The Wheel deal: Bears take the fifth from Patriots
For the first time in the storied 50-year history of the Wagon Wheel Trophy game between Noland Road rivals William Chrisman and Truman, a team has claimed the prize for a fifth straight time.
And coach Matt Perry’s Bears knew they had done just that the minute the final seconds ticked off the clock Thursday night at Staley High School – where the game was played to accommodate more fans – as they crowded around the trophy and displayed five fingers, indicating their 21-10 victory over the Patriots was one for the record book.
The Bears also took a 26-24 lead in the overall regular season series (31-27 overall, including district playoffs).
“I don’t know if I’ve ever felt this good following a game,” said senior running back Mason Walters, whose 4-yard touchdown run capped a dramatic 98-yard drive late in the fourth quarter to help the Bears (1-4) secure their first win of the season.
“When I made it into the end zone, I knew we had won,” Walters added. “There were just a couple of minutes (2:06) left in the game and we had an 11-point lead and we weren’t going to let them get back in the game.
“I don’t know where I’m going to wind up in this lifetime, but as I find out, I’m never going to forget this moment or forget this win. It was a team win that none of us will ever forget.”
The same could be said for junior offensive lineman James Blair, who joined his linemates on the drive of a lifetime.
“We got the ball on our own 2-yard line with about 10 minutes left in the game and just drove down the field – it was perfect,” Blair said. “When Mason scored, we were all so happy. We made the blocks and our running backs did the rest.”
Chrisman’s running backs even got in on some trickery as Sir’Rahn Felix took a pitch from quarterback Dayne Herl and found an all-alone D’Muari Franklin for an 80-yard touchdown pass to knot it 7-7 just two minutes after the Patriots scored their lone touchdown on a 27-yard run by Dimitri Smith.
“Yeah, I got a little advice from Dayne on how to throw the football,” said Felix, knowing the junior quarterback was within earshot. “It’s a play we’ve been working on and our coaches picked the right time to break it out. Truman didn’t have any idea we were going to throw that pass and we caught them off guard.”
Herl then hit Kameron Thompson on a 59-yard bomb to make it 14-7 at 8:26 of the first quarter.
Herl said all members of the Bears knew the importance of the big win.
“All our guys know how big this win is,” said Herl, who joined his older brother Dawson – who was on the sidelines Thursday night – as a Bears quarterback to win a Wagon Wheel Trophy game. “Our line was great, our running backs and wide receivers were great and our defense got the job done. Our coaching staff had a great plan and we were able to get one of our biggest wins tonight.”
Truman made the game interesting when Josh Dixon kicked a 23-yard field goal at 2:35 of the fourth quarter, but Walters’ late touchdown and Devin Callahan II’s touchdown in the final seconds allowed the Bears to hoist the prized trophy following the game.
While the Bears were posing for photos with fans and family members, Truman coach Charlie Pugh was quietly collecting his thoughts on the Truman sideline.
“This one was tough,” said Pugh, whose Patriots are 0-5, “really tough.”
Bears coach Matt Perry was thrilled to see the joy on the faces of his team as they celebrated what might be their biggest win this season. The Bears had lost standout defensive back and running back Osi Nauer for the season to an injury.
“When guys work as hard as our guys work, you want to see them rewarded with a victory,” Perry said, “and we got that victory tonight.”