ASHLAND, Ohio - Genoa's comeback in last night's Division IV football regional semifinal against Orrville bordered on incredible.
A team that could do little right while falling behind 29-8, did plenty right thereafter to almost pull even.
But it was not to be, as Orrville survived for a 36-35 upset win over the fourth-ranked Comets before a crowd of 5,000 at Ashland's Community Stadium.
Genoa's Jon Lester recovered a Red Rider fumble in the end zone on the kickoff following teammate Greg Hillabrand's 35-yard touchdown run, giving the Comets two TDs in a span of seven seconds.
But sophomore placekicker Tyler Pickard's potential game-tying point-after kick drifted wide right, and Genoa's final drive got only as far as Orrville's 48 before stalling and ending the Comets' season at 11-1.
"At that point, there was still 6:32 to go," Genoa coach Mike Vicars said. "There was time. But that's how it goes. It's part of the game. It's high school football. People are going to make mistakes."
Bigger culprits in Genoa's loss were the Comets' three turnovers and the passing and running of Orrville quarterback Joe Besancon.
The Red Rider senior ran 18 times for 101 yards and one TD and, more significantly, completed 16 of 26 passes for 283 yards and TDs of 45, 81, and 19 yards - all to receiver Sam Miller.
These efforts enabled Orrville (9-3) to score five more points in one game than Genoa had allowed in its previous 11 games this season.
"They're a good football team, and you can't turn the ball over three times and miss a whole bunch of tackles and expect to come out on top," Vicars said. "All the mistakes in the postseason against really good football teams get magnified. That's what happened to us tonight, and we just had too big of a deficit. We just didn't get it done. That's the bottom line."
Orrville set the tone from the game's opening drive, marching 80 yards in 15 plays, converting twice on third down and once on fourth down while consuming
7:09 of the clock en route to the end zone.
Mason Monheim rammed in from the 1 for a 6-0 lead, only the second time all season Genoa had trailed in a game.
Orrville forced a punt and went right back to work, using Miller's 40-yard punt return to the Comet 20 to set up a second touchdown in less than two minutes against the team that had surrendered just 31 total points in its 11 previous games this season.
This time, Besancon closed the deal, running through the middle for a five-yard score and a 12-0 lead with 2:55 left in the first quarter.
The Comets answered on their next chance, with quarterback Matt Bassitt (11-of-23, 139 yards) completing a 19-yard pass on third down to keep the drive going as the first quarter ended. On the second play of the second quarter, Hillabrand (28 carries, 170 yards) bolted 33 yards for the TD and Genoa got within 12-8 on Hillabrand's conversion run.
But Hillabrand would lose two fumbles to end Genoa drives before halftime, and the Besancon-to-Miller hookup netted two more TDs (45 and 81 yards) for a shocking 26-8 Orrville lead at the break.
"We did the things we're supposed to do [during rally]," Vicars said. "We didn't stop them at all in the first half because we missed so many tackles and blew so many assignments.
"But they never stopped our offense. We just kept turning it over. We had five turnovers in 11 games, and we turned it over three times If you're going to do that, it's going to come to an end, and it did."
The Red Riders added a 22-yard field goal from Besancon after intercepting Bassitt on a tipped ball early in the third quarter. That's when Genoa began its comeback.
Hillabrand capped an 83-yard drive with an eight-yard TD run with 4:08 left in the third quarter, and Connor Wendt (eight carries, 67 yards) ran 10 yards for a score with 41.4 seconds left in that period.
After Besancon answered with his 19-yard TD strike to Miller,
Hilabrand closed an 80-yard Genoa drive with a 35-yard run with 6:39 left in the game.
The Red Riders' Dillon Corbett was hit and fumbled the kickoff at his 3, and the ball squirted back to the end zone, where Lester recovered at the 6:32 mark.
"We dodged a bullet to a certain extent, but that's a good football team," Orrville coach Doug Davault said. "We knew, no matter what, they weren't going to quit. You don't go 11-0 and play the way they played each week and think they're going to die, and they didn't.
"Offensively, we were real good tonight. Defensively, it was in and out. They got our edge there in the second half, and we didn't have a big answer for it. At the end, we found a way to squeeze this one out."
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Genoa's comeback in last night's Division IV football regional semifinal against Orrville bordered on incredible.