The northwest Ohio Knights semipro football team captured a league title on Saturday, capping a season filled with emotion after the loss of its head coach.
The Maumee-based team won the Crossroads Football League championship with a dramatic last-second touchdown. The Knights defeated the Ohio Crush 21-20, scoring the game-winning touchdown with just 10 seconds left.
The northwest Ohio team (15-1) knocked off the previously unbeaten team from the Dayton area at Raynor Park in New Carlisle, Ohio.
Running back Eddie Toles, a former Bowsher High School standout, scored from eight yards out to tie the game.
“It was crazy,” said Cory Hicks, the Knights' head coach. “The players were beside themselves.”
The Knights' roster consists mostly of former local high school standouts. The players and coaches dedicated the season to team founder Dave Calabrese, the Knights' coach who passed away from complications of ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease in May at age 40.
The team trailed the Crush 12-0 at the half. But the Knights responded with three rushing touchdowns, including two from Toles (56 yards).
The Knights were behind 20-14 with just over three minutes left and the Crush (11-1) was driving. Start graduate Will McCoy then came up with an interception in the Knights' end zone.
With 2:33 left remaining, the Knights drove down the field, mostly on runs.
“It was one of those miracle drives right out of a movie,” Hicks said.
Anthony Wayne graduate Corey Leasor made the key extra point. Clay grad John Shelnick recorved a fumble on the ensuing kickoff.
The team last won a title in 2008 when the Knights were champions of the Great Lakes Football League. That was the year Calabrese formed the team and learned he had ALS.
“We fulfilled a promise we made to Dave,” Hicks said. “When we laid him to rest, we promised we would win the title for him. We played the Caly way. It was an emotional day. It was a magical season.”
— Mark Monroe