Lima Central Catholic’s bid for a second straight undefeated regular season came to an end after Lucas held off the Thunderbirds 21-24 Saturday night.
With the loss, LCC dips to 8-1 on the year. Lucas, who were No. 1 in their region in computer rankings, finishes the regular season at 8-2.
Going into the third quarter, LCC held a 14-6 advantage but Lucas would win the second half and outscore the Thunderbirds 15-0 to secure the victory.
LCC head coach Scott Palte said Lucas’ ability to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball proved to be the difference.
“We just got dominated in the trenches on both sides of the ball,” Palte said. “They just took it to us. They smacked us in the mouth and we never responded. We look soft tonight and it showed.”
The Thunderbirds had trouble all night defending the Lucas’ compact offensive look that features a lot of misdirection. Cub running back Jeb Grover paved the way for Lucas with 129 yards on 29 carries and one touchdown.
“It was tough,” Palte said. “They were a bad matchup for us. They were big and physical and that is not our cup of tea and they took it to us. Give them all the credit in the world.”
Defensively, the Cubs made the necessary adjustments to stop the Thunderbirds’ three-headed threat of Shaun Thomas, Rossi Moore and Ron Banks. Neither of the backs eclipsed the 100-yard barrier. Thomas finished with 75 yards and Banks added 49 yards. Moore finished with 42 yards.
The 14 points is the lowest offensive output for the Thunderbirds this year.
A blocked punt and two turnovers hurt LCC in the second half.
The blocked punt led to the Cubs’ second touchdown and would prove to be the game winner. Deep inside the 10, LCC tried to get off the kick but was smothered by Lucas who promptly jumped on the pigskin for the score. After the extra point, Lucas led 21-14 with 1:27 left in the third quarter.
. Lucas’ first touchdown came on the Cubs’ opening drive of the third quarter when they marched 63 yards on seven plays to knot the score.
The two teams battled evenly for the first 24 minutes.
Lucas scored first when they took its opening drive and meticulously marched it down the field on a 12-play drive to punch it in at the 6:50 mark. After the failed extra point, Lucas led 6-0.
The Cubs lead was short lived when Shaun Thomas raced 85 yards on the ensuing kickoff for the Thunderbirds’ first score. After the successful extra point, LCC led 7-6 with 6:35 left in the first quarter.
The Thunderbirds took the lead after manufacturing a 14-play, 74-yard drive that was capped off by a 14-yard jaunt from Rossi Moore. With 8:21 left in the first half, LCC held a 14-6 advantage.
LCC must now try to regroup and prepare for the postseason.
“We will see how we respond,” Palte said. “Let’s see how we come out and play.”
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468.