MASON – The “Wayne Train” rolled into their second straight Ohio Division 1 State Championship game with a win over Colerain 28-21 at Mason High School’s Dwire Field in the Ohio High School Athletic Association State Semifinals Saturday night.
The Wayne fans turned out in big numbers weathering the constant rain and cold to cheer on their team. They were a driving support as they were heard throughout the game chanting “Let’s Go Wayne” and at times letting the referees know they missed a certain call, “always with respect, of course.”
Although Colerain led Wayne in both rushing yards (164-128) and passing yards (194-62) it was crucial forced turnovers that gave them the upper hand and the needed field position to pull out the victory. Two Colerain fumbles that were recovered by Wayne, a recovery of a high snap on a punt, a blocked punt and an interception helped to keep Wayne on the winning track and a perfect 14-0 record.
“The heart, guts and the determination was the difference, “said Wayne Coach Jay Minton. “You could sum it up in those three words. No one gave us a chance, our kids didn’t let where the game was played or the weather conditions bother them. It is a great honor to be their leader.”
The Wayne and Colerain defenses were as good as advertised making it a challenge for both teams to get any offense going in the first quarter of play that ended with a scoreless deadlock. Wayne made a big red zone stop, forcing a Colerain fumble and getting the recovery on the 10-yard line. Wayne failed to capitalize and was forced to punt the ball back to Colerain.
To start the second quarter, Colerain moved the ball into the red zone once again on a Deshaunte Jones run. The Wayne defense came up big, forcing a fumble and getting another recovery. It was to no avail as the stingy Colerain defense forced another punt.
On the next Colerain possession, a high snap sailed over the punters head and Wayne swarmed in for the recovery at the Colerain 5-yard line. Wayne took full advantage of the situation as Fred Pitts ran the ball into the end-zone from the 1-yard line with 3:03 remaining in the second quarter to give Wayne the lead 7-0.
Colerain answered with a big play of their own and again was back into Wayne territory. The impressive Colerain drive was capped off by quarterback Jones connecting with Gunnar Leyendecker for a 12-yard touchdown pass with 1:10 left in the second quarter to tie the game at 7-7 going into halftime.
Wayne once more took advantage of a Colerain mishap; this time it was Tobias Gilliam blocking the bobbled punt and giving Wayne the ball on the 10-yard line. Wayne cashed it in on the next play by giving the ball to Daryl McCleskey for the 10-yard touchdown run to give Wayne the lead 14-7 with 8:46 left in the third quarter.
With Colerain on the move after a Wayne punt in the fourth quarter, McCleskey came up with a huge interception and run to shut down the drive and garner great field position. The interception set up a Messiah DeWeaver pass to Matt Wilcox who made a diving catch in the corner of the end-zone in spite of the pass interference call to extend Wayne’s lead to 21-7 with 8:27 left in the fourth quarter.
“Our offensive line gave our quarterback time, “said Wilcox concerning the big catch. “Messiah DeWeaver placed a wonderful ball; I gave a stutter step and our quarterback layed it out there for me to make a play.”
On Colerain’s next possession, the Wayne defense shined, forcing a punt. Wilcox fielded the punt returning it for big yards and into Colerain territory to set up the next Wayne score. Pitts got the call this time and on two carries bashed his way down to the 4-yard line and finally carried the ball untouched into the end zone for the score to extend Wayne’s lead to 28-7 with 6:44 left in the game.
“Matt is a sure handed guy, “said Coach Minton concerning the move to have Wilcox return punts. “He knows how to field punts, he is a play maker, gave us great field position.”
With the game all but over, someone forgot to relay the message to Colerain because they put together a 10-play 74-yard drive that culminated with a Jones 4-yard touchdown run into the end zone with 3:38 left in the game to cut into the Wayne lead, 28-14.
On the next Wayne drive, they were forced to punt and give the ball back into Colerain’s hands. Colerain capitalized on the opportunity this time putting together another drive that featured a Jones to Amir Riep 68-yard touchdown pass with 1:03 left in the game to cut further into the Wayne lead, 28-21.
On the ensuing kick-off, Colerain tried an on-side kick and got the recovery, but was ruled in favor of Wayne because the ball did not travel the distance needed in order for a Colerain player to have possession. Wayne then ran out the clock and the Colerain end of game scoring blitz, to capture the win and another shot at a State Championship next week in Columbus.
Team work and faith in each other was a rallying point for the Warriors in this game.
“Our word of the week was faith, “said sophomore Alex Reigelsperger. “Faith in our brothers, that no matter what they would maintain their job. If I didn’t do it, there would be another man right behind me to do it.”
Wilcox had three catches for 50-yards, one TD, and two punt returns for 72 yards, Pitts had 70 yards on 12 carries and two TDs, and McCleskey had 42-yards on seven carries, one TD and one interception to lead Wayne.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” said Coach Minton concerning the win and the opportunity to get back to the State Championship. “It’s been fun from the beginning of this journey to next week, we have to finish it.”
Wayne (14-0) will face St. Edward (13-1) in the State Championship at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5 at the Ohio Stadium on the campus of Ohio State University.
Reach Steve Granata by contacting Greg Smart at 684-8088 or on Twitter @ HH_Courier.com