LEHMAN TWP. — Western Wayne never threw in the towel when its back was against the wall.
Its defense had to set up at the goal line early on? The Wildcats didn’t give up a nearly automatic touchdown, but rather fell on a fumbled snap.
A great Lake-Lehman punt pinned the offense at its own 8-yard line? Junior quarterback Matt Valanda and feature back Kobe Sauter smoothly navigated downfield for a 13-play, 92-yard touchdown drive.
Those game-changing moments and more put Western Wayne in front by halftime, and Sauter’s fantastic start to his senior season led the way from there. The Wildcats trailed only briefly in the first half and left Lake-Lehman’s black turf with a 30-20 victory Friday night in a Week 1 clash between District 2 Class 3A foes.
“The way that the line blocked, obviously we got some good kids running the ball behind them, but they created some great holes,” Western Wayne coach Randy Wolff said. “That’s a good, physical football team (in Lake-Lehman), so I’m just proud that we were able to meet that challenge.”
Western Wayne got to start the new season against the team that ended its 2017 District 2 postseason by a point in overtime.
Revenge came on the shoulders of Sauter, who ran through wide holes most of the night for 263 yards and two touchdowns. Zane Janisewski also punched in a touchdown carry, while Valanda broke open the scoring with a 19-yard pass to Derick Mason.
“They handled us up front,” Knights coach Jerry Gilsky said. “We were on our heels for the most part, offensively and defensively. They manhandled us.”
All the crucial moments seemed to tilt in Western Wayne’s favor. The team’s punt unit came out four snaps into the game, but a fake and direct snap eventually led to Mason’s score on a fourth-down screen pass.
The Wildcats then blocked a Lake-Lehman punt one possession, and on its next, they fell on the ball two yards from the end zone. Though Lehman later went up 7-6 for a moment, Western Wayne converted a pair of third downs as Janisewski put them ahead for good by halftime.
At the midway point, the Wildcats were 4-for-7 on third downs and 2-for-2 on fourth down tries.
Sauter kept Western Wayne rolling in the second half; his broken tackles on a 29-yard carry highlighted the 92-yard drive out of the break. He also set up a field goal with an interception and got the team in range for his last TD with a 55-yard sprint.
If the Black Knights came away with any bright spots, it’d be in Casey Kaminski and Ethan Adams.
Kaminski picked off a pass and also sparked the team with an 86-yard kickoff return touchdown.
Adams, a lefty sophomore, won the starting job at quarterback for Week 1 and showed off his arm late with a 57-yard touchdown completion to Kaminski. Adams went 3-for-11 for 96 yards with two touchdowns and two picks.
“Teams are going to see, hey, we’re not just dominant (with) running the ball now. We’re committed to throwing the ball a little more. I love his poise. I love his confidence. He didn’t compound mistakes.”
Though this isn’t a spot Lake-Lehman isn’t used to being in recently — it had won three straight season openers — Gilsky knows the season is young.
“You learn from it,” he said. In 2013, we lost our first game, and we won a district title.”
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