LEIPSIC — One more play.
That might have been the difference for Leipsic in its 36-29 Division VI quarterfinal loss to Delphos St. John’s on Friday night.
After trailing for the entire game, Leipsic (8-3) finally claimed a 29-28 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Then, after St. John’s (7-4) failed to mount a drive on the ensuing possession, Leipsic had an opportunity to control the clock and possibly close the game out.
However, the Vikings marched 46 yards down the field before it gave the ball back to St. John’s on downs.
St. John’s seized the opportunity by marching 79 yards on nine plays, capped off with a 3-yard scamper to the end zone by Tyler Jettinghoff (26 carries, 84 yards), giving the Blue Jays the lead once again. After a successful run by Jettinghoff on the ensuing two-point conversion, St. John’s was sitting with the seven-point lead with just 56 seconds left to play.
“When they were driving and getting first down after first down and running the ball on us, I kind of thought we might have cashed out,” said St. John’s coach Todd Schulte. “But they just kept playing and they made some big plays on that last drive.
“I give a lot of credit to Leipsic. They had a great game plan. They are a very physical team and they hit us tonight. It was a dog fight. I’m just proud of how our kids just hung in there and to come away with that final drive like they did.”
With the win, St. John’s will face Fremont St. Joseph Central Catholic (10-1) in a regional semifinal on Friday at a site to be determined.
St. John’s got out quickly on Leipsic, scoring on its first three drives of the game en route to a 21-0 lead. Luke MacLennan scored on runs of 2 and 45 yards. He ended the game with 72 yards on five carries. The Blue Jays’ third TD of the game was a 33-yard scoring strike from quarterback Mark Boggs (10-of-19, 151 yards) to Jake Hays.
“If I’m right, I don’t think their defense has been scored on in the first quarter all year,” said Schulte. “So, that was our goal — to get out quick on the scoreboard and to see how they would react. We had things going there, but it turned around in a hurry.”
The Vikings did answer, however, scoring two TDs before the half.
Leipsic quarterback Zach Kuhlman connected with Devin Mangas for a 64-yard scoring strike. Then on the next possession, Kuhlman found Aric Schroeder for a 47-yard TD pass.
“We have a safety fall down and give up a big play. …Then we give up another big play, and now we have a ball game,” said Schulte.
St. John’s added another score right before the break. Boggs capped off a 10-play, 66-yard scoring drive with a 2-yard run to the end zone, giving the Blue Jays a 28-14 lead.
The Vikings were not done.
In the fourth quarter, Leipsic mounted an impressive 5-play, 85-yard scoring drive, capped off with a 1-yard run by Kuhlman. With the point after, Leipsic trailed 28-21.
Then on St. John’s next possession, Boggs fumbled the football, giving Leipsic another opportunity. The Vikings capitalized, moments later. Brady Schnipke ran it in from 3 yards out. Leipsic then went on to score on the two-point conversion, claiming its only lead of the game.
Leispic coach Joe Kirkendall said, “We had a drive that took us down inside the 25-yard line and had some breaks that prevented us from getting into the end zone. And give Jettinghoff credit, he got them some momentum and that’s all it took. And their receiver (Will Buettner) made one of the greatest catches on the sideline. …That’s all you can say. But, our guys kept battling, like we always do.”