FINDLAY — Archbold's high-powered, shotgun offense, which put up big numbers all season, ended up shooting itself in the foot Saturday night.
Three interceptions, two costly bad snaps, and not getting into the end zone twice when inside the 5-yard line killed the Blue Streaks' chances in a 35-14 Division V football regional semifinal loss to Lima Central Catholic at Donnell Stadium.
The Thunderbirds (11-1) will move on to the regional finals on Saturday against Jeromesville Hillsdale (11-1), a 48-41 winner over Patrick Henry, at a site to be determined.
“We had a litter of mistakes, which is uncharacteristic of us,” Archbold coach Bryan Miller said. “To me, that is coaching, and we weren't ready to go. These kids have nothing to hang their heads about. They had a tremendous season.”
The Blue Streaks' problems began on their first possession of the game when Tanner Wyse lined up in punt formation. Archbold thought a little trickery was in order, and Wyse jumped as if the snap had sailed over his head. Only problem was the ball hit him in the helmet and was recovered by Lima Central Catholic's David Gremling at Archbold's 33. Seven plays later, the Thunderbirds' Taylor Royster went in from two yards out for a score.
Archbold's next possession had the same misfortune. Facing a fourth-and-2, the snap from center sailed over quarterback Garrett Morton's head for a 22-yard loss. The T-Birds moved the ball right down the field, and quarterback Tyler O'Connor tossed an eight-yard scoring strike to Bubba Krieg for a score. Krieg made a diving catch after the ball came off the hands of LCC's Corey Stump.
“On that TD, we made a nice play and deflected it, but it went right to their guy,” Miller said.
An interception in the end zone by Michael Rogers, his first of two, gave LCC the ball at the 20. The Thunderbirds needed 13 plays to drive 80 yards for the score. The key play in the drive came when Rogers lined up to punt on a fourth-and-seven. The rugby-style punter ran left, and when the field was open, he picked up a first down. Washington went in from seven yards out for the TD.
The Blue Streaks, who end the year 11-1, had a golden opportunity to score on their first drive of the second half. At the T-Birds' one, Morton stepped under center and fumbled the snap. It was the first time Morton had been under center on the evening.
“Let's give a lot of credit to our defense. Rogers had two interceptions, and Sammy [Huffman] had another,” LCC coach Jerry Cooper said. “They had it inside the five twice, and we stopped them.”
While the T-Birds were slamming the door on Archbold, LCC was running at will. The Thunderbirds, running out of a double wing, racked up 325 yards on the ground, led by Washington's 113 yards on 16 carries and Royster's 81 yards.
“They are a big physical team,” Miller said. “They moved it, but a lot of teams have moved it on us. We put ourselves in a lot of bad positions.”
Royster added a second TD on a three-yard run, and LCC quarterback Tyler O'Connor scored from two yards out.
“We thought we could run the ball,” Cooper said. “Our guys up front did a good job.
“We were prepared to throw it, but we were able to run it.”
Archbold's quick-strike attack was slowed as Morton threw for 228 yards on 21-of-32 passing. Morton entered the game with over 2,800 yards passing and 40 touchdowns. He tossed a 19-yard TD to T.J. Gerken, who had eight catches for 86 yards. Archbold's other score came on Tyson Dietrich's three-yard run.