1. PATRICK HENRY 46, LIBERTY CENTER 44, NWOAL game at Liberty s Tiger Stadium, Sept. 26, 1997. In a much-anticipated game before an estimated crowd of 5,000, third-ranked PH rallied behind senior QB Bryan Hieber (24 of 46, 339 yards) to overcome a 37-20 halftime deficit against the eighth-ranked Tigers. This thriller was so good, it had two endings.
After Hieber had directed 68- and 74-yard drives to pull the Patriots within 44-40 with 3:05 left, PH was successful with an onsides kick at the Tiger 49. In the closing seconds, Hieber s potential TD pass to Kris Gerken fell incomplete, bringing a portion of the Tiger crowd onto the field in celebration.
But Tiger defender Ryan Zeiter, who had also rushed for 206 yards in the game, was flagged for pass interference, and, after the fans were removed from the field, Hieber had one more crack from the LC 5 with no time on the clock. This time he hit junior tight end Lee Creager for a score, and the Patriot faithful stormed the field.
"I can t imagine there s a better football game that could ever be played than that," Patriots coach Bill Inselmann said afterward. "As good? Yes. But greater? I don t think so. My heart goes out to the Liberty kids. It s a shame somebody had to lose that game. They re class individuals."
Inselmann was right. Liberty Center would eventually get into the D-V playoffs only because its game with a depleted Ottawa Hills team was cancelled two weeks later, giving them a better computer average than a win over OH would have. The Tigers would beat defending state-champion Marion Pleasant 21-19 in the first round, then got revenge over PH with a convincing 40-14 win over the Pats (11-1) in round two. Two weeks later the 12-1 Tigers romped over Amanda Clearcreek 49-8 in Massillon to win the D-V state championship.
2. SOUTHVIEW 45, TIFFIN COLUMBIAN 42, first-round D-II playoff game at Findlay Donnell Stadium, Nov. 13, 1998. The Cougars, in their school s first-ever playoff game, rallied from a 42-28 third-quarter deficit to win on sophomore back Brad Strub s fifth TD of the game, a two-yard run with 50 seconds remaining. Led by a career game by senior QB Greg Neuendorf (36 of 56, 483 yards, three TDs), the 10-1 Cougars got within 42-35 on Strub s fourth TD, then within 42-38 on Jason Robbins 20-yard field goal with 4:25 left. The winning drive started with 3:03 left and went 63 yards in nine plays. Columbian QB Brent Wise was 14 of 28 for 376 yards and four TDs.
"What a football game," Southview coach Jim Mayzes said. "We couldn t stop them. Thank God, they couldn t stop us. Wow! What a finish." The win ended a playoff drought for the NLL, which had gone 0-17 in the postseason, beginning in 1973. The next year a 13-2 Southview team would advance to the D-II state title game before losing a 19-18 heartbreaker to Walsh Jesuit.
3. Massillon Washington 35, FREMONT ROSS 28, first-round D-I playoff game on Nov. 12, 1994: In perhaps the best one-game individual performance by a northhwest Ohio football player, Fremont s Charles Woodson almost single-handedly defeated the favored Tigers before a crowd of 13,250. Massillon scored first, as the teams traded TDs consecutively throughout. The Tigers won on an eight-yard TD pass with 3:02 remaining.
The last bid for Ross to answer was an 81-yard drive to the Tigers 2 that died on the game s final play when a rushed pass from Ross QB Shane Moran was intercepted in the end zone.
Woodson rushed 28 times for 231 yards and scored all four Fremont TDs, plus a two-point conversion. Ohio s Mr. Football that year also had nearly 20 tackles in the game.
4. SOUTHVIEW 43, MAUMEE 40, NLL game at Maumee, Oct. 3, 2003: In a week-7 battle of unbeatens, Southview, ranked seventh in Ohio s D-II poll, overcame a late 40-28 deficit thanks to All-Ohio quarterback and Blade Player of the Year Kelley Rowe, who ran for two TDs and a two-point conversion in the final 6:37.
Rowe ran 20 times for 104 yards and passed for 253 yards for the Cougars, who would go to 11-0 before losing to Defiance in the second-round of the playoffs.
5. BEDFORD CHANEL 31, LIBERTY CENTER 30, D-V state semifinal on Nov. 25, 2000): Although ranked No. 1 in Ohio, Liberty was overmatched physically by fourth-ranked Chanel, which had three Division-I college recruits at skilled positions operating with an offensive line that outweighed the Tigers defensive front 50 pounds per player.
Ahead 31-28 midway in the fourth quarter, Chanel had a first-and-goal inside the Tigers 1. Despite the huge line disadvantage and Chanel s 240-pound fullback, the Liberty defense staged a goal-line stand to thwart a game-clinching TD inches shy of the end zone with 6:20 to play.
The Tigers then marched 94 yards on 14 plays behind back Troy Westhoven (40 carries for 169 yards plus 65 yards receiving) for a second-and-goal at the Bedford 5. But Westhoven was hit while taking a handoff from QB Scott Overmier and lost a fumble. Chanel ran three plays before taking a strategic safety and subsequent free kick with 11 seconds remaining to secure the win over the 13-1 Tigers.
6. CENTRAL 32, TIFFIN COLUMBIAN 31, first-round D-II playoff game on Nov. 1, 2002: The Tornadoes (9-2) scored 31 second-half points, but it wasn t enough after the Irish (10-1) scored the game-winning points on Ryne Robinson s two-point conversion run around the end off a fake PAT kick play with 1:25 remaining.
Columbian had rallied from a 24-14 deficit to take a 31-24 lead with 3:24 to play on QB Weston Reinbolt s 37-yard run, that after Central fumbled away a kickoff return. Central sophomore QB Dan Amato then completed five of his last six passes, the last a 41-yarder to Robinson to the Tornadoes 3. That set up Derek Barksdale s one-yard TD run, pulling Central within 31-30 and leading to coach Greg Dempsey s successful gamble on the fake PAT kick.
7. WOODMORE 35, EASTWOOD 34, battle of SLL unbeatens at Eastwood, Oct. 10, 2003: The Wildcats ended Eastwood s 12-game league winning streak on the strength of Chandler Shirer s one-yard run around left end and J.R. Ribe s PAT kick with 37 seconds remaining, capping a 12-play, 52-yard drive.
Eastwood still had a chance to win, but kicker Josh Oberdick, who was 4-for-5 on PATs, missed a 29-yard field-goal with under 10 seconds remaining. Woodmore s win offset the sterling performance of the Eagles All-Ohio junior QB, Kevin Leady, who passed for 186 yards and rushed for another 147, scoring on runs of 31, 1, 1, 5 and 1 yards in the losing cause. Eastwood closed at 8-3 with a a first-round playoff loss, but shared the SLL title with Elmwood at 6-1 in league play.
8. RIVERVIEW (Mich.) 35, MONROE JEFFERSON 34, key Huron League game at Jefferson, Oct. 2, 1998: The visiting Pirates outscored the Bears 22-6 in the final 6:57, including two TDs 10 seconds apart in the final 1:24.
9. COLUMBUS GROVE 21, McCOMB 14, D-VI regional final on, Nov. 17, 2001: Columbus Grove quarterback Tayt Mayberry drove the 11-2 Bulldogs 64 yards in the final two minutes and scored the game-wnning TD on a 4-yard keeper with 17 seconds left after heavy fog suddenly enveloped the field with a minute to play. When CG s Ben Stechschulte intercepted McComb QB Dusty Aldrich at Bulldog 38 to end the game, the play was barely visable to spectators.
10. MAUMEE 29, PERRYSBURG 27, NLL and season finale, at Maumee, Oct. 26, 2001: After trailing 20-0 in the first half, Maumee outscored its arch-rival 22-7 in the second half to win. Down 27-23, Panther junior QG Alex Reese drove Maumee 63 yards on eight plays in the final three minutes and scored winning TD on a one-yard run. The win gave Maumee (8-2, 6-1 NLL) a share of the NLL title and a D-II playoff berth. It also knocked the D-I Yellow Jackets (9-1, 6-1) out of what would ve been Perrysburg s first-ever playoff spot.