LIMA - Oak Harbor did not abandon its patented rushing attack, but the Rockets took to the air for three scores and their defense did the rest in a Division IV regional final last night.
Rocket quarterback Adam Grof, who entered the game with just seven touchdown passes in 13 games, threw for three against Milton-Union. The Oak Harbor defense limited the Bulldogs to four first downs in the second half and the Rockets took a 26-20 win before about 4,000 fans at Lima Senior Stadium.
Oak Harbor remained perfect (13-0) and advances to the state semifinals. The Rockets take on Plain City Jonathan Alder here next Friday night.
"I never thought this would happen in a million years," said Grof, who finished with six completions for 60 yards. "Coming into the game I knew we were going to be running the ball again. Coach asked me to step up and make some plays. I think I did a great job finding the open guy. But my offensive line did a great job pass protecting."
Senior Steve Sprouse intercepted a pass that set up the decisive touchdown and also caught a touchdown pass.
"I just tried to make some plays and make the best of it," Sprouse said. "The defense set the tone and our lines deserve all the credit."
Oak Harbor had churned out 3,559 rushing yards this season and Grof had thrown for only a little over 600 yards.
"We do have a great quarterback." Sprouse said. "That is our secret weapon. People think we're only a running team. But when we do throw the ball, we're productive."
Senior back David Ulery scored on the ground and caught a touchdown pass.
"We played with a lot of heart," Ulery said. "The front lines deserve all the credit."
Bulldog QB Mitch Evans, who is being recruited by Big Ten schools, was limited to 104 yards passing and 40 rushing.
It didn't begin well for Oak Harbor, but the Rockets found themselves down by just six despite turning the ball over three times over the first 8:18 of the contest. They fumbled three times on the first eight snaps from scrimmage.
"I don't what is was," said Oak Harbor coach Gary Quisno. "We shouldn't be nervous at this point in the season. That was very uncharacteristic of us. Our defense stepped up in the second half and got the job done."
The Rockets trailed 14-7 at the half. But on its first possession of the second half, Oak Harbor churned out a drive that covered 74 yards on 12 plays and ate up 5:21 off the clock. They covered 72 yards on the ground, averaging 6.5 per carry. The ground assault set up a play-action fake as Grof found McCune wide open over the middle. Tom Tabbert missed the extra point, but the Rockets pulled within one, 14-13, with
2:16 to go in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, the Rocket defense held the Bulldogs to four straight three-and-outs to start the second half.
Oak Harbor took the lead for good on its first drive of the fourth quarter with an 80-yard drive capped by Ulery's three-yard run.
Sprouse came up with a pick on Milton-Union's next possession and Ulery scored again on a two-yard pass from Grof. The scoring play came on fourth-and-goal at the 2 and made it 26-14 with 2:37 left.
Oak Harbor fumbled at its third snap from scrimmage to set up the Bulldog's first score. On the Rockets' very next snap, they again fumbled and turned it over again on the first snap of the fourth possession.
"I don't think we played all that well, but we played well enough to get the job done," Quisno said.
Milton-Union would add a late touchdown, but was limited to 190 total yards after entering the game averaging 389 per game.
"We just tackled better in the second half," Quisno said.
Jake Lipstraw (18 rushes for 86 yards) led the Rockets rushing attack that finished with 151 yards.
The 2006 Rockets have now matched the deepest run into the playoffs in school history.
"This has been a phenomenal season, but we're not satisfied," Ulery said. "Not until week 15."
Contact Mark Monroe at: email@example.com or 419-724-6110.-12.0436 -77.02122