SPENCERVILLE — Even when Spencerville’s offensive unit faced the unenviable challenge of driving nearly the length of the field in three minutes, the Bearcats felt confident of their chances.
After Columbus Grove took a 21-20 lead with 3 minutes, 7 seconds left to play in the game Friday, Spencerville drove more than 80 yards and set up its kicker, Conner Holmes, an opportunity to kick a game-winning 23-yard field goal.
Holmes, who also plays wide receiver and on the defensive line, made the most of his opportunity and booted the game-winner with time running out to give Spencerville a thrilling 23-21 victory over first-place Columbus Grove in a Northwest Conference football showdown at Memorial Field.
With the win, Spencerville improves to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the NWC. Columbus Grove slips to 4-3, 3-1 NWC. Both teams share the lead in the conference standings with Allen East and Crestview.
Holmes said he has been waiting for this opportunity for a long time.
“I was getting ready when we were about on the 50 (-yard line),” Holmes said. “I was warming up the whole time. I was thinking about last year, as a junior, I lost the Parkway game for us on a field goal (attempt). This was a big game, and the last time I would be playing on this field. There was no other way I wanted to go out.”
Spencerville’s running attack rolled up 380 yards on the night. Joel Lotz led the way for the Bearcats with 167 yards rushing on 18 carries and a touchdown.
Cannan Johnson rushed for 105 yards on 23 carries with a TD. Teammate Kale Lee rushed for 103 yards on 27 carries and a score for Spencerville.
“We are so proud of those guys,” Spencerville coach Chris Sommers said. “When you’re a running team, it’s difficult sometimes to pass block and to do those things. They (offensive line) just worked their tails off. I can’t say enough about the players, but I also cannot say enough about the coaches.”
Columbus Grove rushed for 165 yards and passed for 112. Garrett Nemire led the Bulldogs with 77 rushing yards on 14 carries and a TD, the go-ahead TD late in the game.
Columbus Grove quarterback Blake Reynolds rushed for 61 yards, while going 14 of 19 in the passing department.
Spencerville jumped out quickly Friday night.
After Columbus Grove was forced to punt on the first possession of the game, Spencerville’s offensive unit traveled 56 yards in five plays for a score. Lotz found a seam up the middle and ran it in from 37 yards out to cap the scoring drive for the Bearcats. After the extra point by Holmes, Spencerville led 7-0 less than four minutes into the game.
Columbus Grove answered.
On the next possession, the Bulldogs drove 72 yards on nine plays for a TD. Reynolds ran it in from 17 yards for the score. After the extra point by Rece Verhoff, the game was knotted at 7 apiece with less than four minutes left to play in the opening quarter. The score would remain the same by the first stop.
The Bearcats regained the lead just seconds into the second quarter on a 3-yard TD run by Johnson, which capped off an 11-play, 43-yard scoring drive. With the extra point by Holmes, Spencerville led 14-7.
However, Columbus Grove wasn’t ready to head to the locker room.
The Bulldogs mounted an eight-play, 80-yard scoring drive to knot the game at 14 each. Reynolds found an open Trevor Taylor for a 28-yard scoring strike.
The teams went in the halftime break knotted at 14.
Spencerville started out strong in the second half.
On the first possession of the third quarter, the Bearcats mounted a 16-play, 65-yard scoring drive, capped off with a 1-yard run by Lee. The extra point was blocked, and Spencerville led 20-14. That scoring drive took over six minutes off the clock.
The six-point lead by Spencerville held up to the end of the third quarter.
Late in the fourth quarter, Nemire broke loose for the 38-yard TD run to give the Bulldogs the temporary lead.
However, Spencerville bounced back and drove the ball down the field to set up Holmes.
“Our guys don’t quit,” Sommers said. “That’s the one thing they never do. They’re always grinding. We had some good runs. I thought we used the clock well. We gave our kicker an opportunity, and he hit it.”
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.