LIMA — Ada desperately wanted the ball back while St. Henry wanted to play keep away and end the game.
The Redskins got their way and were able to hold on for a tense 40-35 win over a game Bulldogs squad that refused to quit trying.
The Division VI regional semifinal at Lima Stadium saw a delay of one hour and eight minutes due to lightning late in the third quarter.
Ada (10-2) had just scored to pull to within 33-21 when the delay occurred and St. Henry (9-3) bounced back out to a 40-21 lead when 6-foot-4, 220 pound quarterback Kyle Stahl went in from 1-yard out.
But the Bulldogs answered as quarterback Mason Acheson found Brenden Szippl with a 44-yard scoring strike and came back on the next possession to hit Micah Roberson with a 41-yard score to pull the Bulldogs to within 40-35 with 4:27 to play.
St. Henry took over on its 28-yard line and proceeded to turn the game over to Stahl, and he responded with eight straight carries, including a fourth-and-1 conversion with 1:55 to play that sealed the big win. Stahl had a huge game as he rushed the ball 28 times for 97 yards and two scores and completed 13-of-24 in the air for 194 yards and four touchdowns.
“We didn’t want to punt and give the ball back to them,” St. Henry coach Jeff Starkey said. “Our offensive line executed and gave him a push when we needed it.”
Ada stayed in the game despite throwing five interceptions and their spread attack and quick offensive pace had the Redskins hanging on for dear life at the end.
The teams traded touchdowns early and the game was tied at 14 each before Stahl hit Jeff Paul with a 39-yard pass just before halftime to give St. Henry a 20-14 lead.
Ada got a three and out defensive stop to start the third quarter but Acheson threw an interception on the Bulldogs’ first offensive play and the Redskins took advantage with a quick 25-yard drive to go up 26-14 when Stahl found Matt Overholt with a 6-yard scoring pass.
“There were a lot of turning points,” Ada coach Mike Fell said. “We got that big stop to begin the third quarter and then turned it over to them but our kids gave everything the y could, we just couldn’t finish.”
The Bulldogs dug a deeper hole when they again tossed an interception on their first play and St. Henry scored again on a 30-yard drive that ended with Stahl connecting with Jordan Bender on a 4-yard play to grow the lead to 33-14.
Ada tried valiantly to mount a come back but ran out of time and the Redskins were able to hold on for the win.
“It took us a bit to get going,” Fell said. “Stahl did a great job for them, he made some good throws and he falls forward for 2 or 3 yards at a time.”
The game marked the fifth straight year that Ada has lost in the playoffs to a Midwest Athletic Conference team and Fell talked about that.
“There are five MAC teams in the playoffs,” Fell said. “MAC teams are used to playing in big games.”
St. Henry is coming off of an 2-8 season a year ago and is happy to still be playing.
“This game is a confidence-builder,” Starkey said. “Only kids can bounce back from the disappointment of a 2-8 season and turn it around.”
St. Henry will meet Marion Local next Friday at a site to be determined.