FOSTORIA - The Ottawa Hills football team ran out of magic in suffering a 30-17 loss to Hopewell-Loudon in a Division VI regional semifinal at Memorial Stadium last night.
For most of the first three quarters the Green Bears took the best shots of the Chieftains - and threw a few counter-punches in return.
But Hopewell-Loudon made two big plays late in the contest to end the season for Ottawa Hills, which finished 9-3. Hopewell-Loudon advances to Saturday's regional final with a 12-0 mark.
"The better team won tonight," Ottawa Hills coach Chris Hardman said. "I have no regrets losing this game because they played better than we did. But we're proud of our kids - they took this program to new heights, and that's what we'll remember."
After the game's first four possessions resulted in a pair of three-and-outs for each side, the two offenses erupted for a series of big plays that made the score 21-14 at the break.
Hopewell-Loudon scored first, putting together an 11-play, 88-yard drive. Sean Brickner had 71 of those yards, including a 44-yard run early in the march and a five-yard run into the end zone to cap it.
But the Green Bears wasted no time posting their first score. Quarterback Sam Miller found Aaron Crooks in between two defenders; the two defenders fell down, and Crooks raced 71 yards for a score.
And that began a series of back-and-forth big-play strikes by the two teams.
Hopewell-Loudon scored on a 44-yard pass-and-catch play from quarterback Andrew Brose to Lucas Schalk, but OH responded with Miller's 30-yard pass to Adam Tansey in the back of the end zone.
But the Chieftains struck back quickly. On the first play of the next drive, Brose hit Zach Yost near the sideline, and Yost broke a pair of tackles to rumble 63 yards to paydirt.
"I thought our first two touchdown passes, we were fortunate," Hardman said. "Sam squeezed the ball into a tiny opening to Aaron, and on the next one he threw it into the back of the end zone."
The Green Bears certainly impressed Hopewell-Loudon coach Brian Colatruglio.
"They hit a couple of long ones on us, and we hadn't given up big plays like that all season," Colatruglio said. "Give their quarterback credit: he hung in there and took a beating tonight and made some brilliant throws.
"They are better than a lot of people gave them credit for. They made some outstanding plays, and we were happy to overcome that."
The yards came much tougher for the Green Bears in the second half. Ottawa Hills managed just 117 yards in the period and got their lone points on a 28-yard field goal by Matt Pranckun.
"Yards and plays were hard to come by tonight," Hardman said. "We got 17 points on them, and almost no one has had 17 points on them this season. I understand why."
Leading 24-17 entering the final quarter, Hopewell-Loudon sealed the deal with an eight-play, 57-yard drive for the game's final points. Brose avoided a sack, scrambled, then found Jordan Siebenaller alone in the back of the end zone for the score.
Brose completed 8 of 17 passes for 202 yards and three scores, and Hardman felt he made the difference for the Chieftains.
"If that quarterback has had a better game in his life, I'd like to see it," Hardman said. "He was fabulous. He was the piece that we didn't necessarily see in film, and he was spectacular."
Hopewell-Loudon's Matt Bryant ended Ottawa Hills' hopes by intercepting Miller's final pass of the night, giving the Chieftains their first-ever berth in the regional finals.
"I think we're as good as anybody out there," Colatruglio said. "I sure would like a chance to prove it. It's all about surviving; I'm just glad we get to practice next week."
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6481.