Columbian loses to Perkins on last-second field goal

The proof is on video. Otherwise, it seems unlikely anyone would believe it.

Columbian’s long season of frustration turned downright cruel Friday night when Lucas Salmon kicked a last-second 42-yard field goal to give Sandusky Perkins a most improbable 23-21 win at Frost-Kalnow Stadium.

It was a second chance at a reprieve for Salmon and the Pirates, who opened the year with seven straight losses, but have rallied to post two straight wins. Perkins is now 2-2 in the Sandusky Bay Conference Lake Division while dropping the Tornadoes to 0-4, 0-9 overall.

Three times Columbian gained the upper hand, only to watch the Pirates work their way back into it. But the Tornadoes seemed to have the break they needed when Salmon missed an extra-point kick after J’Andre Jackson had scored from 3 yards out with 11:57 to play.

That left Columbian holding a 21-20 edge but with a major challenge in defending it.

“I’m so proud of the way our players played tonight,” Perkins coach Jason Ziegler said. “We turned the ball over three times and kind of overcame that.

“We pounded the ball and distributed it pretty well on offense and the defense played real good in stretches,” he said. “And what can you say about our kicker? He missed an extra point, but never put his head down. He kept working and hoping for a chance at the end and sure enough, 42 yards, that’s a great effort, man.”

The Pirates got the ball back with six minutes to play and seemed to be on their way, driving from their own 30 to a first down at the Tornado 23. But from there, Chase Frankhauser and Nick Koerper came up with key shops on second and third down.

Salmon trotted out for a potential 35-yard shot on fourth-and-5 with 2:09 left, only to have Ziegler call timeout and change the strategy.

“That’s on me. I was thinking we could get (a first down),” Ziegler said. “I went back and forth and I remembered his (missed) extra point and I just kind of double-guessed myself. I’m just happy he kind of bailed me out on that one. I even made it a little further for him, but he got it.”

Quarterback Blake Smith cut up the field on the fourth-down play, but Columbian’s Blake Steinmetz was there for the stop on fourth down, 2 yards short of the first.

Cody Craig got 10 yards on the first snap to the 25, but the Tornadoes were not quite able to run out the clock as three more Craig carries netted zero yards.

After a timeout with 14 seconds left, the plan was to punt, but a low snap went through quarterback/punter Todd Simonds’ legs. He retrieved the ball near the end zone, avoided a tackle for a safety and alertly tried to pass, but the throw fell incomplete.

That gave Salmon his chance with six seconds left and his kick went through as time ran out.

“This loss is on me and I told the kids that,” a solemn Columbian coach Judd Lutz said. “Our punter was hurt (shoulder) and I wanted to make a switch. We needed one catch and one punt and I should have put in somebody else to do that.

“But I wanted (Simonds) to be able to finish the game and do it, so that’s on me,” Lutz said. “I took the loss. It’s completely on me.”

Had Columbian pulled this out, the victory would have been on many people. The Tornadoes put together enough offense at the right times, came up with three fumble recoveries and Simonds averaged nearly 40 yards on four previous punts to force the Pirates to go long distance.

Two of the turnovers, recoveries by Nick Koerper in the first period and Carl Assenheimer in the third, set up Tornado touchdowns. The other, by Karter Reinbolt near the end of the half, stopped a Perkins threat inside the Columbian 10.

Craig’s 4-yard run and the first of three Jacob Warnement PATs gave Columbian a 7-0 lead with 6:03 to go in the first period, but the Pirates countered with a 60-yard drive, capped by Smith’s 3-yard keeper.

The Tornadoes grabbed a 14-7 halftime advantage when Simonds tossed an 11-yard TD pass to Frankhauser. It was Frankhauser’s 45-yard punt return to the Pirate 40 that set up the score.

One minute into the second half, it was knotted again after Perkins’ Simeon Hunter raced 63 yards around left end for a score.

Simonds hit Nick Jackson for 6 yards, Connor Salazar for 9 and Koerper for 8 after the Assenheimer retrieval in 34-yard scoring drive capped by Craig’s 9-yard run.

That set the stage for the J’Andre Jackson score, only to have Salmon’s kick sail wide left. Jackson’s 122 yards on 24 carries primed a 296-yard ground game for Perkins.

“They deserved to ring the bell. They deserved it,” Lutz said of his club’s performance. “Hats off to their kids, too, though. But the season doesn’t come down to one play and the game doesn’t come down to one play, even if it seems like it.

“I thought our kids battled. They did everything we asked of them,” Lutz said. “I told the underclassmen to remember it and I told the seniors you’ve got one week to see how you bounce back and respond.

“I’m anxious to get going (today) and Monday,” he said of the prep for Friday’s final game at Norwalk. “I want to get back to work and try to get one.”