FINDLAY — It was No.1 seed versus No. 6 seed.
It was the Blanchard Valley Conference going up against the Midwest Athletic Conference.
Friday’s Division VI, Region 22 championship matchup between Delphos St. John’s and McComb played out to all the hype that surrounded it.
McComb (13-0) roared back from a 21-7 fourth-quarter deficit to pull out a dramatic 28-21 victory over St. John’s (8-5) to win the regional championship at Findlay’s Donnell Stadium. McComb will advance to the state semifinal next Friday when it takes on Marion Local at a site to be determined.
St. John’s was able to slow down McComb standout running back Jerry Brown — at least until the fourth quarter.
After rushing for just 14 yards in the first half, the Offensive Player of the Year in Northwest Ohio, came up big in the fourth quarter, scoring two rushing touchdowns and also making a key interception, which help set up a score.
For the game, Brown rushed for 63 yards on 22 carries with two TDs. Brown also completed 2 of 4 passes for 52 yards.
“They made a lot of plays,” St. John’s coach Todd Schulte said. “We made a few plays to keep ourselves in the game. Our scores were on plays where our kids just made good plays. But we could never sustain anything, offensively or defensively. They (McComb) deserved to win. …They outplayed us. Our kids played really hard. I’ll never fault their effort. We just got beat by a better team, tonight.”
St. John’s got off to a quick start, scoring on its second possession of the game. Quarterback Mark Boggs (9-of-16, 228 yards) found Andrew Metzger for a 20-yard scoring strike to cap off a 7-play, 49-yard drive. The point-after by Metzger gave the Blue Jays the early 7-0 lead.
St. John’s scored again, with 3:58 left in the half, on a 1-yard run by Tyler Jettinghoff (15 rushes, 25 yards). With the point-after, the Blue Jays led 14-0.
McComb would answer.
The Panthers got on the scoreboard with 3:20 left in the half on a 25-yard TD pass from Dalton Buck to Cody Wilson. St. John’s went into the break with a 14-7 lead.
After a scoreless third quarter, the game got interesting.
St. John’s stamped out a McComb drive early in the fourth quarter, denying the Panthers inside the 5-yard line after they marched from the Blue Jays’ 24-yard line to the 5 in 15 plays.
The Blue Jays responded by putting together a 5-play, 96-yard scoring drive, capped off with a 59-yard TD pass from Boggs to Luke MacLennan (three catches, 112 yards). With the extra point, St. John’s had a 14-point advantage.
Then the momentum swung to McComb in a hurry.
McComb went on to score 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to pull out the win.
Wilson had a 1-yard TD run. Then Brown came back with TD runs of 2 and 4 yards to help lead the Panthers to its first state appearance since 1983, when they won the state title.
With McComb having a seven-point lead and 51 seconds remaining to play, things were looking positive for the Panthers.
However, two consecutive penalties on the ensuing kickoff gave the Blue Jays the ball on McComb’s 25-yard line with 41 seconds left in regulation.
But on the first play for the Blue Jays, disaster struck. MacLennan took the handoff from Boggs and fumbled the ball on the 23-yard line. Dalton Auchmuty came up with the fumble recovery for the Panthers to seal the fate for St. John’s.
“They had a great game plan,” Schulte said. “They took our running game away. We needed to get some first downs. They took us out of a lot of things that we are accustomed to doing. I’ll give them credit.
“We had a hard time sustaining our blocks. We did a good job getting to them, but they were coming off our blocks all the time. But again, they made plays all night.”
For the game, St. John’s rushed for just 55 yards.
McComb coach Kris Alge said, “These kids have been fighters all year. They had this 720 thing in mind, since this summer — that they wanted to play 720 minutes of football (15 games, up through the state championship). We’re not there yet, but we’re getting closer.”