Updated Sun, Dec 1, 2013 3:41 am
The Trimble Tomcats are on their way to their first state championship appearance in school history after a 14-10 victory over the Western Reserve Blue Devils in St. Clairsville on Saturday, Nov. 30.
Both teams came in with identical 13-0 records. Both squads maintained balanced offensive attacks throughout the season, with Western Reserve going over 2,000 yards rushing and passing in 2013.
Trimble had only won three playoff games in the school’s history coming into this postseason and emerged with its fourth playoff victory this postseason.
Trimble held the rope in a hard-fought fourth quarter in which the Devils gave the Tomcats all they could handle. Austin Downs came through for the Mowhawk Mafia with two of his three interceptions coming in the second half. The last came with 1:30 left in the game on the final Western Reserve possession. The ball was intended for 6-foot-5 star receiver Joe Falasca, who only ended up with one catch on the night.
“As soon as I hit the ground and I had the ball in my hands, I knew it was over,” Downs said. “I don’t think I could get up fast enough to start celebrating, because I knew number-wise they were out of timeouts.”
“The guys did a great job running the clock and playing defense,” Trimble Coach Phil Faires said. “No bigger interception in [Downs’] career. He has got a lot of receptions, but that is the best interception he has ever had. “
The gang from Glouster had control of the ball game early, going 60 yards to draw first blood. Running back Justice Jenkins romped 12 yards for the first points of the night.
Western Reserve couldn’t muster a first down on its next drive, but it recovered a Downs muffed punt in the red zone. The Trimble defense held, and Western Reserve kicker Parker Clegg converted the short field goal to make it a 7-3 game.
The Tomcats’ offense responded, driving down the field to make it a two-score game. A 16-yard score by Jenkins put the Red and White up 14-3 with 1:56 left in the first quarter, as Trimble asserted its authority early.
On both drives, Trimble was aided by pass interference calls. The Western Reserve defenders committed several penalties against the pass, helping Trimble keep drives alive.
The Tomcats went into the half in steady control of the game as the folks from Glouster looked on and cheered raucously.
Late in the third, the Devils’ Evan Nesbitt took advantage of good field position and shot like a cannon for a 33-yard touchdown, cutting the Trimble lead to 14-10 with 2:33 left in the third.
Western Reserve seemed to gain a second wind after the touchdown, holding off the Trimble offense several times, and forcing the unit to punt continuously in the fourth. The Devils had some success through the pass game in the quarter, but they were just not able to break through the Tomcat defense.
Trimble quarterback Konner Standley had issues holding onto the ball, coughing it up near the Western Reserve goal line with 9:20 left in the game.
Standley also lost the ball on Trimble’s next two offensive plays, but his offense recovered each of the fumbles with less than seven minutes left in the contest on its own half of the field.
Downs’ final interception sealed the deal for a Trimble squad that went crazy as teammates mobbed the senior cornerback. It was the 10th interception of the season for Downs.
The scene after was one of pure jubilation as the Tomcats celebrated their imminent state championship debut.
“We put our hats on and we went to work and it paid off,” Standley said.
Jacob Altier described the win as “the best feeling I have ever had in my life, without a doubt.”
Trimble is set to take on the two-time defending Division VI champion Marion Local Flyers on Saturday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. at Massillon Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.