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Published: Sunday, 11/6/2005

Ottawa Hills captures first playoff win

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

MONROEVILLE - The Ottawa Hills football team had plenty of chances to fold the tents in its Division VI regional quarterfinal last night.

But instead of rolling over, the Green Bears rolled to a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, the last coming on a 72-yard halfback pass from Johnny Crooks to brother Aaron Crooks, to beat Monroeville 24-20 at Marsh Field.

The victory marked Ottawa Hills' first-ever playoff win.

"We believed all week we could win," Ottawa Hills quarterback Sam Miller said. "We knew no one in Ohio gave us a chance, but we knew we were a great football team. Monroeville is a great football team that hit us really hard. We just hit them right back."

The Eagles struck the first blow on the Green Bears' first play from scrimmage. Stuck on the 1-yard line, Miller was hit while throwing a pass, and the ball went to the Eagles' Brock Schafer. Schafer ran seven yards for a touchdown, and OH was behind 7-0.

But the Green Bears didn't panic. Instead they relied on their defense, which allowed Monroeville just 49 yards in the first half and 98 for the game.

"We were lights-out on defense. I don't think we could have played any better," said Miller, who also had an interception. "The coaches had a great scheme and had us well-prepared. We executed very well."

"We wanted them to have to pass the ball, which they're not comfortable with," Miller said.

The Green Bears used a gift to score just before halftime. The ball was snapped over Eagles punter Cory Palmer's head, and Ottawa Hills got the ball on Monroeville's 34. While the Green Bears weren't able to move the ball, Matt Pranckun kicked a 27-yard field goal with just 36 second left in the half.

"It was 7-3, but we felt good," Ottawa Hills coach Chris Hardman said.

Ottawa Hills took the lead when a short punt and a 15-yard return by Aaron Crooks gave the Green Bears the ball on Monroeville's 20. On the next play Miller found Aaron Crooks in the left flat, and he raced 20 yards for a touchdown.

But the Green Bears made a pair of special-teams errors that set up Monroeville touchdowns.

A punt snap went over Aaron Crooks' head, giving the Eagles the ball on the OH 37 and setting up a one-yard TD plunge by Joe Smith with 3:42 left in the third. Then the Bears allowed the ensuing kickoff to fall uncovered, giving Monroeville the ball on the Ottawa Hills 15 and setting up a 13-yard TD pass from Joe Ringholz to Brad Pierce with 2:01 on the clock.

The Green Bears got the break they needed to get back into the game when Crooks recovered a Monroeville fumble on the Eagles' 24 on the third play of the final quarter. Miller threw a 14-yard completion to Adam Tansey, and Johnny Crooks took a handoff 10 yards to paydirt with 10:44 to play.

The Ottawa Hills defense forced a three-and-out, and on a first-down play Miller pitched the ball to Johnny Crooks on what looked like a sweep. Instead Johnny Crooks threw down field to Aaron Crooks, who tiptoed down the sidelines for the winning score.

"[Monroeville] saw that play on tape, and we knew they saw it on tape, but our guys kept asking for the play all night long," Hardman said. "With 10 seniors, if they say they want to do it, well, it's their game."

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com or 419-724-6481.



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