FINDLAY, Ohio -- Central Catholic grabbed an early lead and hung on late to take a 17-14 victory over Trotwood-Madison Friday night in a Division III state football semifinal played at Findlay's Donnell Stadium.
The win sends the Fighting Irish (12-2) to its third state championship game in 10 seasons, and ended Trotwood's run of reaching four straight state finals.
Central will play second-ranked Athens (14-0), which defeated two-time defending D-III state champion Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary 34-31 in Friday's other state semifinal.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association will determine whether that game will be played Thursday night, or on Friday at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.
A couple of firsts made the difference for eighth-ranked Central, which scored on the game's first possession on a 15-yard play-action pass from quarterback Marcus Winters to Lucas Beauch 4 minutes and 22 seconds into the game. It was Beauch's first pass reception of the season.
The Irish then took a 10-0 lead to halftime after Brock Quinlan's 22-yard field goal 2:20 before halftime. It was Quinlan's first field goal attempt of the year.
The seventh-ranked Rams (12-2) needed to go just 35 yards to get on the scoreboard for the first time in the third quarter.
Freshman running back Raveion Hargrove (12 carries, 64 yards) scored on a 25-yard run around left end with 6:51 left in that quarter to pull the Rams within 10-7.
But Winters (14 carries, 114 yards) made the play of the game and scored what proved to be the game-winning points when he swept around right end and sprinted free for a 90-yard touchdown with 5:57 left in the third.
Trotwood-Madison added its second TD with 1:28 left in the third quarter, this time needing to move just 11 yards after Central punted from its end zone, and Ryon Lucas returned Zach Hoover's punt 24 yards.
Breland Copsy scored three plays later of a three-yard run, pulling his Rams within 17-14.
Trotwood would have two fourth-quarter possessions with a chance to take the lead, but the Irish defense rose to the occasion each time.
Rams quarterback Messiah DeWeaver threw incomplete on fourth down from his 43 with 1:44 remaining, and the Irish ran out the clock to earn their second trip to the state finals in three years.
Central won Division II championships in 2005 and 2012, beating defending state champion Trotwood-Madison 16-12 in the latter title game.
The Rams were also state runners-up in 2010 (in D-II) and last year (in D-III).
Central outgained the Rams 287-134 in total offense.
Tre'Von Wade carried 15 times for 91 yards, and Michael Warren rushed 21 times for 63 yards for the Irish.
DeWeaver, a University of Michigan commit, was just 6-of-21 passing for 36 yards.
Tag(s): High School