Lorain head coach walks off the field after a last-second loss to Toledo Whitmer. DAVID RICHARD / CHRONICLE
TOLEDO — Incredible. Unbelievable. Unimaginable.
Nothing adequately described what happened to Lorain’s football team Friday night.
Toledo Whitmer’s Eric Filby kicked a 20-yard field goal as time expired to finally beat the Titans 31-28 in the first round of the playoffs. Eighth-seeded Lorain finished its year 8-3, while the top-seeded and unbeaten Panthers advance at 11-0.
“We talked about playing with great energy,” said Lorain coach Dave McFarland. “You’ve got to give it all you’ve got. We laid it all on the line. I couldn’t be any prouder of our kids.”
Three of Whitmer’s touchdowns came on plays only a science fiction writer could imagine. The Panthers scored by recovering two of their own fumbles in the end zone and returned one of Lorain’s fumbles for the third.
“We had two touchdowns off fumbles — two fumbles right at the goal line,” said Whitmer coach Ken Winters. “And the tipped pass that they caught. Crazy game. Why wouldn’t it end like that?”
Winters was referring to Lorain’s last-second touchdown that ended the first half when senior Justin Sturgill threw a long pass that was first tipped by a Whitmer defender before resting in the arms of speedy wide out Zion Cross for 54 yards to put the Titans within 14-12.
“We knew Lorain would be a tough team,” said Winters. “We knew it would be a battle. Their athletes — the running back (sophomore Daylin Dower), their receivers (Tyshawn Lighty and Cross) and their quarterback just manages the game very well.”
“There were crazy things that happened,” said McFarland. “We’re not blaming anybody. We gave our heart. We gave everything we had. What more could you ask out of a group of young people?”
Sturgill outplayed Whitmer’s highly regarded sophomore Riley Keller. Sturgill completed 14 of his 22 passes for 164 yards. Keller, being looked at by many Division I programs, including
Ohio State, and the cousin of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Rothlisberger, finished with 122 yards on just 10 of 27. In addition, senior Davion Dower hit both his pass attempts off reverse-like plays for 50 yards and a huge score to his brother Daylin that gave Lorain a chance to tie the game with only 1:40 to play.
Sturgill did just that by finding Davion Dower in the back of the end zone for the two-point conversion that appeared to have Lorain on the brink of overtime.
“I’ve been here before,” said Sturgill, reflecting on Lorain’s amazing run in the playoffs a year ago. “I’m experienced at it. The emotions are so overwhelming right now for these guys I’ve been playing with since my freshman year. We started this thing with the seniors last year. We knew we had to keep it going.”
Whitmer and its junior tailback, Kobe Myers, had other plans. Myers carried the ball six straight times to move the Panthers into Filby’s range. Filby had missed a pair of much longer field goal attempts earlier in the game.
“The drive before, (Lorain) was getting a little bit tired,” said Winters. “We were gassing them. We had three time outs. We felt we could run the ball.”
Myers finished with 149 yards on
Daylin Dower played a key role for the Titans on both sides of the ball, rushing for 128 yards on offense and keeping Keller and company contained on defense. Lorain’s defense was superb but it may have run out of gas on Whitmer’s final drive.
Seniors Antonio Wyatt, Mikey Harrell and Dakota Mincy along with Sturgill and Davion Dower led the senior class to a near upset of the state’s third-ranked team. The Panthers didn’t breathe easy all night.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of our kids,” said McFarland. “How they practiced. How they carried themselves. They gave everything they had to the last second.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or at email@example.com.
Whitmer 31, Lorain 28
Lorain 6 6 8 8 — 28
Whitmer 0 14 0 17 — 31
L—Davion Dower 5 pass from Justin Sturgill (kick failed)
W—Jasean Rader 9 pass from Riley Keller (Eric Filey kick)
W—Patrice Mappe recovered Kobe Myers fumble in end zone (Filey kick)
L—Zion Cross 54 pass from Justin Sturgill (pass failed)
L—Tyshawn Lighty 19 pass from Sturgill (Cross run)
W—Zach Wallinger recovered Wisler Coulter fumble in end zone) (Filey kick)
W—Sam Stickels 7 fumble return (Filey kick)
L—Daylon Dower 20 pass from Davion Dower (Davion Dower pass from Sturgill)
W—FG Filey 20
First downs 17 18
— by rushing 6 8
— by passing 8 8
— by penalty 3 2
Yards rushing 171 188
Yards passing 214 122
Total offense 385 310
Passes att./comp. 24/16 27/10
Intercepted by 0 1
Fumbles/lost 4/3 5/2
Penalties/yards 8/51 9/75
RUSHING—(L) Daylin Dower 23-149, Cairo Smith 4-11, Justin Sturgill 9-5, Tyshawn Lighty 3-17, Savon Chavis 1-3, Zion Cross 1-5. (W) Kobe Myers 23-149, Wisler Coulter 5-19, Devin Mauder 3-13, PaSean Wimberly 1-3, Riley Keller 5-7.
PASSING—(L) Justin Sturgill 14-22-154-3-1, Davion Dower 2-2-50-1-0. (W) Riley Keller 10-27-122-1-0.
RECEIVING—(L) Tyshawn Lighty 5-72, Daylin Dower 4-35, Zion Cross 3-76, Jermele Nelson 2-20, Davion Dower 2-20. (W) Patrick Mappe 4-68, Jasean Rader 2-29, Zach Walling 2-23, Josh Close 1-5, Kobe Myers 1-(-3).