Holy Name knocks out Columbian
Close never looked so complete. Almost never seemed so accomplished. And in the end, frustration was never more evident.
Columbian’s season of thrills, one which produced a Sandusky Bay Conference Lake Division co-championship and offered hope beyond, came to an abrupt end Friday night when Parma Heights Holy Name eked out a 14-7 win in the opening round of the Division III football playoffs at Frost-Kalnow Stadium.
Emphasis on eke.
The Tornadoes dominated the final 29 minutes of the game, limited the Green Wave to one first down in the second half and, save for one play, a single yard of offense over that span, but came up short.
Their last gasp came in the form of a 53-yard drive with 5:39 to go in the game, but they managed to gain just 48 of them. The final shot, Chase Frankhauser’s pass for LJ Reaves in the right corner of the end zone on a snap from the Holy Name 5, fell incomplete with 31 seconds to play.
“Tiffin, I tip my cap to those guys,” Holy Name coach Don Wondolowski said after his club improved to 9-2 while ending Columbian’s season with the same mark. The Green Wave will face 10-1 Mansfield, a 28-0 winner over Bay, at a site to be determined next week.
“That is a hell of a football program Coach Lutz has there,” he said. “I’m just happy for the victory tonight.”
Because Holy Name owned the time prior to the Columbian turnaround, that victory went from dream to reality.
Quarterback Nick Mercuri went 5 for 5 passing, hitting four different receivers in sparking a 77-yard scoring drive to open the game. Big plays were a 26-yard completion to Colin Phillips and hookups of 13 and 10 yards to Armani Burton.
The touchdown came on a 9-yard run by Will Ehrbar. Jonathan Stanislo’s kick made it 7-0 with 8:11 still to play in the first period.
The Tornadoes were a bit shell-shocked in the early going and Chris Boden’s interception put the Wave back in business. Holy Name moved to the Tornado 20, but Nick Koerper’s first of two interceptions, this one in the end zone, stalled the advance.
Frankhauser broke off a 37-yard run as Columbian moved 52 yards, but on third down from the Holy Name 17, Eric Jones Jr. came up with an interception in the end zone to set up his team’s second score.
“Our secondary, they’ve been criticized a little bit this year,” Wondolowski said. “But they sure showed up tonight.”
So, too, did Mercuri. He hit Phillips for 23 yards, Burton for 12 and then found Burton on a deep cross for a 48-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead with 5:02 left in the half.
“They spread it around really well — they had a great offensive game plan there,” Columbian coach Judd Lutz said of Holy Name’s early success. “They took advantage of some stuff. But our defense bounced back. We had some great tweaks in and they responded really well.”
That they did, especially after a pick-me-up-drive from the offense to close the half.
The Tornadoes covered 70 yards in 13 snaps, converting two third-down plays, including a 28-yard Frankhauser pass to Jaxon Harris, and one fourth-down challenge along the way. Frankhauser got the touchdown on a 6-yard keeper and Xavier Coppus’ kick trimmed it to 14-7 with 31 seconds left.
“That was an outstanding drive for us, going slow at first and then speeding it up because we starting going on a short clock,” Lutz said. “When we punched it in, we had some great momentum coming out after halftime.”
But momentum in this case meant close, almost and frustration.
The Tornadoes took the second-half kick and drove 52 yards before stalling at the 5. On fourth down, after a 9-yard loss, Boden broke through to block a 31-yard field goal try by Coppus.
Early in the fourth quarter, backup quarterback Garret Sparks ran 52 yards for Holy Name’s only advance of the half. But Koerper snuffed it a moment later with his second pick.
When Frankhauser hit Koerper on the first play for 28 yards, the Tornadoes seemed ready to make their move.
That drive fizzled but there was the one last try in the final five minutes. Columbian gained three first downs, the last one on Frankhauser’s 5-yard run to the 7. From there, Nick Jackson gained 2 yards, Kesean Jackson was stopped for no gain and Jones Jr. batted away a pass before the final try to Reaves dropped to the ground.
“That’s a very, very talented offense for Tiffin,” Wondolowski said. “They can strike any play, any moment of the game. For our defense to do the job they did, especially on the goal-line stand, that’s just tremendous.”
Meanwhile Lutz marveled at what was and wondered what might have been.
“It was an outstanding defensive effort, an outstanding defensive effort,” Lutz said of the second-half push. “The effort was there and the execution was there at times. A couple plays here and there … it just didn’t happen for us.
“It wasn’t our night evidently for some odd reason,” he said. “I hate that.”
Close, almost and mighty frustrating.