EATON TWP. — The Lorain County Nightmares had 1:51 on the clock, one timeout in their pocket and 88 yards to navigate.
They fell 50 yards short.
Collin Daniels intercepted a Cody Schuster pass with less than 50 seconds remaining to lift his Ohio Golden Knights to the Ohio Football League championship with a 28-25 victory at Midview High School.
Schuster ended the game with 335 yards of total offense, including 125 on the ground, but he misfired on his last seven passes as the Nightmares (12-1) were unable to mount a late game-winning drive.
He rushed for 33 yards in Lorain County’s final drive to get the team to midfield, but Daniels stepped in front of a pass intended for Ricky Earl to give the ball to the Knights (13-0) and end the game.
“That was an incredible game,” Knights coach Ken Mason said. “Lorain County, we have total respect for that program. They’re a great, great team, but tonight we came ready to play also.”
The Nightmares jumped on the Knights early, moving 60 yards in just six plays and 1:46 in their opening drive. After holding the Knights to just three plays and a punt, Lorain County moved 65 yards in seven plays and 3:39 to grab a 12-0 lead.
“They came out fired up and ready to go and we’ve never had a team come out and hit us like that,” Mason said. “I think it shocked us a little bit. But we slowed down, got ready to play some ball and came back.”
The lead would not last long.
With four minutes left in the quarter, Schuster threw an ill-advised late pass over the middle that was intercepted by Evan Mayle. Three plays later, Knights quarterback Jesse Mason found Nate Miceli on a seam route in the end zone to cut the lead to 12-6.
On Lorain County’s next possession, the Nightmares were unable to move the ball and set up to punt at their own 43-yard line. Justin James got free around the right end of the line and blocked the punt, then Mason scooped the ball up at the 28 and sprinted into the end zone as the first-quarter clock hit 0:00.
Marcus Peffer connected on the extra point to give the Knights a 13-12 lead.
Lorain County came back to take an 18-13 lead early in the second quarter when Adam Herbert capped a 12-play, 69-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown reception at the 10:41 mark of the second quarter.
Then things fell apart, and a controversial call where the rules were misinterpreted by the back judge put momentum in the Knights’ corner.
The Knights moved down to the Lorain County 43 and set up to punt with 3:50 remaining in the half. Peffer’s punt glanced off the hand of Nightmares’ return man Gib Harris and bounded into the end zone.
Harris sprinted back to cover the ball and was tackled. The official ruled a safety as opposed to a touchback, later explaining that Harris made a move to get out of the end zone.
The Ohio Football League plays by National Football League rules, and the NFL rule states a safety is awarded to the defense if:
(NFL safety rule, example b) Ball carrier retreats from field of play into his own end zone and is downed. Ball carrier provides impetus.
(example d) Player on receiving team muffs punt and, trying to get ball, forces or illegally kicks (creating new impetus) it into end zone where it goes out of the end zone or is recovered by a member of the receiving team in the end zone.
“I couldn’t see it from my view and I asked the box,” Nightmares coach Terry Murray said. “They told me they didn’t see it either. That was huge. There were a few events that happened there in a row that kind of changed the tempo of the game a little bit.
The Knights returned the ensuing free kick to the Lorain County 45, then scored another touchdown three plays later to take a 22-18 lead to halftime.
The Nightmares would not lead again.
“It wasn’t so much them,” Schuster said of losing to the Knights. “We knew what they were going to do, but the special teams early really killed us. We got off to a hot start on offense but couldn’t keep that momentum going. We made a few mistakes and didn’t pitch and catch the ball after those first two drives.
“There were some little mistakes tonight. My two interceptions didn’t help and we had some penalties. There were a bunch of things that could have went another way, but that’s football. We’re a hurry-up offense and sometimes you’re going to make some mistakes running that.”
Despite the loss, Murray looks forward to what his team can do next season with a full year under its belt – and especially with Schuster taking the snaps.
“Big players make big plays and that’s what Cody Schuster did for us,” he said. “Even though they keyed on him, he’s that type of player, that makes plays regardless. Cody makes the team go. He’s the gas to the engine, the driver to the car. I can’t say enough about Cody Schuster at this time.
“I can’t wait until next season to see what can happen.”
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ohio Golden Knights 28, Lorain County 25
Golden Knights 13 9 0 6 — 28
Nightmares 12 6 0 7 — 25
LC—Michael Mealing, 11 pass from Cody Schuster (kick failed)
LC—Ricky Earl, 24 pass from Schuster (pass failed)
OGK—Nat Miceli, 12 pass from Jesse Mason (kick failed)
OGK—Mason, 22 punt block return (Marcus Peffer kick)
LC—Adam Herbert, 15 pass from Schuster (run failed)
OGK—Safety, tackled punt returner in end zone
OGK—Glenn Campbell, 10 pass from Mason (kick failed)
LC—Michael Mealing, 49 pass from Schuster (Troy Davila kick)
First downs 18 14
— by rushing 6 8
— by passing 11 5
— by penalty 1 1
Yards rushing 130 142
Yards passing 175 180
Total offense 305 322
Passes att./comp. 28/17 32/13
Intercepted by 2 0
Fumbles/lost 1/0 1/0
Penalties/yards 6/50 7/62
RUSHING — (OGK) Dillon Matthews 22-89, Jesse Mason 5-41, Marcus Peffer 1-(-14). (LC) Cody Schuster 16-125, Aaron James 2-17, Jermaine Campbell 1-23, Tom Taylor 2-0.
PASSING — (OGK) Mason 17-28-3-0. (LC) Schuster 13-32-210-4-2.
RECEIVING — (OGK) Glenn Campbell 5-95, Nate Miceli 6-48, Evan Mayle 3-47, Benjamin Rogers 2-16. (LC) Earl 4-47, Herbert 3-39, Taylor 1-5, Mealing 3-106, Aaron James 1-(-3).