COLUMBUS GROVE – Columbus Grove is the Northwest Conference champion and did it in thrilling fashion by beating Allen East, 27-24, in the conference title tilt Friday night.
This marks the first outright NWC title in four years as Columbus Grove ends the season with a perfect 6-0 mark. Allen East ends its season with a 4-2 record with Columbus Grove handing them both losses.
Columbus Grove Andy Schafer said the adversity these guys have fought through is incredible and it goes back to the basketball season where the Bulldogs were poised for a state championship run.
“These guys just understand how bad they want it and you guys just saw it,” Schafer said. “Everybody wanted to see how bad they wanted it with their back’s against the wall.
“Allen East did a great job. They did some thing differently from the first time we faced them and we adjusted and when the going go rough they did their job and that is a heck of a game.”
The Bulldogs, down 24-20, with 1:37 left in the game, found themselves 57 yards away from a touchdown after Allen East, which had just scored its second touchdown of the quarter, kicked off and the always dangerous Gabe Clement returned it to Bulldog 43 yard line.
From there, Columbus Grove Blake Reynolds calmly guided the offense down the field and on the ninth play of the drive, facing a third and two on the 14, Reynolds found a wide open Jacksen Schroeder in the back of the end zone with 32 ticks left on the block.
Schafer said the touchdown play was changed at the last second by Schroeder himself.
“I actually had something else called and our slot receiver, Jacksen Schroeder gave me a signal and I said I think this is going to work better and I trusted in him and and I checked it and I changed it and we weren’t sure if it worked and it obviously did.”
Prior to the exciting final drive, it appeared the Mustangs were going to escape with a 24-20 win after scoring two fourth quarter touchdowns to take the lead.
The first Mustang first score came in the fourth quarter when Tyler Clum, who had a big fourth quarter, dove in from 1-yard out to complete an 88 -yard drive to trail 20-17 with 6:44 left after the successful extra point.
After stopping Columbus Grove, Allen East forced the punt but found themselves at its own nine yard line after the Bulldog punt.
However, unfazed, Clum, on the first play of the drive, got the Mustangs quickly out of the hole when he hit Jacob Hershberger with a 50 yard pass. Another big play came when Clum found Bradden Crumrine, who made a spectacular catch for 13 yards on a fourth and seven play at the 38 yard line to keep the drive alive.
The magic continued for Allen East four plays later when Clum found Hershberger again, this time from 12 yards out for the touchdown to give the Mustangs the advantage. After the successful extra point, the Allen East owned the 24-20 advantage with 1:43 left in the game.
Clum finished the game 22-of-45 for 268 yards and two touchdowns and one interception.
Crumrine had eight catches for 123 yards.
For Columbus Grove, Reynolds finished the game 7 for 12 with 117 yards and two touchdowns.
Bulldog running back Colin Metzger, who was instrumental in the second half, finished with 97 yards on 19 carries. At halftime he had only 22 yards.
Clement, who did the job on kick-off returns, ended the game with five receptions for 94 yards.
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468.