Patrick Henry's Josh Strub hangs on to the ball as St. Henry's Brady Schmitz tries to take it. The Patriots finish 13-1.
LIMA - It was a toss-up as to what had a greater impact in neutralizing Patrick Henry's high-powered offense last night in the Division V state football semifinals - the St. Henry defense or the treacherous weather conditions.
Either way, the third-ranked Patriots ended the best season in school history with a 13-0 loss at Bath Stadium to seventh-ranked St. Henry, which advances to its seventh state final.
Averaging more than 400 yards and 40 points per game (42 in the playoffs) Patrick Henry (13-1) was muted by a rain-soaked field, near freezing temperatures and steady 30 mph winds, which all factored into the Pats accumulating just 141 total yards and no points.
Junior PH quarterback Zack George, who came in 157-of-247 passing for 2,557 yards and 31 touchdowns with just three interceptions, was 10-of-26 for 67 yards and had three passes picked off by the first play of the second half.
St. Henry QB Nathan Stahl completed just one of his four passes for 10 yards.
"It's a shame that a game of this magnitude had to be played on natural grass," PH coach Bill Inselmann said. "We could not showcase our offense tonight. Out of 12 [state semifinal] games, two were played on natural grass. None should have been.
"I know what everybody's going to say. Yes, we both played in the same conditions. I understand that. We [both] played hard and they deserved to win. They beat us on this. But our offense is more predicated on balance, timing and pass patterns, and we just couldn't get that going tonight."
Patrick Henry quarterback Zach George looks for a receiver against St. Henry last night in the state semifinals.
The difference in the game proved to be Redskin senior running back Jon Hemmelgarn, who had already surpassed 2,000 yards in his first 13 games. He added another 164 on 26 carries, including a pair of TDs on runs of 11 and 27 yards.
"We like to get the ball to Jon [Hemmelgarn]," St. Henry coach Jeff Starkey said of the weather issue, "but we don't like to hand the ball to him and toss the ball to him on every snap. But that's northern Ohio weather in late November. You've got to have a page in your playbook for that."
St. Henry lost the ball just once, that when Patriot defensive back Marc Krauss stripped Hemmelgarn of the football and recovered at the end of a 54-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter.
How bad was the wind? PH punter Krauss averged 19 yards on three kicks, and Stahl averaged 17 on four kicks.
St. Henry, which had 184 total yards, took a 7-0 lead to the break after the first of four Patriot turnovers. The Redskin defense held that lead with a crucial goal-line stand late in the half.
George, who also lost a fumble in the game, was picked off on a third-and-14 play from his 42. His attempt for All-Ohio receiver Krauss was snared by Redskin DB Jared Stammen, whose 25-yard return went to the PH 35.
A key completion from Stahl on a third-and-7 from the Patriot 32 went for 10 yards and a first down. Three plays later, Stahl extended the drive on a two-yard sneak on fourth-and-1.
On the next play, Hemmelgarn ran over right guard, broke a tackle at the 5, and romped in for the TD. Jon Clune's partially-blocked PAT kick crawl over the crossbar for a 7-0 lead with 1:12 left in the first quarter.
Patrick Henry marched 65 yards on 15 plays in the second quarter, taking 7:22 off the clock. But, after earning a first-and-goal at the 5, Ben Botjer was stopped for minus-1 and then three yards. George then twice threw incomplete in the end zone to end the threat.
PH gained possession at midfield with 4:17 left in the third quarter, and drove to the Redskin 20. But, on fourth-and-4, fullback Josh Strub (20 carries, 72 yards) was stopped at the 19 on a pitch to the right. The Pats would never again cross midfield.