Calvert gets specialty victory

One can only speculate how Midland Athletic League co-champion Calvert might have fared this year in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference in general and/or against conference winner Northwood in particular.

What is clear is the Senecas had a leg up on the best of the rest. Make that several legs.

It was a special night in more ways than one, but especially in matters regarding successful kicks, blocked kicks and fake kicks as Calvert turned back Edon 34-31 in a Division VII regional quarterfinal playoff game at Frost-Kalnow Stadium Saturday night.

“Something wasn’t quite right out there tonight and so each of our guys had to pick up their part of the game,” Calvert coach Todd Fox said after his club posted its sixth straight win and improved to 7-4 overall. “They did just that. Our guys answered the call and any time you can win in Week 11, that’s great.”

The Senecas will take on eighth-seeded Delphos St. John’s Saturday at a site to be determined. St. John’s knocked off top-seeded Leipsic 33-18 to advance.

Edon (8-3), runner-up in the TAAC to Northwood, gave the Senecas a scare. Junior quarterback Kaden Sapp, whose more than two miles of total offense this year included 2,700 yards passing, showed those numbers were no fluke.

Sapp hit on 25-of-36 passes for 310 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for a fifth touchdown for the Bombers, who had lost twice by sizeable margins in previous playoff meetings with the Senecas.

His Calvert counterpart, junior Tyler Long, was equally impressive but in a different way. Long ran for 212 yards on 28 carries, including three for touchdowns. He also hit Donavon Stith with a 33-yard scoring pass in the fourth quarter that put the Senecas on top for good.

Throw in Matt Iannantuono’s 3-yard smash for a score and the Senecas matched Edon’s five-touchdown effort. The difference on the board came in Michael Smith’s four PAT kicks while the Bombers failed on four of five extra-point tries.

This was a my-turn-your-turn contest throughout.

Sapp hit five passes for 26 yards and ran for the final 5 yards of a 13-play, 51-yard drive to open the scoring. But Michael Peeples’ PAT kick was wide.

The Senecas countered with some trickery. The possession seemed to have stalled at the Bomber 43, but on fourth-and-8, Long got the short snap on an off-balance set on a fake punt and went in for the touchdown. Smith’s kick made it 7-6 with 2:29 to go.

“Yeah, I couldn’t wait (for the snap),” Long said because it was clear he needed to simply get by one defender for a breakaway. “Coach put me in a good position. It was there.”

The back-and-forth battle saw Sapp hit Peeples for a 46-yard TD pass, only to watch Long sprint up the middle for a 73-yard touchdown and a 14-12 Calvert lead with 9:30 to go in the half.

Sapp countered with an 18-yard scoring toss to Connor Hug, but there was Long scoring again on a 21-yard run. That drive featured another successful fake punt as Long picked up 26 on fourth-and-4.

“This year, we decided to have a lot of fun with our special teams,” Fox said. “Our guys enjoy it and it shows because even in practice, we put the time in and the intensity is there and yet we have fun. Special teams can make a difference and obviously, they made a difference tonight.”

Despite all that, the Bombers had a 25-21 edge at the half after Sapp finished a 52-yard drive with a 4-yard TD pass to Brock Thiel.

Edon had the first opportunity of the second half, but the Senecas gained the upper hand behind Mitch Depinet, who first shot a gap to sack Sapp for a 9-yard loss on third down and shot the same gap again to block Peeples’ punt.

That set up Iannantuono’s touchdown for a 27-25 Calvert edge.

“Our offense looked good, the defense looked, but special-team-wise, we had problems,” Edon coach Scott Staten said. “We had prepared for that stuff all week, but we’ve got to get comfortable with it in a big game.

“We talked and preached about staying calm and thinking like football players out there,” he said. “But this is only our fourth time ever in the playoffs and I think the immaturity of our program overall probably showed a little.”

But they weren’t done as Sapp later hit Trevor Green for a 25-yard score and a 31-27 lead with 5:13 left in the third period.

It stayed that way until early in the fourth quarter, when Long tossed a 33-yard TD pass to Stith, who broke free with a cut to the middle for the 34-31 advantage

Then it was up to the defense.

Sapp led a 70-yard drive that produced a first-and-goal at the Calvert 9. But the Senecas stood the test with Marcus Somers, Long and Austin Perry running down Sapp on a quarterback sweep at the 5.

“Our defense was up against the wall pretty much the whole game,” Somers said. “But I think our guys got it together when we needed to do it. Their quarterback is talented and a very good athlete. He made it tough.”

But the Senecas had a leg up in the end.