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WAVERLY — Lights, camera, action!

Waverly-Shell Rock’s returning starting quarterback Luke Velky joined senior classmate and University of Nebraska football recruit Mosai Newsom by leading the Go-Hawks onto their home field for the first time Thursday night. They savored the spotlight in the Channel Seed Ag Bowl televised by NBC Sports Chicago Plus.

Poised from the start, Velky and company capitalized on North Fayette Valley’s first half miscues and scored all five touchdowns over the first two quarters during a 35-21 Waverly-Shell Rock victory.

Velky rushed for 103 yards and two scores, passed for another 110 and a touchdown, and returned an interception 33 yards for a pick six on a hurried pass with Newsom closing in on TigerHawk quarterback Brooks Hovden.

“We were really hyped for the game,” said Velky, who led Class 3A’s Go-Hawks to an 8-2 record a season ago. “Ever since the first kickoff we were already running at full speed.

“Mosai and I try to do our best to lead everybody and keep everybody pumped up. If something happens that doesn’t go our way, we try to keep everybody positive.”

The blend of Newsom’s 20 starts and Velky’s third year as a letterwinner gives Waverly-Shell Rock coach Mark Hubbard confidence during the early portion of the season as newcomers are getting up to speed.

“We talk in our leadership classes all the time, it’s about serving,” Hubbard said of his captains. “You’ve got to love them before you can lead them. They get it. They care about their teammates and they also hold them accountable.”

Traditional Class 2A power North Fayette Valley is looking to turn the corner from a rare two-win season last year, and entered this contest undermanned with five of the team’s 19 upperclassmen unavailable due to injury.

A few key plays allowed W-SR to jump out to a 35-7 halftime advantage. The Go-Hawks’ initial drive was extended on a running into the punter penalty, before physical runs of 11 and 19 yards by Ben Hemer — who rushed for 58 yards on 12 carries — set up a 45-yard touchdown jaunt by Velky after a fake handoff to Hemer.

Waverly-Shell Rock added a touchdown on Tyler McNally’s 30-yard reception over a defender at the goal line, before North Fayette Valley cut the deficit in half on Trey Darnall’s 59-yard run off a double handoff following Drew Berger’s fumble recovery.

McNally’s second reception of 30 yards on a risky pass over the middle, however, set up a 1-yard Velky touchdown plunge on fourth down. Payton Leonard then recovered the ensuing kickoff at the TigerHawk 26, and a 2-yard run by Kaden Dewey capitalized on the short field. Velky’s pick six late in the second quarter all but sealed NFV’s fate.

“Those things make it a little closer game, but that’s also football,” NFV’s 11th year coach Bob Lape said. “That’s the way it goes. If we quit doing some of those things it’s a lot better.”

Darnall added a 79-yard touchdown run and Mac Whelan scored from 40 yards out against W-SR’s second unit in the fourth quarter, but the TigerHawk offense was kept in check throughout much of the game.

“North Fayette does a great job in their Wing-T offense,” Hubbard said. “They execute it so well, and they have for so many years. For our kids to get lined up and not get lulled to sleep, I was very happy with how the defense played.”

Lape drew some positives from the manner in which his team competed throughout this opener. He feels the TigerHawks will rebound this season.

“We did some good things and our kids didn’t quit,” Lape said. “They kept playing. I’m proud of that fact. We’ll get better. It’s not going to be that type of season we had last year.”

For Waverly-Shell Rock, contributions could be found from a variety of playmakers. McNally led the receiving corps with three catches for 72 yards, and Ian Heise added three catches for 37 yards.

“It’s incredible,” Velky said of the Thursday night bowl game spotlight. “The atmosphere was great.”

Waverly-Shell Rock 35, North Fayette Valley 21

North Fayette Valley 0 7 0 14 — 21

Waverly-Shell Rock 14 21 0 0 — 35

WSR — Luke Velky 45 run (Dawson Bathke kick)

WSR — Tyler McNally 30 pass from Luke Velky (Bathke kick)

NFV — Trey Darnall 59 run (Brooks Hovden kick)

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WSR — Velky 1 run (kick failed)

WSR — Kaden Dewey 2 run (Ian Heisse run)

WSR — Velky 33 interception return (Bathke kick)

NFV — Darnall 73 run (Hovden kick)

NFV — Mac Whelan 40 run (Hovden kick)

TEAM STATISTICS

NFV WSR

First downs 9 16

Rushes-yards 25-232 49-278

Comp-att-int 2-10-1 8-15-1

Passing yards 42 137

Punts-avg 6-34.8 1-35

Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-1

Penalties-yards 2-20 9-60

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

Rushing

WAVERLY-SHELL ROCK — Luke Velky 10-103, Ben Hemer 12-58, Kaden Dewey 10-45, Jonathan Wessel 7-25, Ian Heise 3-25, Ethan Flege 4-25, Germain Sagbo 1-2, Donovan Wessel 1-minus 1.

NORTH FAYETTE VALLEY — Dylan Muggler 9-23, Mac Whelan 9-55, Trey Darnall 4-147, Gunner Rodger 3-7.

Passing

WAVERLY-SHELL ROCK — Velky 8-15-1, 278 yards.

NORTH FAYETTE VALLEY — Brooks Hovden 2-10-1, 42 yards.

Receiving

WAVERLY-SHELL ROCK — Tyler McNally 3-72, Ian Heise 3-37, Ben Hemer 2-27, Mosai Newsom 1-13.

NORTH FAYETTE VALLEY — Zach Massman 2-42.

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Sports reporter for The Courier

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