HAMLER - First a 1971 Cutlass convertible rolled by the grandstand, and then a Chevelle SS. When the homecoming parade was over, it only made sense that another classic Northwest Ohio Athletic League battle would follow.
Patrick Henry, after trailing 20-0 in the first half, surged back to a stunning 29-26 win over Delta in a battle of the league's unbeatens.
"This was one of the best games I've ever been involved in," Patrick Henry head coach Bill Inselmann said. "There were such huge momentum swings - they were dominating us, but we just kept coming back."
The Panthers built the big lead by utilizing the talents of running back Nate Kmic, who finished with 17 carries for 238 yards and scored three touchdowns. Kmic, who had almost 200 yards rushing by halftime, had a couple of big returns and tallied 331 all-purpose yards.
He battled cramps in the second half and had to leave the field several times."Did not playing a full four quarters before this hurt us - probably some," Delta head coach Mike Vicars said. "We were cramping up down the stretch, and Nate, he just couldn't kick it into that last gear. But you have to give it to Patrick Henry - they got punched hard, but they just kept coming back."
The Panthers got Patrick Henry in a 20-0 hole by scoring first on a short run by Kmic that was set up by a key fourth-down pass play from quarterback Ryan Vicars to tight end Dustin Shope.
After the Patriots had a 36-yard touchdown pass from Zack George to Marc Krauss called off by a pass interference penalty, Kmic busted a 69-yard touchdown run to stretch the lead to 14-0 early in the second quarter.
The Panthers looked like they were going to run away with it midway through the second quarter when Kmic took the ball on a reverse, got a block or two down field, then worked back against the grain for an 81-yard scoring run. A missed extra point left the lead at 20-0.
"We were down, the crowd was down, but the kids never quit," Inselmann said.
"I didn't give any pep talks, but we just kept coming back."
George lobbed a nine yard scoring pass to Brian Yarnell, and after a fake and a two-point try failed, the Pats trailed 20-6.
The Patriots got the ball back at the Delta 39 on a nice punt return by Yarnell with a minute to play in the half. Three plays later George lobbed a touchdown pass to Krauss from 16 yards out. A bad snap forced Krauss into a desperation pass on the extra point try, and Josh Strub came up with the ball for the two points and a 20-14 score at the half.
Delta (5-1, 3-1), which missed a 23-yard field goal try by Kmic on the final play of the first half, made it 26-14 early in the third quarter when a 69 yard burst by Kmic set up a 12-yard scoring run by Jamison Moss.
Patrick Henry (6-0, 5-0) answered with a 71-yard scoring drive that churned primarily on the ground, but got the touchdown on a nine yard pass to Yarnell from George that cut the lead to 26-21.
With Kmic nursing cramps on the sideline, Delta stalled again and the Patriots went right back to work, driving 73 yards in 10 plays.
The go-ahead touchdown came on a nine-yard run by Josh Strub, and George passed to Krauss for the two-point conversion and a 29-26 lead with just over a minute left in the third period.
"They're the toughest team we play because of their balance," Vicars said of the Patriots. "It is tough to do it so well at the high school level, but they do. They just kept coming and coming."
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