FREMONT - Defiance was well aware of Akron Buchtel's explosive offense, which features a pair of Division I college-bound athletes.
They knew about Charlton Keith, the 6-5 quarterback, headed to Wake Forest. They also knew of running back Timothy Murphy, a 5-10, 220-pounder, set to play for the University of Pittsburgh.
However, it is Buchtel place-kicker Clayton Jones whom the Bulldogs won't forget anytime soon.
Jones came through with two mid-range field goals to lift the Griffins to a 31-28 overtime win in the Division II regional championship game last night at Harmon Stadium.
Jones booted a 33-yard field goal with 12 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime. He came through again with a 23-yard field goal in overtime for the win.
“I felt a little pressure, but I just wanted to stay focused,” said Jones, who wears his prescription eyeglasses when kicking.
Defiance coach Jerry Buti praised Buchtel (12-1) for stepping up when it counted.
The Bulldogs (12-1) led 21-13 at halftime, but were limited to one scoring drive in the second half.
“Give the other team credit because they played well,” Buti said. “I thought two solid teams battled out there.
“They've got tremendous athletes and they were very well-coached.”
Defiance quarterback Drew Price completed 18 of 30 passes for 179 yards, including touchdown passes of 24, 7 and 36 yards to Derek Lynn. His final touchdown pass to Lynn - who caught 11 passes for 130 yards - put the Bulldogs ahead 28-25 with just over three minutes left.
But the lead wouldn't hold as Buchtel's offense came right back and drove close enough for Jones to send the game into overtime.
“That was a heck of a team,” said Price. “They've got twice as much speed as any team we've played this year.
“That's the best team we've played this year. I hope to say in a couple of weeks we got beat by the state champions. “
A fumble recovery by Defiance defensive back Ronnie Romero set up the Bulldogs' first scoring drive, a three-yard touchdown run by Brian Brown.
Price, who completed 11 of 21 passes for 101 yards in the first half, teamed with Lynn for a 24-yard touchdown toss to give Defiance a 14-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
The same tandem accounted for the Bulldogs' third score of the first half, a seven-yard pass into the left corner of the end zone.
But Buchtel adjusted its defense at halftime. The Griffins put practically everyone up on the line, which plugged up the running lanes and didn't allow Price much time in the pocket.
“They brought everyone on their team in and forced us to do things we didn't want to do,” Buti said. “They've got the athletes to do that.” &tab;
While the Bulldogs used up at least three minutes on each of their three scoring drives in the first half, the Griffins' two scoring drives in the first half totaled just over three minutes.
Buchtel tied the score at 7 by driving 78 yards on four plays. Keith connected with David Vickers on a 69-yard pass play to set up a one-yard touchdown run by Murphy with 11:36 remaining in the second quarter.
Keith also lobbed a 34-yard touchdown pass to Dierre Richardson for the Griffins' second score that came with 4:50 remaining in the half.