DELPHOS — After slugging it out like two heavyweight boxers for the first 47 minutes of the game, it came down to an onside kick and Spencerville recovered it and held on for a 20-18 win over Delphos Jefferson on Friday night at Stadium Park.
The Northwest Conference neighbors traded outstanding performances by their respective standout running backs — John Smith for the Bearcats and Zavier Buzard for the Wildcats — before Spencerville quarterback Derek Goecke handled the onside kick after Jefferson had pulled to within 20-18 with 1:11 left to play.
Spencerville (8-2, 6-2 NWC) scored first when Smith went in from 2 yards out late in the first quarter.
Smith ran the ball 28 times for 176 yards and two scores in the game.
After being held scoreless the Wildcats hit an 83-yard scoring bomb from quarterback Austin Jettinghoff to Buzard with just over a minute to go before halftime to tie the game at 6-6.
But the Bearcats went 61 yards in only two plays to grab the lead going to the half at 12-6.
Goecke connected with wideout Dominick Corso for 43 yards before Smith burst 18 yards to pay-dirt on the next play to allow the Bearcats to retain the lead.
“Hats off to Jefferson, it was a great high school game,” Spencerville coach John Zerbe said.
Jefferson (6-4, 4-4 NWC) then tied the game at 12-12 late in the third quarter when Buzard went in from 2 yards out to cap a drive that saw him carry the ball seven straight plays. Buzard ended the night with 163 yards on 28 carries.
“I can’t fault our effort, our offensive line did an outstanding job,” Jefferson coach Bub Lindeman said. “It was a great high school game between two good teams, I’m proud of the kids and they played hard.”
Spencerville scored on a Logan Vandemark 26-yard run late in the fourth quarter and the Bearcats added the 2-point conversion when Smith went around the right side to put them up 20-12.
But Jefferson refused to fold and scored again when Jettinghoff hit Ross Thompson with a 16-yard scoring strike with 1:11 left to play, cutting Spencerville’s lead to 20-18.
The ensuing conversion attempt saw a pass fall harmlessly to the turf and the Bearcats were recovered the onside kick for the victory.
The Wildcats hurt their chances with four turnovers in the game, two interceptions and two lost fumbles.
Spencerville, after going 0-20 in coach Zerbe’s first two seasons, have now posted back-to-back 8-2 seasons.
“I’m so proud of their character, what they endured and what they have accomplished,’” Zerbe said. “I love these kids, especially the seniors.”
With the win, the Bearcats still need help to make the Division V playoffs, the postseason pairings will be released by the OHSAA on Sunday afternoon.