Despite Axel Bueter giving the Indians a 21-20 lead with 3:55 to play, the Triway offense used trickery in the form of a halfback pass to help them score the game winning touchdown and advance them to the second round of the Division IV state playoffs on Friday. The final tally read 26-21 Triway as the Titans failed to convert on a two-point conversion attempt.
“It was a great season. I am very proud of the men on our team,” Wauseon coach Travis Cooper said. “This team will always hold a special place in my heart.”
While the Indians did fall in their first playoff trip in over 10 years, they can be proud in knowing that they gave it their all right down to the final minute of their season. Their effort was well appreciated throughout the Wauseon fan base as the visitors’ section was filled with dedicated parents and fans that had supported the group all season long, through triumph and defeat.
“The school and community support was phenomenal. That was awesome,” Cooper said. “I know that meant a ton to our players and to me and my staff. I can’t thank them enough for their support this season.”
Wauseon made their fans very proud in the early going, taking a 7-0 lead with 2:34 left in the first quarter. The score came on a nifty 17 yard touchdown run by Bueter, but was helped by an offside penalty against Triway on an earlier third down, and a 31 yard reception by Kris Boysel on the play before. Nevertheless, the Indians had taken the early momentum and were showing the ability to stop Triway’s potent offense.
The defense proved that while they may have given up yards to Triway (425 total yards), they could keep them out of the end zone. That was never more prevalent then when they held the Triway offense on fourth and four from the 13 yard line, tackling quarterback Parker Carmichael before he could reach the first down marker.
The Indians’ defense bent but did not break throughout much of the first half, failing to give up a Triway touchdown until the very last play of the second quarter. Triway had worked it down to the Indians’ 14 yard line, and on fourth and 14, Carmichael hit Troy Haven in the back right of the end zone to tie the game at seven.
Carmichael finished with 331 yards passing (4 touchdowns, 1 interception), while Haven had 13 receptions for 179 yards and three touchdowns.
“It just came down to little things that killed the momentum of our drives, or sustained their drives. We couldn’t get off the field on third or fourth down in key situations and couldn’t keep the sticks moving or punch it in when we needed to,” Cooper explained.
The third quarter was an eventful one as three touchdowns were scored. Triway got the first score after stopping the Indians on their first possession.
It came with 7:01 left in the third quarter when Carmichael took a shot down field and Haven got behind the Indians secondary and raced for a 91 yard touchdown. Triway led 14-7, but the Indians would refuse to let that big play affect them.
Instead, they worked their way down the field on the next possession in a drive that took less than four minutes. Quarterback Ty Suntken capped off the drive with a seven yard touchdown run and Josh Whitcomb’s extra-point tied it at 14. Suntken was the team’s second leading rusher on the night, running for 101 yards on 16 carries, an average of 6.3 yards per carry.
Triway, much like at the end of the second quarter, managed to get it in the end zone with just 41 seconds left in the third. Again it was Carmichael to Haven, this time a 19 yard hook-up for the touchdown and Triway led 20-14.
With seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, a Suntken run gave the Indians a first down at their own 43 yard line. Then, later in the drive, he connected with emerging receiver junior Zach Johnson, who advanced the ball to the Triway 29 for 38 yards.
On third and three, Bueter broke loose again, and slipped through Triway tackles on his way, for a 23 yard touchdown. The score gave the Indians a one point lead (21-20) with 3:55 left.
Bueter rushed for 137 yards and two touchdowns on the night. Coach Cooper talked after the game about the versatility of his offense all season long.
“What made us such a dangerous team this year is that we had multiple playmakers that could make a play at any given time,” Cooper said.
After the Bueter touchdown, Triway attacked the Indians with something they had not seen all game long, a trick play. They advanced the ball to the 48 yard line when Haven took the hand-off from Carmichael and fired it down the field to junior Jordan Miller who reached the two yard line before being pushed out of bounds.
And on second and goal, Carmichael hit Dillon Kopp for a touchdown. However, for the second time in the game, Triway missed the point after attempt as they elected to go for the two-point conversion and were denied. With the score at 26-21 Triway, it set up the Indians with a chance to win with 2:31 remaining and all three timeouts left.
Suntken ran it all the way to the Triway 38 yard line on a second down play with 1:23 left. The Indians advanced the ball to the Triway 20, but after three unsuccessful attempts at the end zone, they were set up with a fourth and 10 situation.
Suntken bought some time with his legs, but his pass to Boysel in the end zone was well defended and knocked away by Triway, ending the threat.