Blue Devils break through in final minutes

Williams’ one-yard TD run sends Carey to regional finals for first time since 1994

PHOTOS BY JONATHON BIRD Carey’s Reece Billock carries the ball as Hillsdale defenders Briar Funk (42) and Justin Zeigler during a Division VI playoff game in Willard Friday.

WILLARD — The biggest decision of Friday’s Division VI Regional Semifinal in Willard really wasn’t much of a decision at all.

That was according to Carey coach Jonathon Mershman, whose team found itself in a scoreless tie with Hillsdale late in the fourth quarter.

On a third and goal from the Falcon 4, Blue Devil fullback Connor Williams carried the ball to inside the 1.

That set up a fourth and goal with 2:18 to go in the game.

Mershman had to decide whether to go for it — Carey already had been stuffed at the Hilldale 5 on a fourth-and-1 late in the first half — or attempt an Anthony Bell field goal.

Bell had missed a 38-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter when his attempt hit the crossbar.

This kick would have been shorter than an extra point. And Bell made all six of his point-after kicks in last week’s win over Western Reserve.

But then again, the Blue Devils appeared to be about a foot from the goal line.

Tough choice.

But Mershman said it was made for him.

“When the kids came to me and said, ‘Hey, we’re going for it,’ we’re going for it,” Mershman said. “So, that’s what happened. That was the decision. There wasn’t much of a decision. They came to me, if they had said, ‘Hey, let’s kick a field goal, we can hold ’em,’ All right, we’ll kick a field goal. You’ve got a group of seniors, this is their team. It’s the seniors’ team. I’m just guiding them. I’m just here along for the ride.”

Williams knew he was getting the ball. And he was confident he — and his linemen — would get the job done.

“I just knew that O-line was gonna get me in then and there,” he said. “I had faith in them all night. Even if it was a bad play, I had faith in them. I knew they were gonna get me in.”

Quarterback Ethan Beringer took the snap under center and handed the ball to Williams.

“We had the guy stood up,” Hillsdale coach Trevor Cline said.

But Williams wasn’t through. Neither, as it turned out, was Beringer.

“I kinda tried spinning out a little bit, and I felt a big old tug on the back of my jersey,” Williams said. “Ethan Beringer yanked me right in and helped me the rest of the way.”

A touchdown was signaled, Bell’s point after sailed through the uprights, and Carey went up 7-0 with 2:05 left.

Cline was asked if he thought Williams had been stopped prior to his getting in.

“He was just able to spin off of it and get into the end zone,” he said.

Moments later, facing a third-and-10 deep in his own end, a desperation pass by Hillsdale quarterback Ty Williams was intercepted by Carey’s Reece Billock. Neither team had a timeout, and Carey ran out the clock.

“I stayed on top of the outside guy, and I just saw the ball sail,” Billock said of the pick. “It just fell into my lap, I guess.”

It was the second Blue Devil interception of the game — Cade Crawford got the other one — and finished a sparkling performance by the Carey defense. The Falcons were head to four second-half yards, and no first downs.

“They just did a nice job, they had multiple guys getting to the football,” Cline said.

“Our defense played lights out tonight,” Mershman said. They took advantage of the opportunities to play a really solid game, first quarter to fourth quarter, and they did it. They didn’t let up.”

It was made easier by the fact that the defense wasn’t on the field much. Hillsdale had the ball for a little more than three minutes in the second half.

It was a contrast to the previous week, when Carey needed a 50-point effort to beat Western Reserve.

“I think right there goes to show that we think our offense can play in all kinds of these games,” Billock said. “We can score 50 points, and we can win in a one-possession game that comes down to the wire.”

Carey was paced by Beringer, who ran for 62 yards on 17 carries, while completing seven passes for 117 yards. Williams had 47 yards on 17 carries, while Crawford had a pair of big catches for 37 yards.

Hillsdale’s offense struggled, as Cline said Williams was hampered by an injury. He completed three passes for 53 yards.

Carey reaches the regional finals for the first time since 1994, and improves to 7-5. It will take on East Knox, which edged Seneca East 21-20 Friday.

One of the Carey assistants, Dave Steen, was an offensive tackle on the ’94 team.

“He welcomed them to the club,” Mershman said.