An upset to believe in

BOWLING GREEN – Ryan Carter has said it over and over again.

The Clyde coach’s team got to Bowling Green for the Region 8 Finals on the strength of its defense.

So perhaps it was fitting – even in a game where 83 points were scored – that the Flier D make the deciding play.

With Clyde clinging to a 42-41 advantage over reigning Division II state champion Toledo Central Catholic and the Irish 10 yards from the end zone with less than a minute left in regulation, that play happened.

Toledo Central Catholic quarterback DeShone Kizer, facing a third and seven, rolled and then attempted to run. He got inside the 5 and was close to a first down.

But before he was tackled, the ball came lose.

“We knew they were gonna run it some of the time to get the clock down,” said Clyde linebacker Kade Long, the nephew of former Flier star and current Columbian wrestling coach Chad Long. “We saw him gaining, and we knew we had to take a shot at him just to get the ball back, and it worked. It went our way.”

Only one person in Clyde knows who forced the fumble, and only one person knows – for sure, anyway – who recovered it. But that person didn’t speak up after the game.

Or, if he did, he was drowned out in the ensuing celebration.

But Clyde pounced on the loose ball with less than 50 seconds left at about its own 4. And – after some more drama – the Fliers pulled off the shocking upset.

“Defense got the play,” Carter said. “Offense put up enough tonight, it was kind of nice.”

But it wasn’t over, even after the turnover. The Irish had preserved all three of their timeouts, so the Fliers weren’t able to run out the clock.

And, with the ball inside the 5, they couldn’t afford a safety either.

“Just had to go out there and keep everybody calm,” said Clyde quarterback Tim Hoppe, who outplayed Kizer, a Notre Dame commit, Friday. “We did it. We executed.”

But it was close. The Fliers endured an offensive penalty, and were pushed back to the point where running back Damian Coburn had to work just to get out of the end zone on a carry.

It led to a third and 12 from about the 1. The Irish had a timeout, and Carter opted for a pass. Hoppe didn’t complete it, but Toledo Central Catholic was flagged for defensive holding.

“Aggressive call by them,” said Irish coach Greg Dempsey. “They went after the win.”

The 10-yard penalty set up another third down, and this time Coburn plowed the needed two yards. First down. Game over.

Kizer received much of the hype coming in, and he was outstanding, with 119 yards rushing, 210 yards passing and one TD pass.

But Kizer also was responsible for two turnovers. The fumble at the end of the game and a practically meaningless interception just before halftime.

“This poor kid’s over here thinking (the fumble) is the play,” Dempsey said. “It isn’t the play. Look at how many plays got us down there and gave us a chance.”

Hoppe had a game that will live on in Clyde history. He threw for 364 yards and five touchdown passes. Three of the scoring plays went to Derek Gray, whose individual numbers were just as impressive. Gray had eight catches for 237 yards, including a 74-yard catch-and-run for a score that gave the Fliers the deciding lead with 3:05 left in the fourth.

Hoppe also threw TD passes to Blake Miller (13 yards) and Coburn (66 yards). Coburn also ran in a touchdown on a fourth and goal from the Irish 2-yard line with 8:49 remaining in the game, which tied things at 35.

Toledo Central Catholic played most of the evening without its top running back, Tre’Von Wade. Wade carried the ball twice early on for eight yards, but a neck injury forced him to the sidelines. Taking his place was Paul Moses, who would have been seen as the game’s hero had the result been different.

Moses, who also starts at linebacker, carried the ball 27 times for 133 yards, and scored five touchdowns.

His final one, from nine yards out with 3:27 left, broke a tie and gave the Irish a 41-35 lead. But Patrick Schommer, who was 5 for 5 on extra points to that time Friday, kicked his sixth one wide. It ended up being a critical miss.

Clyde’s Austin Baker, the Fliers’ offensive star from the week before when he kicked four field goals in a win over Perkins, was 6 of 6 kicking extra points Friday.

Clyde advances to the Division III state semifinals where it plays Trotwood-Madison, which defeated Tippecanoe.

It will mark Clyde’s fourth appearance in the state tournament, and its first since 2005.

“Our kids have bought in since Day 1,” said Carter, who was hired late in the offseason and also serves as the school’s boys basketball coach. “Our aggressiveness was no different tonight than it ever has been.

“Our kids believed we could win, and that’s the biggest thing we had to do, was believe we could win.”

Two games from a state title, there’s no reason to stop believing now