BRYAN — A dozen years of disappointment came to an end for Bryan on Friday night before a rain-soaked home crowd.
The Golden Bears halted a 12-game losing skid to Northwest Ohio Athletic League rival Patrick Henry with a dramatic 32-28 comeback victory in a game between the league’s top two teams.
The Bears (7-0, 5-0 NWOAL) trailed the Patriots 28-13 in the fourth quarter before quarterback Austin Schimmoeller directed Bryan on three scoring drives during the final five minutes of the game.
Schimmoeller capped the game-winning drive with a 12-yard keeper with 1:04 remaining to give the Bears their first lead since the first quarter when they led 7-0 after Schimmoeller broke free for an 88-yard touchdown run.
His second TD carry of the night sent the home crowd into a frenzy after watching the Bears pull out the kind of come-from-behind victory over the Patriots that they had been on the wrong side of so many times in the past.
“I don't even know what to say, but it was the most unreal game,” Schimmoeller said. “It was unbelievable.”
Bryan coach Kevin Kline earned the most memorable win of his career by finally knocking off the Patriots.
“We made some plays when we had to and I'm really proud of our kids for being able to do that,” Kline said. “They showed some resilliency there.”
Schimmoeller, a 6-foot-2, 175-pound junior, also came through with his arm, throwing two touchdown passes during the final five-minute flurry for the Bears that included recovering two onside kicks to set up scoring drives.
With PH leading 28-13, Schimmoeller connected with Derek Knisely for a 23-yard touchdown pass with 5:09 to play to make it 28-19.
The Bears recovered their first onside kick and marched down field with Schimmoeller finishing off the drive with a 24-yard touchdown completion to Collin Bacon, who slipped out of the backfield on a fourth-and-14 play.
The Patriots’ lead stood at 28-26 with 1:55 left in the game.
Bears kicker Tory Savage came through with another onside kick that was recovered by Brandon Poncsak near midfield right next to the Bears sideline.
Bryan's offense went back on the field and went right to work, finding holes in a Patriots defense that had some assignment breakdowns down the stretch. Schimmoeller’s second TD run of the night took place 51 seconds later to give the Bears a slim lead.
PH, which entered the game ranked No. 4 in the Division IV state poll, had more than a minute to work with when it took the field for its final possession.
Patriots quarterback Gabe Jones connected with Derek Hoops for a 20-yard completion on their first play from scrimmage that put PH in Bryan’s half of the field.
However, Jones’ next pass attempt was picked off by Bryan defensive back Brock Minor with 38 seconds left to secure the win for the Bears.
“I just knew if I made a play the game was over, so I was reading him [Jones] all the way,” Minor said.
The NWOAL's two heavies slugged it out for four quarters in a steady rainfall and on a rain-drenched field.
Weather conditions may have not been ideal for such a classic matchup between favorites to contend for a league championship.
PH coach Bill Inselmann said it was the toughest loss in his 22 years of coaching. He credited the Bears for their performance.
“I want to give them all the credit in the world, they did not quit,” Inselmann said. “They executed, and it's a tough loss.
“They're a good football team.”
Running back Tobey Hernandez scored on runs of 8, 53, and 3 yards for the Patriots (6-1, 5-1).
Contact Donald Emmons at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade.