Trojans finally overmatched; fall in quarterfinals
MOUNT UNION – Mount Union picked the wrong time to play its worst football of the season.
The game was there for the taking but the Trojans shot themselves in the foot every time an opportunity arose.
How bad was it for Mount Union? How did the Trojans snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?
Six turnovers, eight penalties and a key blocked PAT was more than enough to give Forest Hills the 14-13 triumph in the quarterfinals of the District 6 Class AA playoffs.
“We’ve never played a game like that, not ever,” Mount Union coach Dayton Shugarts said. “I think it was nerves. This was their first time in the playoffs and I do think they were nervous. They seemed a bit over-hyped. Mistakes really hurt us. I’ve said it before. You can put down all the X’s and O’s on paper, but then you throw the paper away and play on grass. It was a great high school game.”
Down 14-0 at the half, the Trojans (9-2) fought back with two touchdown drives in the second half.
The first came on an 18-yard touchdown run by B.J. Loner on an end around. Austin Low nailed the kick to make it 14-7 with 9:07 left in the third. Mount Union started the drive on the 40 of Forest Hills and needed only four plays to score.
The Trojans made it 14-13 after quarterback Trevon Walker connected with Devon Kylor from five yards out for a touchdown that capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive. The key play of the drive was a 42-yard toss from Walker to Loner, making it first-and-goal from the four.
On the ensuing point-after attempt, Forest Hills linebacker Ian Wieczorek broke through the interior line of Mount Union and blocked Low’s kick, making it 14-13 with just 7:40 left in regulation.
“It was a big extra point block. It was just a great effort. That was a key play,” Forest Hills coach Don Bailey said. “We’ve had so many injuries. We had two starters go down in the first half, so it showed great resiliency on our part. The kids have played hard all year. It was a nice all-around effort.
“Mount Union is a very good football team and they battle hard. We knew they would come back in the second half. We knew it would be a tough, hard-hitting game between two physical teams who had their seasons on the line.”
Wieczorek was blocked on the play but got his hand up on the low kick by Low and made the key play of the game.
“It was a big part of the game, but what really helped the team was every single person going hard at it on every single play,” Wieczorek said. “We are all brothers. We play for one team, all together. I was blocked on the play. I just stuck my hand up, got lucky, and made the block. We’ve come a long way since the beginning of the season. All the guys have stepped up and we want to keep this going.”
The Trojans mounted one final drive late in the game and had a first-and-goal at the Forest Hills 9-yard line. Walker ran for 31 yards and threw a strike to Nate Goodrich for 21 yards to get into the red zone.
Once there, things fell apart at the seams. On first down at the nine, the coaching staff called a pass and Walker under threw Loner; Ranger safety and quarterback Joe Donoughe came up with the interception to put the nail in the Mount Union coffin.
It marked the second time the Trojans failed to score inside the 5 of the Rangers. The first came on Mount Union’s opening drive. A 42-yard kickoff return by Klayton Heffner and a 15-yard personal foul on Forest Hills put the ball on the 3. Two Trojan penalties and four straight incomplete passes ended with a turnover on downs.
“We got the ball down inside the five on our first drive and came away with nothing. That set the tone for the game,” Shugarts said. “Then we had another first-and-goal late in the game and couldn’t convert. We had a lot of missed opportunities in the game and it hurt us. We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Forest Hills (7-4) capitalized on back-to-back Mount Union turnovers in the second quarter to jump out to a 14-0 lead.
The first score came on a 35-yard pass from Donoughe to Dustin Ohler for the touchdown. The Rangers would score 47 seconds later off a Trojan interception. Facing a second-and-17, Donoughe threw his second touchdown pass, this time a 60-yarder to Quinn Deflauro, who made the Mount Union defender bite on a double move.
Donoughe finished the game with 180 yards passing. The Rangers finished with 282 total yards, while Mount Union had 334.
“These kids played their hearts out. They come back time after time, after time. They could have very easily just given up when they were down 14-0 at half, but they didn’t and that’s the type of kids they are,” Shugarts said. “They keep coming and coming. It’s been a privilege for an old man like me to come back and coach kids like these. They are absolutely phenomenal. I love every one of them. It was a great season.”