PIQUA — When Wapakoneta scored its first touchdown with a little more than four minutes left in the game against Kettering Alter to make the score 21-7, Redskin fans were hoping for another big comeback that has carried the team the last three weeks.
But on this night there were no more miracle come-from-behind wins left for Wapakoneta as Alter stood tall to fend off any late Redskin rallies and secure the 21-7 win to garner the Division III, Region 12 championship trophy Friday night.
With the loss, Wapakoneta ends its season at 11-2. Alter advances to the state semifinal game and will face Norwalk.
Throughout the night it was a case of missed opportunities that hurt Wapakoneta. In the first half, the Redskins, with the return of Riley Gibson, effectively moved the ball but penalties, a turnover and a stout Alter defense prevented Wapakoneta from scoring.
Redskin head coach Travis Moyer said the team fought hard for 48 minutes but they could never get things going and when they did the team hurt itself.
“We had some opportunities in the first half where we hurt ourselves,” Moyer said. “Obviously you can’t do that against a quality football team so credit them for making plays when they needed to.”
It was evident on its opening drive when Wapakoneta faced a third and six from the Alter 24. However, the Redskins were flagged with a illegal motion penalty that moved them back 5 yards. On the next play, Brady Erb was stopped for 2 yards and on fourth down, Erb looked to scramble but was tackled for no gain.
Perhaps the biggest missed chance came with the first half winding down and Wapakoneta moving the ball into the Knights’ red zone when Evan Kaeck bulled his way to the 6-yard line it appeared the Redskins would knot the score.
However, on the next play the Redskins fumbled and Alter recovered denying Wapakoneta a touchdown.
In the playoffs, the second half has belonged to the Redskins but Alter would give the Redskins a dose of their own medicine and outscore Wapakoneta 14-7 in the last two quarters.
Like the Redskins in the previous game, Alter utilized the run to set up the pass and it worked on the opening drive of the second half when Knight signal caller Connor Bazelak came through on two big pass plays to highlight Alter’s 70-yard scoring drive.
The first big pass came on a third and eight play on Alter’s 32 yard line that saw Bazelak connect with Lamar Landers to move the chains and then capped off the drive when Bazelack found Derek Willits on a 42-yard pass play that saw Willits make a spectacular grab over the Redskin defender to score. With 6:42 left in the third quarter, Alter led 14-0.
Bazelak finished the night 6 of 9 for 147 yards and one touchdown. Brandon McDonald was the Knights’ leading ground gainer with 20 carries for 75 yards and a touchdown.
“Their quarterback is an extremely talented player and their receiving corps stepped up and made some big plays and that was probably the difference,” Moyer said.
Defensively, the Knights were bend and don’t break in the first half and in the second half shut down Wapakoneta’s offense by bottling up Kaeck and keeping Erb and Gibson contained.
In the second half, Wapakoneta would get one first down in the third period and five of its six first downs in the second half came on the Redskins’ scoring drive late in the game.
“Whenever you play a team like this you have to stay ahead of the chains and we didn’t do that at times and it hurt us,” Moyer said. “From an offensive standpoint we didn’t get that big play to get things rolling.”
For the game, Gibson led the Redskins in rushing with 92 yards on 12 carries. Kaeck finished with 69 yards on 10 carries. Erb was 6 of 10 passing for 70 yards.
“I can’t say enough about our entire football team,” Moyer said. “I would like to thank our community for their support. There is no better feeling than a town rallying around a football team and supporting them. “
Moyer also thanked his coaches who have had one day off since August and his players for the outstanding effort the team put in throughout the year.
“I just can’t say enough about their (the team’s) effort throughout the season and how they represented the school in a positive way and just proud of our program tonight,” Moyer said.
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468.