Wapakoneta Redskins senior Wyatt Harrison (64) gets a block for senior Zach Schmerge (22) in a varsity football game against the Springfield Shawnee Braves in a Division III, Region 10 quarterfinal at Harmon Field. (Staff photo/William Laney)
Kodi Morgan scrambled to extend the play and the Redskins’ season. Nearing the goal line, the Wapakoneta Redskins quarterback managed an attempt which just barely dropped from his hand, as did the Redskins’ chance to extend the game and their season.
The Redskins were 3 yards short after Morgan’s scramble on a 4th-and-goal, on what proved to be the final play of a 41-34 overtime loss to the Springfield Shawnee Braves.
Shawnee survived blowing its 10-point fourth quarter lead Friday to win a Division III, Region 10 quarterfinal at Harmon Field, which hosted Wapak’s first home playoff game in school history.
“I’m proud of our kids’ effort. I thought they played extremely hard,” Wapak varsity coach Doug Frye said. “It was a good ball game. Unfortunately, we came out on the losing end.”
Bailey Hinegardner’s 34-yard field goal as regulation time expired sent Friday’s game into overtime, where the Braves emerged victorious as they landed a 6-yard touchdown on 4th-and-goal to grab the lead, while the Redskins turned the ball over on downs on their only possession of OT.
In a game filled with mistakes, the contest was finally won on David Barnett’s 6-yard TD reception from backup quarterback Alec Bennett on a 4th-and-goal in overtime.
After a gain to the 4-yard line, a 5-yard penalty pushed Shawnee back to the 9. An incompletion on second down was followed by a 3-yard gain on third down.
The Braves elected to go for a touchdown instead of attempting a field goal and it paid off, as Bennett found Barnett for what proved to be the winning TD.
Wapak senior Zach Schmerge scored his second of two 1-yard runs with 1:38 left in the fourth quarter to grabbed their first lead of the game.
Shawnee, on the next drive, picked up a first down on a 3rd-and-10 and after picking up a second first down on the drive, gained 30 yards in penalties with the help of two 15-yard infractions by Wapak, putting the Braves on the Redskins 22-yard line.
Jalen Nelson scored on the very next play, but Kaitlin Gregory missed the PAT, keeping Wapak to within three points at 34-31.
After a Keaton Metz kick return to the Shawnee 40-yard line, the Redskins found themselves with a 2nd-and-20 after two 5-yard penalties.
The next play, Morgan threw a wheel route along the Redskins sideline to sophomore running back Cameron Lauck, who caught it and was tackled out of bounds at the Shawnee 17-yard line with 23 seconds left in regulation.
On the next play, Morgan’s pass was incomplete, leaving 4 seconds on the clock.
Onto the field stepped Hinegardner, who nailed the 34-yard field goal as time in regulation expired, sending the game into overtime.
On its lone OT possession, Wapak drove down to the 3-yard line, before a run for no gain on 3rd-and-goal necessitated the 4th-and-goal try.
The Redskins called a pass play, as Morgan initially set in the pocket, eyeing junior wideout Quinn Lotridge on an out route, but Morgan was pressured and sent scrambling. Morgan eventually ran out of room on the Wapak sideline and barely got off a pass attempt which fell well short of the end zone, concluding the wild finish and clinching the Braves victory.
“We had a quick out to Lotridge,” Frye said about the game’s final play. “It was open on the left side but we didn’t protect.”
Mistakes defined Friday’s playoff game.
Shawnee kept the Redskins in the game throughout the contest with three lost fumbles, including one leading by 10 with 8:33 left in regulation.
Wapak lost fumbles on the game’s very first play from scrimmage and another later in the first quarter.
Another hindrance for the Redskins were timely penalties.
“We did things that were uncharacteristic of us,” Frye said. “We never really got the right break at the right time.
“It’s a good football team. I’ve been in this position in the playoffs,” he said. “The teams who have been there, you better do the little things well, and we didn’t do the little things well.”
Shawnee opened the game with a 14-0 lead after converting the Redskins’ first turnover into a 4-yard TD run by Clay Phillips.
Following a Wapak punt, Shawnee sophomore QB Saalih Muhammad scored on the very next play on a 74-yard TD run through the middle of the Redskins defense.
Wapak cut its deficit in half on the game’s next series, as Morgan connected with Logan Martin on a 4th-and-5 from the Shawnee 38.
After a Shawnee punt, Hinegardner notched his first of two made field goals, from 20 yards out with 11:48 left in the second quarter.
Shawnee answered with another touchdown to push its lead to 21-10.
The Redskins responded with Schmerge’s first rushing TD from 5 yards out with 5:16 left before halftime.
Muhammad left Friday’s game late in the third quarter with injury.
Bennett, who played last season at QB for Shawee and slated to play QB for the Braves before Muhammad transferred to the school, replaced Muhammad the rest of the game.
Muhammad finished with 133 yards on 15 attempts.
Nelson tallied 109 yards on 17 attempts.
He also made the tackle on Lauck, which might have prevented a touchdown.
“I thought Springfield did a nice job,” Frye said. “Their kids played well. “No. 21 (Nelson) had a whale of a game. He had to be the MVP of the game. He kept them in the game. He ran down Lauck before we kicked our field goal, too.”
Metz led Wapak in rushing with 123 yards on 15 carries. Schmerge added 96 rushing yards and three TDs. Morgan threw for 107 yards.
Schmerge also recovered two fumbles.
Wapakoneta’s season ended with a 9-2 record with Friday’s loss, which snapped an eight-game winning streak.
The Redskins won eight games in a row following a Week 2 loss to Kenton, the No. 1 team in Division IV.
“This team, since the Kenton ball game, has been an extremely resilient football team, a team that’s not going to quit and continue to play hard.”
The Redskins made their sixth playoff appearance in school history Friday and second in Frye’s four-year tenure.
Shawnee, with Friday’s win, advanced to a Division III, Region 10 semifinal to face the Trotwood-Madison Rams, a 76-40 winner over the Mount Orab Western Brown Broncos.
Shawnee: Saalih Muhammad 15-133; Jalen Nelson 17-109; Alec Bennett 6-48; Dusty Seelig 1-19; Zach Avery 4-16; Clay Phillips 6-0. Wapakoneta: Keaton Metz 15-123; Zach Schmerge 23-96; Adam Henderson 3-18; Cameron Lauck 2-15; Logan Martin 2-8; Kodi Morgan 10-(-4).
Shawnee: Muhammad 6-9 40; Bennett 4-7 30. Wapakoneta: Morgan 6-11 107; Metz 0-1 0.
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Shawnee: Nelson 3-30; David Barnett 3-26; Phillips 2-6; Dusty Seelig 2-4; Avery 1-4. Wapakoneta: Martin 1-38; Lauck 1-33; Jared Smith 2-18; Schmerge 1-12; Nate Posada 1-6.