A 28-yard field goal by Galion’s Allen Carver late in the third quarter proved to be the decisive score in the Tigers’ 23-21 home win over Highland in a Friday night MOAC match-up.
The Scots had battled back from a 20-7 deficit to take a one-point lead with 6:45 to go in the third after quarterback Kolton Stover connected with Ladon Hayes for a 27-yard touchdown pass and Malin Fichtner added his third successful extra point kick.
However, the Tigers would respond behind second-string quarterback Ayden Schmidt, who had replaced starter Braxton Prosser after the junior was injured late in the second quarter and was unable to return. Schmidt and Jimmy Hardy combined to move the ball to the Scot 42, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty moved the ball back to the Galion 43.
Facing third-and-16, Schmidt hooked up with Landon Campbell for 30 yards and a first down. Hardy would move the ball to the Highland 13, but the Scot defense would be able to hold Galion to only two yards over their three plays to force a field goal attempt, which was made to give Galion the lead again.
Tiger coach Matthew Dick noted that he was pleased with the job Schmidt did in relief.
“We’re down so many bullets that at halftime, we’re drawing up who’s QB 4, who’s QB 5, who’s QB 6 and we get a little sophomore who’s probably QB 2 to go out there and play a lot of plays,” he said. “We talked all week about momentum and riding that momentum and we kind of got a little bit of it probably.”
While Highland was able to move the ball on each of their final three possessions, they were unable to reclaim the lead. On their ensuing drive, they got one first down on a 15-yard pass from Stover to Kadyn Reichenbach, but had to punt. Both of their final two possessions were hijacked by penalties. On their first of the fourth quarter, a big gain on a pass from Stover to Kort Sears was wiped out by a holding call.
That drive resulted in a punt, but the Scots were able to get the ball back with 5:48 to play after forcing the Tigers to relinquish the ball. A pass to Reichenbach moved the ball from their 14 to the 25, but a hold on the next play brought it back to the 15. A pass to Zach Church and two to Hayden Kline got Highland to their 46 and a couple runs got them across midfield at the 49. Stover then completed a touchdown pass to Reichenbach, but he was ruled to have crossed the line of scrimmage before throwing, negating that play. Two plays later, they would turn it over on downs and the Tigers would run out the clock.
Scot coach Ty Stover wasn’t particularly pleased with how the calls shook out (12 penalties for 191 yards for the Scots as opposed to three for 25 against Galion), but noted his team had more issues than that.
“Too many penalties,” he said. “It only went one way, but that’s okay. Hats off to Galion; they had the right crew for the right time. We’ve got to figure a lot of things out. We have to start playing with some passion. We have to start playing for the program. Right now, we’re playing with individuals. I still love them all to death, but like I told them, that doesn’t work on Friday nights.”
The game started out well for the Scots, as they scored on their opening possession when a pass to Reichenbach was deflected into his hands on what became a 53-yard scoring play. They were able to keep the momentum through Galion’s first possession when they snuffed out a promising drive with a Kline interception.
Their next drive would be hurt by a pair of holding calls, forcing them to punt and Galion would control most of the remainder of the first half. In the first four minutes of the second quarter, Prosser scored twice for the Tigers on runs of 21 and 62 yards to give his team a 13-7 lead.
After the defense then forced a Scot punt, Prosser led the team on an 11-play, 97-yard drive that ended with a 34-yard scoring pass to Elijah Chafin that made it 20-7.
For Galion, Dick was pleased with his defense’s ability to keep Highland off the board enough times for his offense to hold the advantage.
“We let our defense win the game and that’s cool to see because they’ve had some rough weeks the last couple of weeks. Our message was are you gonna be the hammer or the nail. That’s a choice every kid has to make. When you get exposed — a kid makes a big play, a long run — it’s easy for sophomores or guys playing new positions to shut down. Tonight, they didn’t.”
Highland would respond before the half, Taking the ball on their own 48 after a good kick return by Branson Newsome, they got a 14-yard run by Dane Nauman before the senior back rumbled through the Tiger defense for a 38-yard score that sent the teams into halftime with Galion holding a 20-14 lead.
However, they would not be able to make the necessary plays in the second half to finish on top — something that had Stover frustrated.
“We put a seven-man box together, eight-man box, but couldn’t stop the run,” he said. “We tried to make them throw; they didn’t throw it because they didn’t have to. We didn’t move the box good enough on offense. I’m not going to sugarcoat anything. I think our kids want to be great, but do we make the necessary steps to be that way? That’s to be determined.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS