Updated Sun, Nov 17, 2013 1:30 pm
The Trimble Tomcats added another victory to their program-best undefeated season Saturday night at Sulsberger Stadium in Zanesville, defeating the Steubenville Catholic Central Crusaders 27-22.
Trimble supporters posted motivational signs lining the route from Glouster to the neutral site in Zanesville. After a regular season filled with blowout wins, the fans that made the hour-long trip finally experienced a nail-biting thriller that came down to the final possession.
Holding onto a 27-22 lead with under five minutes left in the game, Trimble was forced to punt on fourth down, giving Central the ball on its own 38-yard line. A defensive pass interference call moved the Crusaders to the Trimble 47-yard line, which set up a 9-yard pass from quarterback Brenton Colabella to Aleks Porreca.
On third-and-1 at Trimble’s 38-yard line, Tomcat defensive lineman Cody Carroll forced Colabella to fumble the ball and the Tomcats recovered, securing the victory in the final minutes of the game.
Central started strong in the first quarter, as running back Khalil Jones took a handoff for a 68-yard touchdown just five plays into the game, putting the Crusaders up 7-0.
Trimble signal-caller Konner Standley drove the Tomcats down the field with the help of receiver Austin Downs and running back Jacob Koons, as Trimble responded with a two-minute scoring drive of its own. Koons found the end zone on a two-yard run up the middle to tie the game, 7-7 with 7:54 left in the first quarter.
Both teams showed aggressive play-calling but failed to convert when deciding not to punt on fourth down. Leading into the second quarter, it was still tied 7-7.
A holding penalty pushed Central deep in its own territory, and Trimble took over with great field position. The Tomcats had to drive only 39 yards to score, and running back Justice Jenkins completed the task with an 8-yard run to put the Tomcats ahead 14-7.
Jenkins had 87 yards on the ground. Trimble held the 14-7 lead going into halftime.
Jenkins broke free early in the second half with a 32-yard run that set up a Standley rushing touchdown three minutes into the third quarter. Coach Phil Faires wanted to utilize Standley’s running ability in the second half, which resulted in the quarterback earning 153 rushing yards on the night.
“(Standley) is our best runner on our team. He would be our tailback if he wasn’t our quarterback,” Faires said after the game. “We told him as soon as it hits crunch time, we’re going to get the ball to (him).”
The Crusaders fought back when Colabella found Jones for a 48-yard touchdown pass, making it a 21-15 game after a completed two-point conversion. After another Standley touchdown run, Colabella threw a 70-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Fletcher to put Central at a 27-22 deficit.
Trimble’s dominant defense showed small signs of weakness in Central’s big scoring plays, but handled the Crusaders the majority of the game despite one of its biggest defensive leaders, Jacob Kish, being sidelined with an injury.
“We had to show that we could make it,” Kish said. “Wyatt Bragg stepped up and Justice Jenkins is just a sophomore, but they came in and did what they had to do.”
The Tomcats posted 401 yards of total offense and allowed the Crusaders to earn 299 yards Saturday night.
The win puts the Tomcats at 12-0 for the first time in school history and sets up a regional final matchup with Shadyside (12-0).
“[Shadyside is] completely different from [Catholic Central],” Faires said. “They’d be happy not to throw passes. They’ve got some huge linemen, quarterback, a huge tight end. If we don’t stop the run, they won’t pass it.”
Shadyside defeated Caldwell 30-6 and will meet Trimble at a neutral site Saturday, Nov. 23 to determine who will advance to the Division VII state final four.