GLOUSTER, Ohio — It only took a single minute for the Tornadoes to make things seem interesting.
Unfortunately for visiting Southern, it was way too little — and way too late.
And with that, the Tornadoes’ terrific football season came to an end on Saturday night — as Southern fell to the Trimble Tomcats 21-6 in a Division VII, Region 27 quarterfinal inside Glouster Memorial Stadium.
“I am very proud of our kids and their effort, especially these 11 seniors. They fought and played a good football team,” said Southern coach Mike Chancey. “But give credit to Trimble, they made plays and did a lot of good things.”
Trailing 7-0 for the majority of the contest, but engaged in a hard-fought battle against their Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division rivals, the Tornadoes hung right with the Tomcats — until the bottom dropped out in a matter of two minutes and 12 seconds.
That’s because the fourth-seeded Tomcats (9-2) scored twice in that span to make it 21-0, seriously putting the fifth-seeded Tornadoes behind the eight-ball with only nine-and-a-half minutes left to play.
Southern struck — finally — with 6:50 remaining, on a 60-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Blake Johnson to tight end Crenson Rogers.
The Tornadoes then recovered an onside kick — and Johnson found Rogers open again on the very next play for 29 yards to the Tomcat 10-yard-line.
Unfortunately for the Purple and Gold, the comeback bid and march forward ended there.
Jaylen Blanks was tackled for a seven-yard loss on 1st-and-goal, Johnson was sacked for a 10-yard loss on the next snap — and Max Hooper intercepted Johnson on the Tornadoes’ final play of the season at the five-minute mark.
With the loss, the Tornadoes’ campaign concluded at 8-3, as Southern was making only its second all-time playoff appearance.
The other was also following an 8-2 regular season — in 2013 that ended in the regional quarterfinals.
In addition, Southern’s infamous struggles against Trimble continued, as the Tornadoes lost their 26th straight meeting against the Tomcats.
The first 25, including this year’s 42-14 defeat, are all in the regular season dating back to the series resumption in 1992, as 1973 — Trimble’s first year of existence — remains the Tornadoes’ only triumph.
Although, it appeared for a while that the Tornadoes might find a way to pull off a playoff win.
However, their possessions were limited, as they only had three in the first half and four in the second.
While their three first-half possessions featured drives of 12, seven and 11 plays, the Tornadoes went three-and-out on the opening two in the second half — followed by their three-play, one-minute scoring drive and final four-play series.
But those first-half drives not resulting in a single point loomed large for Southern.
The Tornadoes took the opening kickoff, held the ball for five minutes and 33 seconds, and promptly picked up five first downs in driving from their own 31 to the Trimble 8.
However, they fumbled on 1st-and-goal — and the Tomcats recovered at the 6:22 mark of the first quarter.
Trimble answered with an eight-play scoring drive, which also featured five first downs in moving all the way from its own 9 to the Tornado 27.
Finally, facing 4th-and-3, Tomcat quarterback Gary Brooks called his own number on a quick inside sneak.
But Brooks, believe it or not, went untouched right up the middle — and shockingly was in the end zone with 2:53 remaining in the period.
Hooper, who made all three of his extra-point kicks, hit his first for the 7-0 lead — which held up until only 10 minutes remained.
On Southern’s second drive, it quickly moved from its own 40 to twice inside the red zone, highlighted by Riley Roush’s run for 32 yards.
But the seven-play, two-and-a-half minute drive ended at the Tomcat 18 — when the Tornadoes turned the ball over on downs.
Trimble then went three-and-out at the outset of the second quarter, as the Tornadoes then marched 11 plays in five minutes and 10 seconds from their own 48 to as far as the 1-yard-line.
Johnson’s 33-yard completion to Rogers set up Southern at the Trimble 4.
On 3rd-and-goal from the 1, Johnson snuck in for an apparent touchdown — but it was negated by a five-yard illegal shift penalty.
The next play resulted in a two-yard loss, before a second straight turnover on downs on an incomplete pass.
Chancey talked about the missed opportunities for his club.
Especially since Southern ran just 13 plays in the entire second half, including the back-to-back three-and-outs on its first two possessions.
“When you have opportunities to score, you can’t stop yourself,” he said. “What happened in week seven, we did not play well, but we played a lot better and executed a lot better tonight. But when you have an opportunity to score, you have to get points. We made some mistakes tonight that hurt ourselves.When you play a good football team like Trimble, small things like turnovers or penalties become magnified.”
The Tomcats, conversely, relied heavily on their two-tight end wishbone running attack — just as they did in the regular-season matchup.
After rushing for 370 yards on 47 carries and only attempting three passes in week seven, Trimble rushed for 262 yards on 52 totes on Saturday night.
Kamron Curry carried 23 times for 92 yards, as Brooks — primarily on short-yardage sneaks — added 49 yards on 13 attempts.
Dominic Pickett, though, led all rushers with 117 yards on 13 carries, and scored from four and two yards out early in the fourth quarter.
The Tomcats’ first 11-play drive of at least five-and-a half minutes in the second half resulted in a Dylan Smith interception, but the second — a 40-yard march that consumed six minutes and 10 seconds — ended with Pickett reaching paydirt with 10 minutes remaining.
Perhaps the play of the game occurred in that drive, when Brooks — on 4th-and-21 from the Southern 35 — completed a pass to Hooper for 29 yards.
Brooks’ only other completion on four attempts was a hook-and-lateral connection with Jacob Hardy for six yards.
Following Southern’s second three-and-out, Pickett picked up 40 yards off tackle to the 3-yard line — then scored again three plays later to make it 21-0 with eight minutes left.
Johnson completed 8-of-19 passes for 162 yards, with Rogers recording five receptions for 141, including the 60-yard touchdown.
Roush rushed for 48 yards on nine carries, as Southern only had 76 rushing yards on 24 attempts as a team.
Saturday’s game was the final for 11 Southern seniors — Johnson, Rogers, Blanks, Clayton Wood, Ike Akers, Kody Greene, Colton Holbrook, Trey Pickens, Brody Richards, Jordan Fisher and Curtis Counts.
“These seniors have done everything we’ve asked them to do. They are a bunch of good kids and they’ve been a pleasure to coach,” said Chancey. “It hurts a lot right now for all of us and I hate it for these kids, but at the end of the day, we came up and played with a great effort. I love these kids and I’m very proud of them for what they accomplished this season.”
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106
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