Senecas win SBC River Division, clinch playoff berth

CASTALIA — Once again Calvert will play in Week 11, but it wasn’t as easy as some might have anticipated. The Senecas needed to beat Margaretta to clinch a playoff berth and win the inaugural Sandusky Bay Conference River Division championship Friday.

Both happened.After a slow start with a scoreless first quarter, Calvert kicked into gear and found a spark in sophomore running back Austin Jones to carry it to a 40-32 thriller here Friday night.

“As a team, we made a lot of mistakes in that first half, but Margaretta is that team that has improved so much week after week,” Calvert coach Todd Fox said. “This is a nice blue-collar football town. Shooting ourselves in the foot early got kind of nerve wrecking, but I love our mental focus as our guys were able to respond, which was fantastic.”

Starting running back Fred Fabrizio came into the contest with an ankle injury and he exited the game after two carries. That paved the way for Jones to step in and do his thing, which was just scoring four touchdowns.

“I feel great. I know if Fred got hurt I knew I had to step up and I played the best game I could’ve played out there,” Jones said. “I just run till I hear a whistle and I make sure to keep pumping my legs and leave everything I have out there.”

The slow start for Calvert (6-3, 4-0 SBC) began with a fumble on its first play from scrimmage. On their following possession, the Senecas turned the ball over at Margaretta’s 1.

Late in the first quarter, Margaretta (5-5, 3-1) broke the seal on the scoreboard as running back Logan Graffin ran in a 5-yard score. Graffin ran for 242 yards and three touchdowns on the night.After a scoreless first quarter, Calvert got things going as Park Hemminger dropped back and found Robby Paul for a 31-yard TD and then threw a screen pass to Jones, who made a couple defenders miss as he took it into the end zone from 41 yards out to give the Senecas a 12-6 halftime lead.

“(Jones) is just behind a great stable of running backs and unfortunately we’ve had some injuries that has kind of thrust him into the lineup,” Fox said. “Tonight, again we found another glitch and I’ve said it before, but he is special. He did an amazing job tonight.

“It’s not only his athletic ability, but there was a lot of pressure because you’re in the SBC championship game, your senior captain is injured and things weren’t going well. Then he just took over and did a great job.”

The Polar Bears never went away Friday night as Graffin took an option pitch 53 yards for a score to start the second half and tie the game at 12. However, Calvert responded as Hemminger found a wide-open Jones down the middle of the field for a 54-yard score. Margaretta’s Brevan Moore caught a 36-yard bubble screen for a TD from quarterback Nick Leibacher to take a 20-18 lead. One of the biggest turning points in the game was a botched snap on a Margaretta punt, which gave Calvert the ball at its own 9. Jones scored on the first play to give the Senecas a 26-20 advantage heading into the fourth quarter. Jones widened the scoring gap with an impressive 78-yard gallop down the right sideline before Graffin cut the lead to 32-26 on an 8-yard run with 8:43 left. Calvert responded as Hemminger hit Corbin Kantner for a 10-yard score. But Margaretta responded with a 15-play drive capped by an Angelo Frias 7-yard catch in the end zone to cut the Calvert lead to 40-32 with just 2:05 left.

Calvert recovered the onside kick and ran the clock out. Jones had 209 total yards, while Paul grabbed seven catches for 95 yards and Kantner had 75 yards receiving for the Senecas. Hemminger was 13 of 25 for 265 yards passing. With the win, the Senecas will host Leipsic (7-3) in Week 11.

“This is a culmination of a lot of work starting in December and I said early last year that this team has been special,” Fox said. “I don’t want to be an over-believer, but I really do believe in this group of gentlemen. “We are going to get better every day and get healthy, hopefully, and we will get ready for Week 11.”