Now that was a looong road trip for Lancers

Waterford - The longest road trip in Waterford High School football history officially ended Saturday.

So did the Lancers' victory drought.

They celebrated their first football game on the school's new turf field with a much-needed win, riding a second-half surge to beat Plainfield 38-21.

"It's been a long time," Waterford coach Mike Ellis said. "It was very weird not getting on a yellow bus. It's got to give us a jump-start. We've got to take this and move forward."

Waterford (1-2), which last played at home in November 2010, made some adjustments at halftime and seized control, scoring 17 unanswered points.

Junior quarterback Seth Hoagland (9-for-15, 140 passing yards, 70 rushing yards) fueled the attack, running for the go-ahead touchdown and finishing with three scoring strikes.

"I'm really excited," Hoagland said about winning the first game on the new field. "It's a great feeling."

Hoagland's primary target was sure-handed senior Kyle Willoughby, who had seven catches for 132 yards and three touchdowns.

After Hoagland's 3-yard touchdown run broke a 21-all tie with 6 minutes, 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter, he targeted Willoughby in the left corner of the end zone.

Willoughby did the rest, outleaping the defender to pull in the 7-yard pass and push the lead to 35-21 with 9:15 left. He also had two 7-yard touchdown receptions in the first half.

"We like each other a lot," Hoagland said. "The way he can catch and I can just get it to him, it's a great thing to go to. I trust him with his hands. He has amazing hands."

A mistake on fourth down set up the Lancers with great field position. When senior Steve Jankowski (one rushing, one passing TD) went out with an injury early in the fourth quarter, the Panthers lost their quarterback and punter.

Plainfield tried to run out of its own end zone on fourth-and-7 and came up short. Two plays later, Willoughby made his third TD catch.

Waterford also suffered a big loss when starting running back Bishme Sheppard took a shot to the head while recovering his own fumble on a punt return about two minutes into the second half. Sheppard stayed down and eventually walked off the field but didn't return.

Before leaving, Sheppard rushed for 97 yards, including 55 on the game's first touchdown.

"He got a hit on the head so we had to take him out of the game and keep him out of the game," Ellis said. "We don't know right now exactly what the extent of that is."

Plainfield lost all its offensive momentum after moving the ball almost at will in the first half. Credit the combination of the loss of Jankowski and inspired play of the Lancer defense.

The Panthers racked up nearly 200 yards in the first half but went for negative yardage after that.

The Lancers will be back at home again next weekend.

"It is a nice way to start," Ellis said. "After the first two games, we needed to get a positive game and we got that. It was a little shaky at the beginning and we kind of settled down."

g.keefe@theday.com

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