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FREMONT - At 6-feet tall and 160 pounds, Fremont Ross sophomore quarterback Tyler Wolf isn't necessarily what you'd call an imposing figure, especially when defensive ends like Whitmer's Ken Hayes (6-6, 255) and Chris Wormley (6-7, 265) were stalking him Friday night.
But it was the visiting Panthers who were left crying Wolf following this game - that after the poised Wolf delivered a game-winning 55-yard touchdown pass to Skylar Reffner with 6:45 remaining in the Little Giants' 22-16 victory at Don Paul Stadium.
"We kind of kept him under wraps against Start [17-0 Ross win last week]," Ross head coach Derek Kidwell said of Wolf, who was making his second varsity start. "We didn't show a whole lot, But we came out tonight with guns blazing.
"I was joking with my staff during pre-game and I said, 'You know, I've just got to trust this little skinny sucker a little bit more.' We just put the ball in our sophomore's hands and let him make plays, and he made 'em."
The decisive TD strike was part of Wolf's 9-of-18 passing effort for 220 yards.
"If he needs me, I'm there," Wolf said. "It's big-time football, so I've got to do what I need to do. I just stepped in the pocket, took what they gave me, and spotted the open receiver."
Wolf also scored Fremont's first TD on a four-yard run in the first quarter and added a 42-yard scoring pass to Marquan McDonald to put the Little Giants (2-0) ahead 14-13 with 2:31 left in the third quarter.
"They made the critical plays when they had to," Whitmer coach Joe Palka said. "They made a couple big plays in the passing game. It all comes down to their athletes making a play.
"What we were disappointed about is that we didn't tackle well in the secondary. It's one thing to give up a pass, but we've got to rally and limit the explosive play. Obviously we need to correct that and get better."
The Panthers (1-1) - who had taken a 13-7 halftime lead on the strength of TD runs of six yards from QB Alex Palicki and four yards from sophomore running back Tre Sterritt - took their final lead of the game on 32-yard field goal from Jared Kenczewicz 2:44 into the fourth quarter.
Ross had scored first in the game following an interception by Jordan Garcia, and with much help from Reffner. The wideout made a diving, highlight-reel catch for 25 yards and first down at the Whitmer 14.
The Panthers, who had struggled to execute offensively on their first four possessions, got in sync to cash in on their fifth drive.
Junior running back Jody Webb (11 carries, 68 yards) sparked things with a 20-yard run, then added rushes of 15 and 14 yards along the way to a first-and-goal at the Fremont 6.
Those runs set up the TD run by Palicki, who carried 12 times for 56 yards and was 8-of-19 passing for 74 yards. Palicki's 13 and 59-yard runs set up the TD burst from Sterritt (12 carries, 63 yards) 1:52 before halftime.
Wolf may have thrown the TD pass to McDonald, but the junior wideout did the rest. He caught it at the Panther 35, juked two Whitmer defenders near the left sideline and sprinted the remaining distance to the goal line.
"You've got to convert," Palka said. "When we had chances, we didn't convert. A ball off the fingertips, or whatever it may be. So, I give [Ross] credit. They made the plays when they needed to offensively in a tight game."
On Reffner's winning TD he caught the ball in stride over the middle and ran untouched for the final 35 yards of the 55-yard play.
Whitmer's final chance at a tie or win came up short when Palicki's fourth-and-16 pass intended for 6-7, 215-pound sophomore receiver Nigel Hayes was broken up with 40 seconds remaining.
Ross topped Whitmer 325-271 in total offense, with Tyler Trautwein leading the Little Giants' ground attack (26 carries, 83 yards).
"We told the kids this was going to be a four-quarter battle, and that held true," Kidwell said. "We're a well-conditioned football team and we didn't get tired."
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