PANDORA – Pandora-Gilboa’s passing game had been superb most of the game Friday night. It looked like they just needed to play 20 more minutes like they had the previous 28.
That’s when Sycamore Mohawk’s defense changed the game, picking up three interceptions in the final quarter and a half to get a 26-14 victory in a Division VII second round game. Mohawk had 331 rushing yards in the game, including 253 yards on 22 carries with three touchdowns by Mason Danner, to grind out the win.
“They had some tough guys up front. They were grinding us up,” Pandora-Gilboa coach Matt Hershey said. “Let me put it this way: They were the hammer, and we were the nail.”
Pandora-Gilboa ends its tournament run with a 3-4 record. The No. 9-seeded Warriors (6-2) will face No. 1-seeded Lima Central Catholic, which won Friday night by forfeit. The Thunderbirds’ opponent, Delphos St. John’s, ceded the game Thursday after the coronavirus appeared in the school.
Mohawk’s defense came up with its first big play with 4:50 remaining in the third quarter. Tyler Hayman picked off Schmenk’s pass over the middle on a third-and-10 play, returning it 33 yards to set the Warriors up on the Rockets’ 37 with 4:50 left in the third quarter. Four plays later, Danner scored from a yard out. With a missed conversion, Mohawk pulled within 14-12.
After a second interception at the end of the third quarter, the Warriors turned to trickery with a hook-and-lateral. Landon Snyder hit Zaiden Frye on a short pass on the left side of the field, and he flipped it to Jeremiah Stallard. The 200-pound offensive lineman scampered the remaining 44 yards for the score and a 20-14 lead.
On their next possession, the Warriors went back to Danner, who popped through the middle of the line and exploded for a 75-yard touchdown run. The extra point failed, 26-14.
“It’s turnovers and not being able to run the ball,” Hershey said. “You’re just not going to win football games if you keep turning the ball over.”
Prior to Mohawk’s defensive outburst, the Rockets had been playing well. Silas Schmenk completed 20 of 27 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns. Bryce Basinger caught 12 passes for 118 yards. He added the Rockets’ second score on a nice pick play, catching a short pass and using his teammate’s block to start moving toward the goal line. He eluded two tacklers before breaking free on the 11-yard scoring play and the 14-6 lead.
The steady diet of Danner just proved to be too much, though, and the Rockets saw their playoff hopes end.