody likes him because he knows how to treat people.”

The Gladiators responded by advancing the ball all the way down to the Greeley 23-yard line, but then the soggy conditions contributed to more adversity for Goshen. A bungled handoff sent the wet ball to the turf where it was recovered by the Quakers’ Ashton Samkoff at the Quaker 26. Bounds ran for 12 yards on first down, then Wohl bolted down the right sideline for 54 yards on a third-and-six play.

Bounds immediately followed by running right and lunging across the goal line for a four-yard touchdown. Tucker added the PAT and Greeley’s lead ballooned to 21-0 with 5:49 remaining in the half. The Quakers maintained their three-touchdown lead at halftime because a big Goshen threat stalled at the Greeley 10-yard line with a minute to go in the second quarter.
Though the Quakers never scored again the rest of the night, it hardly mattered. Goshen was kept off the scoreboard until a Greeley fumble early in the fourth quarter set up a 17-yard touchdown run by Michael Flores that turned out to be too little and late.

“As long as we win the game, I don’t care about the shutout,” said Kearns, who pointed out that his players had something to do with the Gladiators’ problems hanging onto the football.

“The fumbles definitely played a role,” he said. “But we also teach that. We rip for the ball. We’re trying to do that every week and this week we were able to get some takeaways, which was nice.”

Next for the surging Quakers is a Saturday evening game at Peekskill’s Torpy Field where they will try for a fourth consecutive win. Is Kearns surprised by what his players have done so far?

“I don’t know what to expect, ever,” he answered. “I’m happy to be 3 and 0, but I’m not satisfied. We’re not playing clean football yet, so we have more work to do.”

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