Sports Today: Can Bengals, Buckeyes bounce back? Weekend forecast

Published: Friday, November 10, 2017 @ 10:10 AM

JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 05:  Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals leaves the field with his teammates at halftime of their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on November 5, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Logan Bowles/Getty Images)
Logan Bowles/Getty Images
JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 05: Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals leaves the field with his teammates at halftime of their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on November 5, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Logan Bowles/Getty Images)(Logan Bowles/Getty Images)

The Cincinnati Bengals begin the second half of their season this week in Tennessee, but it’s hard to imagine Marvin Lewis’ team creating any beautiful music while they’re down there. 

The 5-3 Titans aren’t great, but what signs of life have the Bengals shown? (Aside from this.)

Lewis insisted he saw progress from the offense last week even as they had arguably one of the worst performances in team history if stats mean anything to you. 

If that wasn’t completely coach-speak and there was any validity to that statement, I would have to guess it was a matter of more guys carrying out their assignments more consistently. 

That’s all well and good, but there are still too many offensive linemen who can’t block, so it doesn’t really matter. 

›› Bengals receiver A.J. Green fined for fighting

Tennessee probably is more or less the team the 3-5 Bengals should have been this year, finding ways to win despite some flaws. 

The Titans are just kind of solid across the board, and their potential franchise quarterback is getting healthier while Cincinnati’s continues to disappoint. Gotta go with the home team here. 

Titans 21, Bengals 10… 

Ohio State tries to bounce back from a horrid loss at Iowa by beating unpredictable Michigan State. 

The Spartans are in the hunt for a Big Ten East title after knocking off Penn State last week, and it’s anybody’s guess which version of either of these teams will show up Saturday for a high noon showdown. 

The better roster, as usual, belongs to Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes, but he’s squandered that advantage more than once already this season. 

PREVIEW: Ohio State Buckeyes seek bounce back vs. Michigan State

While the defense has been disappointing more often than not this season, I am giving them a bit of a pass given the attrition on that side of the ball in consecutive years. 

Perhaps we’ll take some time in the offseason go to back over the ruins of the Silver Bullets if they don’t rebound, but for now I’m still stuck on Ohio State’s offense because that is allegedly Meyer’s specialty. 

The general impression I got from offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson’s very informative interview Wednesday night was he knows all of his options for diversifying the stagnant running game, but he may or may not be convinced something different is necessary. 

It’s also worth pointing out he may think his boss would rather stay committed to the spread than beef up inside with an extra blocker, so he might do that just to avoid Meyer’s ire. 

That would be a mistake, in my opinion. I’d like to see them bulk up that running game with more 12 (two tight end) or 21 (two backs) personnel and/or swap that yucky zone blocking for the good ol’ power play (a.k.a. “dave” under Jim Tressel), but I’m not holding my breath. 

Ohio State remains No. 2 in Football Outsiders S&P+, mostly because of how thoroughly the Buckeyes decimated the bad teams they played between Oklahoma and Penn State. 

Michigan State is 22nd and has abysmal offensive numbers, but I get the impression the Spartans really are better than they look on paper because they have just improved since the start of the season. 

So, who wins this one? 

I think Ohio State will regroup and take care of business, but this really looks like a tossup. 

Ohio State 31, Michigan State 24… 

Ohio football’s renaissance under Frank Solich continues. 

The Bobcats pounded Toledo (previously undefeated in the MAC) 38-10 last night with Covington’s A.J. Ouellette rushing for 70 yards and a touchdown. 

Miami’s rival has gotten so good under Solich I actually saw at least one Bobcat alumn Tweet it don’t mean a thing without the ring (as in winning in the MAC championship game). 

What a world. 

Meanwhile, the RedHawks need two wins to become bowl eligible for the second consecutive season. They finish with the two worst teams in the MAC West: 3-7 Eastern Michigan and 2-8 Ball State… 

College basketball is back tonight, and it promises to be an interesting season in the Miami Valley and beyond. 

Dayton might be hard-pressed to win a third straight Atlantic 10 title, but the Flyers’ first season under Anthony Grant is intriguing for several reasons. 

David Jablonski provides five things to watch tonight as they open the season against Ball State. 

RELATED: Meet the UD freshmen

I look for this to be an athletic team that is strong defensively. Point guard play and outside shooting are open questions. If those are strong, this team could really surprise. If they are bad, it could be a long year. 

RELATED: ‘It starts for real’ for Flyers on Friday

Having a guy in Kostas Antetokounmpo who could just show the ability to take over games is a wild card, too. 

Meanwhile, Wright State opens the season tonight at Loyola. 

The Raiders are in year two under Scott Nagy, and they won’t begin the season with all their bullets in the holster. 

Once they get to full strength, this will be an interesting team, too. 

For better or for worse, early wins and losses don’t mean much for WSU since they are in a conference that typically only gets one NCAA tournament bid… 

Of course, the high school football playoffs continue tonight with second-round games being played across the state. 

Some really intriguing matchups here, starting of course with Dunbar-Trotwood. 

Dunbar has made quite a turnaround from getting blown out by Belmont in week one, and Trotwood is looking to get back to the state championship, where the Rams lost last season. 

Talk about a chance for a statement win for the Wolverines. 

Chaminade Julienne already got one of those last week by winning a rematch over Alter. The Eagles get New Richmond this week. 

Then there is Valley View vs Clinton-Massie, a matchup of an old-school powerhouse against a newer one. 

The most intriguing team to watch tonight might be Sidney. The Yellow Jackets have had a dream season, but they face a Herculean task to extend it: three-time state champion La Salle... 

Lastly, in case you didn’t bother paying attention to the release of the Silver Slugger awards because Joey Votto was obviously going to win one, well, I’ve got bad news. 

Votto’s award went to Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks for some reason. 

This is even more perplexing than the annually ridiculous Gold Glove voting because, well, there are actual numbers that can tell us who the best hitters are. 

What gives, man? 

Prep football: ‘Heartbreaking’ loss for Madison in D-V state semifinal

Published: Friday, November 24, 2017 @ 10:11 PM
Updated: Saturday, November 25, 2017 @ 2:37 AM


            Evan Crim (34), Max Evans (middle) and Levi McMonigle make life difficult for Wheelersburg quarterback Trent Salyers during Friday night’s Division V state semifinal at Herrnstein Field in Chillicothe. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Evan Crim (34), Max Evans (middle) and Levi McMonigle make life difficult for Wheelersburg quarterback Trent Salyers during Friday night’s Division V state semifinal at Herrnstein Field in Chillicothe. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

The finality was brutal for a Madison High School football team that made history this season.

The Mohawks couldn’t close the deal on a trip to the Division V state championship game, completing their first-ever playoff appearance by squandering a 10-0 lead in the last 14 minutes and falling to Wheelersburg 15-10 in a state semifinal Friday night at Chillicothe’s Herrnstein Field.

“It’s just heartbreaking,” said junior nose guard Max Evans, part of a Madison defense that limited the potent Pirates to 182 total yards. “We made it this far. I didn’t like when people called it a Cinderella story. We knew what we were doing the whole time.

“All good things come to an end, and we played a great team. I don’t think we regret anything. All the guys left everything on the field, and I think we’re all really proud of what we’ve done.”

The Mohawks (11-3) were limited to 122 yards on the ground — they entered the contest averaging 364.5 — as their 10-game winning streak came to an end.

Wheelersburg (14-0) will go after its second state championship next Friday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, facing Pemberville Eastwood (14-0) at 3 p.m.

“We came up short. I don’t have a snazzy cliche for you … I wish I did,” Madison coach Steve Poff said. “My kids fought hard, and you have to face the fact that we played a really, really good team. That was the best team that we had played all year. I feel like we played them better than anybody else has all year. They’re a class act, from the coach to each one of their players and staff members and fans.

“You’re upset about what happened tonight, but so many good feelings and so many positives came out of this. We came a long way from 1-2. I’m just proud of my kids and the way they respond to things and the effort they put in. There’s worse tragedies in the world than losing a high school football game. We’re going to take our 30 days and get back in the weight room and get better.”

Cameron Svarda ran 17 times for 53 yards and Tyler Baumgartner added 32 yards on 10 carries for the Mohawks. Quarterback Mason Whiteman had a 1-yard touchdown run with 0.4 seconds left in the first half to give his team a 7-0 lead at the break.

That TD was set up by a Whiteman interception, and teammate Evan Crim also picked off Pirates quarterback Trent Salyers on the third play of the third quarter. Madison gained possession at the WHS 6, but had to settle for a 28-yard field goal by Graham Reich.

The Mohawks’ Levi McMonigle recovered his third fumble in the last three games on Wheelersburg’s next possession, but the Pirates kept it a 10-point game when Evan Dahm intercepted a Whiteman pass.

Wheelersburg turned a Madison fumble into a 22-yard field goal by Jalen Miller with 1:50 left in the third stanza, and the Pirates got a 17-yard touchdown pass from Trent Salyers to Justin Salyers just over three minutes later.

Whiteman had boomed a 62-yard punt from deep in his own territory, but a penalty forced Madison to replay the down, and Whiteman couldn’t handle the punt snap and got stopped short on a run for the first down. The Pirates missed the extra point and still trailed 10-9, but they went ahead for good on Xander Carmichael’s 2-yard TD run with 7:09 left.

The Mohawks’ last three possessions ended with a fake punt that failed to produce a first down and two interceptions. Reid Davis threw those picks after Whiteman moved to wide receiver — Whiteman came off the field holding his arm early in the fourth period, and Poff conceded that he was hurt.

“He was, but he’s also dynamic out there catching the ball, so it was a combination of things,” Poff said of inserting Davis at QB. “Mason’s a tough kid. I don’t have the words to tell you what he means to our team.”

Tanner Holden picked off Davis with 1:33 remaining, and Cole Lowery’s interception with 7.5 seconds left sealed the win for Wheelersburg.

“What a way to go out and earn a victory tonight,” Pirates coach Rob Woodward said. “Hats off to Madison. They did an outstanding job of taking away some things we wanted to do.

“We didn’t help ourselves. We dropped some balls, which is uncharacteristic of us. That’s why you have two sides of the ball and you have four quarters to play. Our kids stayed after it and kept fighting.”

Trent Salyers was 11 of 21 for 128 yards for the Pirates. Wheelersburg managed just 54 rushing yards, led by Dominic Reyes (nine carries, 21 yards).

Carmichael, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound linebacker and tight end, ran seven times for 20 yards in the second half. The numbers weren’t huge, but they were important to the Pirates’ late surge.

“That’s just a great defensive game right there,” Carmichael said. “We didn’t need to change our defense at halftime because we were doing just fine. It was just bad field position in the first half, and in the second half we finally got the field position we wanted.

“We knew they were a tough, hard-nosed team, so we prepared all week by just grinding and grinding. All we had to do was stop the run.”

Penalties stung the Mohawks all night long. They were flagged 11 times for illegal procedure, and Poff said it had nothing to do with the raucous fans that packed the house.

“That was their defense mimicking our snap count,” Poff said. “Great job by them. If the referees don’t call it, it’s legal. I’m not trying to take one thing away from Wheelersburg. They earned it.”

Poff thought he hurt his team with some of the calls he made, especially in the second half. Evans felt Madison relaxed a bit after taking the 10-0 lead.

“We almost thought we had it in the bag or something,” Evans said. “Momentum is a crazy thing, and the penalties really didn’t help us. Things just swung their way in the final two quarters.”

Evans and Cole Pelgen had sacks for the Mohawks. Offensively, Davis was 1 of 4 through the air for 4 yards (on a completion to Whiteman) and Whiteman was 0 of 3.

Poff said he wasn’t surprised by Madison’s postseason run.

“I knew the sky was the limit,” he said. “I thought that we would dictate how we went with our play and our physicality and our attitude and our effort. Really, the kids probably played good enough to win tonight. The responsibility falls on me to lead guys through that, and I came up short. I feel terrible about it. I’m going to work on that and try to get better.”

Wheelersburg has been to the playoffs 29 times, but the Pirates are headed to the state finals for just the second time. They won the Division IV title in 1989.

“I am so psyched,” Woodward said. “It’s something I’ve dreamed of since I got into coaching, and our players have been working towards it. When you believe in something and you work hard for it, good things happen. That’s what I told our kids tonight before we took the field, and they continued to work hard and good things happened.”

Madison 0-7-3-0—10

Wheelersburg 0-0-3-12—15

M: Mason Whiteman 1 run (Graham Reich kick)

M: Reich 28 field goal

W: Jalen Miller 22 field goal

W: Justin Salyers 17 pass from Trent Salyers (Kick failed)

W: Xander Carmichael 2 run (Run failed)

UCLA beats Cal, attains bowl eligibility: 3 things we learned

Published: Saturday, November 25, 2017 @ 2:10 AM

Friday night presented a rare combination: A play-in game for what is likely to be the Independence Bowl, and Pac-12 After Dark. Both Cal and UCLA entered with 5-6 records, meaning one more win would push the victor into bowl eligibility. Prior to the game, information sheets for the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. were being handed out, making the contest essentially a battle for the December 27 bowl.

And after J.J. Molson’s 37-yard field goal went through the uprights with four seconds on the clock, putting UCLA up 30-27, it was the Bruins who punched their tickets to Shreveport.

Three things we learned:

UCLA may have had its last game with Josh Rosen

Late in the first half, Josh Rosen took a hard hit, taking both an intentional grounding penalty and enough contact to knock him out of the rest of the game. At the time, Rosen was picking apart the Cal defense at his will, completing 13 of 18 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns. He was essentially just a standard Rosen to Jordan Lasley completion away from breaking Brett Hundley’s school record for passing yards in a single season.

It wasn’t to be. Rosen, whose injury has not yet been specified, came out of the locker room in street clothes, replaced at quarterback by Devon Modster, the freshman who started his first game in a Nov. 3 loss to Utah.

While the extent of the injury is unknown, it’s possible that Rosen skips the Independence Bowl, which is UCLA’s likely landing spot on December 27 in Shreveport, La. It has become common practice for projected top draft picks to sit out of their respective bowl games, and Rosen, whose career has been marred by injury, certainly fits that mold.

Jordan Lasley will catch the ball no matter who’s throwing

There may be no receiver hotter than Jordan Lasley right now. In a 28-23 loss to USC last week, Lasley hauled in 10 catches for 204 yards and three touchdowns, earning the respect from former Trojan cornerback Adoree’ Jackson.

If any were wondering if Lasley was simply the product of a brilliant quarterback, Friday night put that to rest. Rosen found Lasley in the end zone before the first half, marking the receiver’s third straight game with a touchdown and his fifth in the past three games.

Even when it wasn’t Rosen throwing to him, but Modster, Lasley delivered. He finished with 12 catches for 227 yards and a touchdown. In doing so, he became the first Bruin in history to record three 10-catch games in a season.

UCLA’s defense continues to mature

The Bruin defense is far from perfect, but the defense that took the field on Friday night was markedly better than the one that let up 45 in the first half of the season to Texas A&M.

Yes, Cal was able to move the ball. On eight straight possessions, it drove into Bruin territory, and UCLA once again allowed more than 200 yards on the ground, struggling to contain Cal running back Patrick Laird, who ran for 178 yards on 32 carries.

But what UCLA did was limit Cal’s touchdowns. Even if the Bears were perpetually in UCLA territory, they weren’t finishing there.

Michigan State-UConn: Recap, score, analysis for PK80 Invitational game (November 24, 2017)

Published: Friday, November 24, 2017 @ 11:20 PM

No. 4 Michigan State (4-1) sprinted past UConn (4-1) in the second half Saturday for a 77-57 win in the PK80 Invitational Victory Bracket semifinals in Portland, Ore.

Point guard Cassius Winston led the way with a career-high 28 points on 12 of 15 shooting, with 23 coming in the second half. Jaren Jackson Jr. had 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Nick Ward added 11 and 9. Miles Bridges posted 6 points and 8 rebounds in his return from a sprained ankle.

Michigan State will take on North Carolina next in the Victory Bracket championship game at 8:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Michigan State-UConn recap

Michigan State 67, UConn 53 (H2, 4:10): Some sort of switch flipped, and Cassius Winston took over. He hit Tillman on the pick-and-roll, and other than that, he did it all himself. He scored 12 points in just over four minutes, capping off a ridiculous run with a wild over-the-head layup.

Michigan State 47, UConn 40 (H2, 11:46): The Huskies wouldn’t go away. Michigan State did not allow many easy shots in the half-court, but UConn took the chances it got and made them count. As Jalen Adams cooled, Terry Larrier began to heat up.

Michigan State 43, UConn 33 (H2, 15:50): Michigan State started the half on a tear offensively. Nick Ward sprinted down the court for a layup on one possession, then banked in a hook shot with the foul on the next. Cassius Winston continued to look for his jumper in transition, and Jaren Jackson Jr. pulled down an offensive rebound before going right back up for a ferocious dunk. If not for a defensive lapse, the Spartans could have been leading by 13.

Michigan State 28, UConn 27 (H1, 0:00): At the end of the half, Michigan State held a one-point lead but saw arguably its three best players (Cassius Winston, Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr.) all saddled with a pair of fouls. The Spartans shot just 32.4 percent from the field, but they also held UConn to 29.6 percent. Josh Langford had 7 points to lead the way.

Michigan State 26, UConn 21 (H1, 4:07): Michigan State showed that if it could score consistently, it would win this game. Against UConn’s freewheeling offensive style predicated on a lot of one-on-one action, the Huskies had a tough time finding open shots.

Michigan State 20, UConn 19 (H1, 7:35): Shooting is contagious, and Michigan State finally caught the bug. Josh Langford hit from outside, then Cassius Winston found his jumper in transition, then Jaren Jackson Jr. banked in a long ball.

UConn 10, Michigan State 9 (H1, 11:52): Michigan State couldn’t connection in transition, in the half-court, from the 3-point line or from in the paint. Nothing was falling. The Spartans started 4 of 17 from the field. Fortunately for them, their defense forced UConn into a 4 for 14 start.

Michigan State 6, UConn 5 (H1, 16:00): The story of the first four minutes wasn’t Jaren Jackson Jr.’s put-back dunk or a bunch of missed layups. It was Miles Bridges entering the game, for one, and then immediately being slapped with a foul on a poor call as he reeled in an offensive rebound.

Michigan State 0, UConn 0 (H1, 20:00): On his pregame show, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said he expected Miles Bridges to play. The sophomore wouldn’t start, though. The starters for Michigan State: Cassius Winston, Josh Langford, Matt McQuaid, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Nick Ward.

Michigan State-UConn basketball: Game time, information

Michigan State and UConn play at 9 p.m. PT/12 a.m. ET on Friday, Nov. 24/Saturday, Nov. 25.

Time: 9 p.m. PT/12 a.m. ET

Date: Friday, Nov. 24/Saturday, Nov. 25

Location: Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Portland, Ore.

How can I watch the Michigan State-UConn basketball game online?

Michigan State and UConn will be broadcast on ESPN.  WatchESPN will have the live stream. You can also stream the game from your  Android or  iOS device.

Kevin Brown and Sean Farnham will be on the call.

How can I listen to the Michigan State-UConn basketball game on the radio?

Michigan State and UConn can be heard over the 38-affiliate  Spartan Sports Network, including flagship stations WMMQ-FM (94.9)/WJIM-AM (1240) in Lansing and WJR-AM (760) in Detroit.

Will Tieman and Matt Steigenga will have the call.

Michigan State-UConn basketball preview

Michigan State won without sophomore star Miles Bridges on Thursday night. He warmed up and looked mobile after suffering a sprained ankle last Sunday, but coach Tom Izzo took no chances. Will he play against UConn? It remains to be seen.

Having him, obviously, would provide a big boost. UConn’s leading scorer, Terry Larrier, is a 6-foot-8 wing who shoots 43.8 percent from beyond the arc. Bridges would match up nicely against him.

Behind Larrier, the Huskies have four other double-digit scorers. All four are guards standing 6-3 or shorter. Cassius Winston, Josh Langford and the Michigan State backcourt will have their hands full.

The Spartans have a clear size advantage and will likely try to use it. They got 13 points from 6-11 freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. and 8 from sophomore big man Nick Ward on Thursday. Look for them to get the ball inside more often against UConn, especially if the Huskies don’t zone up.

UConn hits the glass hard, so the Spartans, who have tended to try to outjump teams instead of getting physical, need to put a body on someone with every shot.

And once the ball is reeled in, Michigan State should push. The Spartans have traditionally been at their best, and were again on Thursday, when they get out on the break and try to score before the defense is set. On such a short layoff, it will be interesting to see if they have the energy to run like they did against DePaul.

High School Football Playoffs: Trotwood-Madison headed back to Division III state-title game

Published: Friday, November 24, 2017 @ 9:31 PM
Updated: Saturday, November 25, 2017 @ 1:51 AM

Trotwood’s Kennedy Coates (left), James Parker and Taron Britt came up big in a 16-7 defeat of Toledo Central Catholic in a D-III high school football state semifinal at Piqua on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

That state-championship meltdown that ended Trotwood-Madison’s football season last year? Fuel for a burning inner fire.

“It’s unbelievable to come out with a win,” Rams standout linebacker James Parker said following an as-yet season-defining 16-7 defeat of postseason rival Toledo Central Catholic on Friday at Alexander Stadium. “But at the end of the day our objective since Day 1 has been to finish. That’s what we have to do.”

»CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVE: 4 area teams advance to state football finals

»MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Trotwood-Madison focused on the positive

»BACK TOGETHER AGAIN: Trotwood and TCC

»HISTORIC REMATCH: Marion Local KO’s Coldwater

»IT’S A FIRST: Doesn’t get any better than Marion Local vs. Coldwater

»MAC REMATCH? Marion Local, Coldwater would meet again

»GWOC LOSS: Second head football coach resigns

»IT’S AN HONOR: Area players, coaches earn Southwest District status

»MIKE AND MARC: The boys talk playoff football

»STATE POLL CHAMPS: Trotwood-Madison, Marion Local No. 1 in football

»RELATED: Top 7 all-time, Dayton-area football players

»LET’S GET TECHNICAL: Instant replay assists teams

That’s a direct reference to what Trotwood couldn’t do in 2016 after being mashed by Akron Archbishop Hoban 30-0 in a Division III state title mismatch. But the Rams have qualified for a do-over after knocking out the Irish in yet another state semi.

Trotwood (14-0) will look to complete a perfect season against Dresden Tri-Valley (13-1). That will be the last of seven state title games at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1 at Canton’s new Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Tri-Valley, located near Zanesville, defeated Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary 24-6 in the other D-III state semi at Perry.

Trotwood's Jalen Watson (11) closes on TCC's Jase Bowen. Trotwood-Madison defeated Toledo Central Catholic 16-7 in a D-III high school football state semifinal at Piqua on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF( )

Joining Trotwood in advancing to title games are area teams Clinton-Massie (D-IV) and Midwest Athletic Conference members Marion Local (D-VI) and Minster (D-VII).

This was the fourth straight season Trotwood and TCC were matched in a state semi. This relatively new playoff rivalry started in the 2012 D-II state title game, an Irish win.

Last season Trotwood shocked TCC 36-0, which set up the Rams’ disappointing fall of not finishing in the title game. Nothing like that high-scoring mismatch was expected in this title-like bout. Instead, it was a defensive slugfest that all but negated two great offenses.

Trotwood benefitted the most, turning two blocked punts into nine points for a slim lead. Then the Rams’ hammer struck. Mostly contained throughout, standout senior Rams running back Ra’veion Hargrove zig-zagged 77 yards through the heart of the Irish defense to seal the stunning win with less than five minutes remaining.

Trotwood’s Ra’veion Hargrove (bottom with ball) draws a crowd. Trotwood-Madison defeated Toledo Central Catholic 16-7 in a D-III high school football state semifinal at Piqua on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

“You shut him down, you shut him down and you shut him down, then he hits one,” veteran TCC coach Greg Dempsey said. “It’s just bad timing. You miss a play and they make you pay for it. That’s what good teams do.”

Unlike the bulk of its blowout wins, Trotwood had a game-deciding assist from its punt-rush unit. First, Kennedy Coates swatted an Irish punt into the end zone, where Taron Britt fell on the ball with inches to spare from the back end. That drew the teams even at 7-all in the first quarter.

Incredibly, Trotwood blocked another punt, although it was more like a miss fire into the Rams’ defensive front and never had a chance to go airborne. This time the ball tantalizingly caromed through the end zone just ahead of the diving Rams. The resulting safety put Trotwood up 9-7 in the third quarter.

Trotwood's Jayvanare Nelloms (21) and teammates get defensive. Trotwood-Madison defeated Toledo Central Catholic 16-7 in a D-III high school football state semifinal at Piqua on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF( )

The teams traded penalties, missed passes, interceptions and botched series until Hargrove stunned the Irish with his long strike.

Trotwood sensed a blocked punt was doable after viewing video of the Irish.

“We noticed (the TCC punter) rolls to the right and does that rugby thing,” Trotwood coach Jeff Graham said. “We said when we get that opportunity that’s where we’ve got to hold our hat to make that difference in the game.”

Hargrove had 127 yards rushing, pushing his season total to 2,127. The Trotwood defense was just as magnificent as the 2016 blowout, holding TCC to 21 yards rushing (45 carries) and 91 yards of total offense.

That defensive might was also costly. Rams sophomore corner Sam Anderson was removed on a stretcher afterward as a precaution and will undergo concussion protocol. The Rams’ postgame team huddle also prematurely ended due to a player’s asthma attack.

“It was an ugly game and sometimes it happens that way,” said Graham, shrugging. “You gotta give it up for these seniors. They’ve been here and they don’t panic in this situation.”

»FACEBOOK: For more high school sports you should like Marc Pendleton