Breakthrough win exceeds West Shamokin expectations
From the perspective of a few, West Shamokin football's first win since 2007 went even better than expected.
“I didn't expect to get over 100 yards rushing,” said sophomore Andrew Wingard, who gained 142 yards on the ground after accumulating 43 through two weeks.
“I didn't think I'd be the quarterback,” said junior Brady Cornman, who switched from wide receiver to the spot he had as a sophomore to fill in for injured sophomore Alex Lasslo. “It's not my chosen position. But I'm not going to lie: I felt comfortable back there.”
“I didn't think I'd be kicking extra points,” said junior Austin Bussard, who accepted the responsibility after Lasslo suffered a concussion in Week 2 and put the football through the uprights once last Friday.
Unanticipated joys only added to the thrill of West Shamokin's 25-6 home win over Eastern Conference foe Riverview, which ended a WPIAL-record 46-game losing streak. The Wolves entered the season confident that they'd earn a victory. But their ability to do it with an all-around team effort and in the face of injury-created adversity sweetened the moment that much more.
“I'd sat a lot of times in my car and thought about (the win that would end the streak),” coach Josh Gilliland said. “I guess I'm glad it wasn't close and nerve-wracking. But it still felt close.
“We were living on a high.”
The buzz started that night, and it lasted well through the weekend.
“I just kept thinking about it,” Bussard said. “You'd hear a certain word on TV or hear someone talk about football, and emotions would start going again.”
The ability to describe those emotions remains elusive for both the Yellowjackets and their fourth-year coach, Josh Gilliland. The boys and Gilliland more easily explained how their family members, friends and fans showered them with congratulations.
“My phone was blowing up Friday night from everyone that heard about it,” said Gilliland, who even received a call from Lance McCullough, a friend from their days at Kittanning High School who now lives in California. “I was getting texts from people I didn't even know. I just kept answering, ‘Thank you' again and again.”
Even when the phone stopped ringing, the adrenaline stilled flowed through the Wolves. Cornman said he went to bed around 6 a.m. — then he woke up around 9 a.m. and attended the West Shamokin youth football games at Shannock Elementary, where even more excitement awaited.
Cornman and Wingard roamed the sidelines as future West Shamokin players — all between the ages of 7 and 12 — squared off against teams from Redbank Valley. And everywhere they turned, adults offered hands to shake and words of encouragement.
Fellow students seemed just as eager to acknowledge the feat on Monday.
“I didn't know that many people would come up and congratulate us,” Wingard said.
“Three-fourths of the school congratulated us,” Cornman said.
Before the team watched the game film for the first time since Friday, Gilliland reminded the Wolves that there's still far more to accomplish. The players understood, and they kept their excitement to a minimum as they watched the victory unfold on the weight room wall, their projector surface du jour.
“It was a big thing for us to do that,” Bussard said. “But we need to put it behind us.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-543-1303 ext. 1321.