TIFFIN — Columbus Grove did a good job corralling Seneca East’s 2,000-yard running back Blaine Swartzmiller.
But when the game mattered the most, Swartzmiller delivered with a bulldozing touchdown run.
Swartzmiller’s 3-yard TD run lifted Seneca East to a 27-20 double-overtime victory over Columbus Grove in a Division VI, Region 22 semifinal Friday night at Frost-Kalnow Stadium.
“That was too good to describe,” Swartzmiller said. “I was playing for my teammates and have been loving the game ever since I was a little kid.’’
Seneca East (11-1) advances to the regional finals against Fairview at 7 p.m. Friday at a site to be named.
Columbus Grove ends its year 8-4.
Both teams failed to score in the first overtime period.
Then, on second-and-goal from the 3, Swartzmiller took the ball and went left.
He was hit by two Grove players in the backfield and ran through both of them.
Another Bulldog defender hit Swartzmiller at the line as he turned the corner, but he went through him, too, and steamrolled his way into the end zone.
“It was a matter of wanting it,” Swartzmiller said. “No offense to those guys, they played great. It was greatest game I ever played in my life. But it comes down to wanting to make a play.’’
That gave the Tigers a 27-20 lead.
“I think he broke six tackles on that play,” Columbus Grove coach Andy Schafer said. “We started to celebrate on the headsets. Everyone thought we had him. He’s a heck of a running back. We knew that.’’
On the Bulldogs’ last chance in the second overtime, Columbus Grove had the ball fourth-and-3 at the Seneca East 13.
Garrett Nemire took the ball up the middle and was stopped after a gain of 1 yard at the 12.
“We were going to put the ball in Garrett Nemire’s hands,” Schafer said. “It was probably the best game I’ve seen him play. We had 3 yards and we thought he could get it, especially in front of our big linemen.
“They say it’s a game of inches and it certainly is.’’
Nemire finished the night with 39 carries for a career-high 243 yards. He had TD runs of 1, 7 and 2 yards.
Swartzmiller, who ran for 2,000 yards during the regular season, finished with 35 carries for 156 yards. He had TD runs of 9 and 3 yards.
Swartzmiller had just 40 yards on 12 carries at the half.
Seneca East had a chance to win it in the first overtime but Tyler Turek’s 22-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Grove’s Trevor Taylor.
Columbus Grove had a 20-14 lead after Nemire scored on a 2-yard TD run with 3:28 left in the third quarter.
That capped a four-play, 36-yard drive after the Bulldogs’ Riley Schumacher recovered a fumble at the Seneca East 36.
Seneca East tied the game at 20 on Swartzmiller’s 9-yard TD run with 3:05 to go in the game.
But the Tigers failed to connect on the extra point, when the high snap was taken to the ground by the holder and the play was ruled dead at that point.
Both teams could throw, but both liked to stay on the ground on a wet, rainy night.
Columbus Grove came out early pounding the ball.
The Bulldogs went 62 yards in eight plays on their first drive for a score.
Getting the bulk of the carries was Nemire, who had runs of 6, 10 and 16 yards on the drive.
Nemire powered it over from the 1-yard line for a TD behind huge guard Cody Johnson.
That gave Grove a 7-0 lead with 8:04 left in the first quarter.
Seneca East scored the second time it had the ball.
The Tigers went 60 yards in six plays for a score.
Tigers quarterback Chase Foos fired a 23-yard TD pass to Colan Martin, who made a diving 1-handed catch in the right corner of the end zone.
That tied the game at 7 with 2:06 left in the first quarter.
Seneca East took a 14-7 lead with a late second-quarter drive.
The Tigers went 83 yards in five plays for the score.
Foos threw a short pass into the left flat to DJ Ruffing and no one was out there to stop him. Ruffing breezed to a 53-yard TD reception to give the Tigers a 14-7 lead.
The Bulldogs tied the game at 14 on a 7-yard TD run by Nemire with 5:58 to go in the third quarter.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.