KENTON — The Wapakoneta Redskins were sliding all over the field, through the mud, in the rain Friday night in Kenton.
But most of that came after the game. They were sliding in celebration.
The Redskins travelled to Kenton to take on the Wildcats, and after a wet, cold, hard-fought football game, the boys of Wapakoneta took home the victory, 28-20.
"It's a tremendous feeling, from what we have been through on this football season, to persevere and to continue to play, I think our kids really passed the test," said Wapakoneta varsity coach Doug Frye.
Through ball control and an effective running game, the Redskins were able to limit the number of times the potent Kenton attack was able to touch the ball. Leading the team in rushing was junior fullback Zach Schmerge. He carried the ball 16 times for 117 yards and a touchdown.
"I have to give all the credit to the offensive linemen, they were toughing it out in the trenches all night, all I had to do was run behind them," Schmerge said after the game.
Ultimately the score that gave the Redskins the points they would need came on a 39-yard run from Schmerge. He broke through the line, broke multiple tackles, and took it to the house to put the Redskins up 21-8.
"I got lucky there. The line gave me the block and I got to the second level and I got lucky and made it all the way," Schmerge said.
Frye said Schmerge stepped up in a big way, not only on that touchdown, but several key plays throughout the game.
"Schmerge is a football player, and today he just took the game on his shoulders and just decided we were going to win the game, and he was going to find a way to get it done," Frye said.
Another running back that came through in a big way was the senior, Jenson Merricle. With 22 carries for 96 yards and two rushing touchdowns, Merricle's efforts gave the Redskins the points and possession they needed to leave Hardin County the victors.
Merricle also had a receiving touchdown in the first quarter from sophomore quarterback Kodi Morgan.
The key to victory for Wapakoneta was to limit the damage done by senior quarterback Grant Sherman and senior wide receiver Justin Sawmiller.
Shutting those two down completely is almost impossible, but the Redskins stepped up big when they needed to.
Sherman completed 30 passes on 55 attempts for 321 yards and three touchdowns. Sawmiller caught eight of those completions for 54 yards and a touchdown.
"Our goal tonight was to put pressure on him and disrupt the throwing," Frye said.
The defensive line stepped up in a big way, getting to Sherman when it mattered most. Pressure from senior Nate Bracy all but sealed the victory Friday.
"Bracy, I think, had a tremendous game, so did all of our defensive linemen, they did a nice job up front," Frye said.
While the Redskins were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs before the start of the game Friday, Frye said this game was the Redskins' playoff game.
"I told them this was our playoff game and unfortunately things didn't work out for us for the actual playoffs," Frye said. "But we knew this was our playoff game and we were excited about the opportunity tonight."
Had Kenton gotten the victory Friday, the Wildcats would be in the playoffs right now. Kenton varsity coach Mike Mauk said he was disappointed with the results, but proud of his team's play.
"I thought our guys played hard, we had a couple things that just didn't go our way, You gotta give a lot of credit to them, they played well, had a good game plan and we didn't execute like we would have liked to," Mauk said.
Mauk reflected on the senior class, one that saw three WBL titles and three playoff appearances in their time there. But Mauk said that tonight, they were beaten by a better team.
"Tonight they were a much better football team than us, and they deserved to win," Mauk said.
With a two score lead after Schmerge's touchdown, Frye said he was happy, but not satisfied.
"Any time you're playing against Kenton you're concerned," Frye said. "You know the ball can go into the end zone right away. We didn't quite finish in a few areas, but If you come into Kenton, you play here, with great respect for coach Mauk's teams, if you come out with a win, no matter what the circumstance is, we'll take it."
Schmerge said the 52-35 loss last season to Kenton was on everyone's mind, and he said it was nice to get a little revenge.
"We owed them one," Schmerge said. "We owed them a big one."
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