GENOA — In game that easily could have been for a regional or even a state championship, Bryan’s big time quarterback stood out among a host of playmakers in a thrilling Division IV playoff opener on Friday night.
In a wild game that more than lived up to its billing, No. 2-ranked Bryan held off No. 3-ranked Genoa 43-36 before a jam-packed Comets Stadium with an estimated crowd of 4,000.
Bryan senior quarterback Austin Schimmoeller, who willed his team to the road win, scored on a six-yard draw to help give the Golden Bears a seven-point lead with 48 seconds left.
Bryan’s Dakota McNany came up with an interception with 43 seconds left to seal a contest many thought would have made for a terrific regional final.
Schimmoeller finished with a team-high 124 rushing yards and scored on runs of 1, 56, and 6 yards. Schimmoeller also completed 18 of 33 passes for 336 yards. He tossed TD passes of 24, 49, and 24 yards.
“This is the No. 1 game in Bryan history, and it was great to be a part of it,” Schimmoeller said. “It was unreal. I can’t do it without everybody else. We all played our parts, and we clicked.”
Bryan remained undefeated (11-0) and handed Genoa (10-1) its first loss of the season. The teams combined for 955 yards of total offense. Bryan had 210 rushing, and the Comets had 272 on the ground.
“It’s one of the best wins in school history,” Bryan coach Kevin Kline said. “This was pretty crazy. We all talked about how it was weird that this was a first-round game. We battled each other, and it was a tremendous high school game.”
The Comets were led by running back David Nutter, who rushed for 188 yards and two touchdowns.
Bryan survived the war to advance to face Caledonia River Valley at 7:30 p.m. next Friday.
The Golden Bears went up 36-28 with 10 minutes, 21 seconds to play on Schimmoeller’s 56-yard TD run. But Bryan missed the extra point for the second time in the second half.
Genoa then scored on a 15-yard pass from Logan Scott to Quentin Spiess. The Comets then tied it at 36 on Scott’s run for the two-point conversion with 4:49 left.
But Schimmoeller drove his team 64 yards on seven plays for the winning score. He had a 36-yard run on the drive and connected on two passes.
“If it wasn’t for our line, I wouldn’t score those,” Schimmoeller said. “We were the underdogs, and that was motivation for us. We gave it our all.”
Bryan led 17-7 after the first quarter, 24-14 early in the second, and 24-21 at the half.
Schimmoeller hit Brandon Poncsak on a 24-yard TD strike on a fourth-and-22 play to put Bryan up 30-21 with 4:38 left in the third quarter. Kline said Schimmoeller called the play.
“It was a play where I called it, and I knew no one would guard him,” Schimmoeller said. “I had confidence in my receiver.”
But Genoa answered right back as Casey Gose's 79-yard kickoff return made it 30-28 with 4:26 left in third quarter.
“It lived up to [the hype],” Genoa coach Tim Spiess said. “Our opinion is that one of us was going to hold up the gold trophy at the end. To get a match up this early … it’s just tough. There were three times when we were down by 10 points, and I’m so proud of my kids.
“We found a way to battle back. We could have hung our heads. But they’ve worked so hard for this. There are a lot of hard tears right now. It was fabulous effort by these kids. And what a great crowd tonight. It was a fantastic environment.”
Scott completed 5 of 10 passes for 137 yards and two scores. Nutter scored on runs of 25 and 1 yard and averaged 5.5 yards per carry.
After Bryan’s Travis Peters recovered a fumble, Schimmoeller scored on a 56-yard run. He got to the outside and sprinted in down the sideline for a 36-28 lead with 10:22 left in the third quarter.
Schimmoeller spread it around to seven receivers. But no catch was bigger than the one by Daniel Pendergrast on third-and-10 at the Genoa 24 with 2:10 left. Pendergrast was stopped short of the first down but fought forward to get the first down.
“I knew I had a few extra yard to get and I wanted to get that first down,” Pendergrast said. “This was the biggest game in the state of Ohio.”
Three plays later Schimmoeller put it away as he went in untouched.
“When the pressure is on he just makes play,” Kline said. “I’ve never coached a kid who creates things the way he creates things. In the clutch situation he can do things for us.”
The only thing that slowed both team’s hurry-up offenses were 24 total penalties. Bryan had 13. In the first half, Bryan had 273 total yards (226 passing), while Genoa had 256 (194 rushing). Nutter had 139 rushing yards and two scores.
“Genoa is a good ball club, so that is a very good win for us,” Kline said.