COLUMBUS – Wayne mounted an epic fourth quarter comeback but fell short to Lakewood St. Edward 45-35 in the Division I state title game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus Saturday with 11,036 in attendance.
The Wayne Warriors looked to be down for the count with the score 31-14 in the fourth, but refused to stay on the mat in “Rocky Balboa” like fashion to score three times in less than five minutes. Wayne took the lead 35-31, stunning the crowd, only to see St. Edward battle back to regain the lead and go on to win their second straight Ohio High School Div. 1 State Championship.
“Yes we are disappointed, just like we were last year, “said Coach Jay Minton. “But I am extremely proud as a coach, it was just a phenomenal season that we had. We made history at Wayne High School and I am really proud and love each and every one of them. I love the way they battled back, this is a team, they never quit, they always believe.”
St. Edward struck first, scoring on their first possession with a 2-yard run by QB Jimmy Keefe to take the lead 7-0 with 9:52 left in the first quarter. The touchdown was set up by two big pass plays by Keefe who went on to set the Division 1 record for passing in a State Championship game with 419 yards.
After a failed St. Edward field goal, Wayne took possession of the ball and answered with a Fred Pitts 20-yard run to move into scoring position. Matt Wilcox got the call and ran it into the end-zone untouched for a 4-yard touchdown with 3:47 remaining in the first quarter to tie the game 7-7.
St. Edward came back with a 35-yard field goal by Jake Budyka with 1:38 left in the first quarter to take the lead 10-7.
St. Edward struck one more time before the half by putting together an eight-play, 54-yard drive that culminated with a Jared Supinski 1-yard run for a score with 46-seconds remaining in second quarter to extend the lead to 17-7.
Wayne started out the third quarter with a score as Daryl McCleskey broke through the line for a 67-yard scamper to pay-dirt with 7:17 remaining in the quarter to cut the lead to 17-14. McCleskey had 156-yards on 11 carries for the day to lead Wayne.
St. Edward came right back as Keefe connected on a 3-yard toss to Mathew Gonzalez in the end-zone with 4:52 remaining in the third quarter to extend the lead to 23-14.
St. Edward once again put together an impressive drive moving the ball to the Wayne 2-yard line to start off the fourth quarter. This time it was a Keefe to Michael O’Malley touchdown pass with 10:43 left in the fourth quarter that looked to be the knock-down punch to put Wayne on the mat for good while extending the lead to 31-14.
Wayne refused to stay down as they stormed back with a DeWeaver to L’Christian Smith 70-yard touchdown pass with 7:15 remaining in the fourth quarter to cut into the lead 31-21.
“Our guys didn’t want to lose, “said Quarterback Messiah DeWeaver. “The score was 34-14 and I saw it in our guys’ eyes, we just needed a score to get going. Our guys battled, we came close, I loved the fight I saw, and we were disappointed that we didn’t come out on top.”
On the ensuing kick-off, Wayne executed an on-side kick to perfection as Tobias Gilliam recovered the ball on the 50-yard line. Wayne capitalized on the St. Edward turnover as DeWeaver found Matt Wilcox in the corner of the end-zone for a 21-yard touchdown grab with 5:17 left in the fourth quarter to make the score 31-28.
“We thought we could catch them on a little surprise, “said Coach Minton concerning the on-side kick. “It was great execution on the play, what did we have to lose, we had to make a play to get back into the game.”
Wayne was not done as Richard Carpenter intercepted a Keefe pass and rambled down to the St. Edward 4-yard line. Fred Pitts carried the ball to the 1-yard line setting up a Matt Wilcox up and over the top dive into the end-zone with 3:47 remaining in the fourth quarter to put Wayne out in front for the first time in the game 35-31.
Just when it looked like Wayne had gained momentum, the defending state champions came back with another punch of their own. A Keefe to Gonzalez pass set up a Cole Gest 5-yard touchdown run with 1:19 left in the game to give St. Edward the lead 38-35.
On the ensuing kick-off it was St. Edward turn to try their hand at an on-side kick which they executed to perfection. The kicker hit a bullet that St. Edward recovered. The turnover set up a Cole Gest 51-yard touchdown run with 1:07 left in the game to make the score 45-35 in favor of St. Edward. That touchdown was the final blow that ended Wayne’s history making season making the Warriors the runner-up for the second straight year in the Division 1 State Championship game.
DeWeaver was 8 of 21 passing for 168-yards, two TDs and two interceptions, Daryl McCleskey had 156-yards rushing and one TD while L’Christian Smith had three catches for 114-yards and one TD. Matt Wilcox had three TDs, two rushing and one receiving and Fred Pitts had 85 yards rushing to lead Wayne.
Wayne has now been to the State Championship four times and the playoffs 12 times as it completed a 14-1 campaign.
“Coming out of Region 2 is brutal, “said Coach Minton. “Colerain was a physical game, we came out bruised and battered, and I wish we could have been fresher. Our hearts were big tonight, we played with a lot of emotion, a lot of heart, great leadership, and it was really fantastic to be a part of it.
Reach Stephen Granata by contacting Greg Smart at 684-8088 or on Twitter @ HH_Courier.com