FINDLAY Hardin Northern usually pounds teams into submission.
Last night, the state s No.1-ranked Division VI team used two big plays and then a clock-eating late drive to pick up a 21-13 Blanchard Valley Conference victory over previously unbeaten Liberty-Benton.
The win pushes Hardin Northern s record to 10-0 and 9-0 in the conference and assures them of a home playoff game next Saturday. Liberty-Benton closes the year 9-1, 8-1, and will advance to the Division V playoffs.
It s nice to come over here and win on the road against a great team and bring that championship to Hardin Northern. It s nice to get it back, said Hardin Northern coach Pete Brunow, whose team won its ninth BVC title in the past 13 years.
Early in the second quarter, the Polar Bears went with a bit of trickery.
Quarterback Cory Brunow tossed a lateral back to Justin Crossman, a split end, who is also the Polar Bears backup quarterback.
Crossman tossed a bomb downfield to a wide-open T.J. Ratliff. The sophomore hauled in the pass around midfield after getting behind L-B s Jordan Lieb and had enough speed to stay ahead of Lieb for a 77-yard touchdown.
Coach came up with a big trick play and we capitalized on it, Ratliff said. I was a little nervous. It was a nice pass.
After Hardin Northern stopped Liberty-Benton on its next possession, Ratliff fielded a punt at the 43. He started left and cut back across the field. He got an open field block from Ridgeway for the 57-yard return.
T.J. had the big punt return. He was the man, Brunow said.
After those quick scores by the Polar Bears, Liberty-Benton bounced right back. Luke Wentz capped a 10-play drive with a four-yard burst off the left side. After stopping Hardin Northern, the Eagles took over at the Polar Bears 47 with 1:11 left in the half.
Using good clock management, the Eagles were able to get off nine plays and scored when Elbin went in from the 1 with no time showing on the clock.
But Michael Busch, who had earlier missed two field goal attempts, pushed the extra point, which was backed up because of a 15-yard penalty, wide left.
Hardin Northern then used 14 plays to go 53 yards and take 6:36 off the clock. Michael Ridgeway, who had 83 yards in the game, went in from a yard out with 7:42 left.
They needed to try some trick plays and that shows they respect our defense, Eagles coach Scott Garlock said.
They were better tonight, but I think we are just as good as they are.