ASHLAND — Coming into Friday’s Division IV Region 12 semifinal between Kenton and Wooster Triway, it was almost a sure bet the offenses were going to take center stage.
Both quarterbacks had put up some impressive statistics throughout the season.
Triway’s quarterback, Parker Carmichael, had thrown for over 4,100 yards and 54 touchdowns through last week. Kenton’s quarterback, Trent Hites, headed into Friday’s game with over 3,100 passing yards on the season.
However, it was the defense that stepped up Friday as Kenton slipped out with a hard-fought 13-6 victory over Triway at Ashland Community Stadium.
With the win, Kenton (10-2) will face Wauseon (12-0) in a regional final Friday, Nov. 21, at a site yet to be determined.
On Friday, Carmichael was 53-of-78 passing for 383 yards and one touchdown. However, Kenton picked off three passes (all in the first half), which stamped out those drives by the Titans.
Hites was picked off five times in the first half. For the game, Hites was 20-of-46 passing for 273 yards and two TDs.
Every time Triway’s offense seemed to be on the move, Kenton’s defense stepped up and made the big plays.
In the first half, Kenton’s defense helped force two Triway fumbles, to go along with the three interceptions.
“It feels pretty good; especially the way we played in the first half, offensively,” Kenton coach Brent Fackler said. “It was a great effort tonight. … (It was) a great Triway team. You can’t say enough about their effort. They were playing a lot of guys both ways and I think we tired them down a little bit. I’m really proud of our guys tonight. They really did a great job.”
In the first half, both offenses struggled as both defenses put pressure on the opposing quarterbacks.
Kenton managed to get on the scoreboard, just moments into the second quarter, on a 6-yard scoring strike from Hites to Connor Jones (seven catches, 56 yards). With the point after by Chris Deardorff, the Wildcats led 7-0.
In the first half, Hites was 12-of-32 passing for 158 yards. Carmichael was 25-of-41 for 191 yards. There were a total of 10 turnovers between the two teams in the first half.
“I think we’re used to that,” Fackler said about the turnovers. “That’s something that’s always happened with us. We’ve had interceptions, but we just get back at it. You can’t have too much consciousness when you’re throwing the ball.”
Kenton scored its second TD of the game at the 5:21 mark of the third quarter.
Hites connected with Colyn Blackford (seven catches, 80 yards) for a 16-yard TD pass. However, the extra point was no good. Kenton led 13-0
Triway finally got on the board, with less than three minutes left to play in the game.
Carmichael found Dillon Kopp open in the corner of the end zone. The extra point was blocked by Kenton’s Tristan Reichelderfer. The Wildcats’ 13-6 lead stood up as the final score.
For the game, Hites connected with four different receivers. Kollin Stollar led the Wildcats with five catches for 116 yards. Stollar also ran the ball seven times for 49 yards.
“Our defense really played a great game,” Stollar said. “They’re (Triway) a great offense. It’s pretty much identical to ours. Our defense gets to see that every day in practice. So, they were ready for it.”
Coming into Friday’s game, Triway was scoring 53 points per game.
Fackler added, “It’s just one more step. We’ll be ready to go on Friday.”