COLUMBUS GROVE — The Columbus Grove defense came up big when it had to help the Bulldogs down Tinora 41-35 in the Division Vi quarterfinal Saturday.
Despite being up six points, the Bulldogs had been burned by big plays from Tinora all night and the Rams were looking for another one to grab the win with 2:56 left on the clock. A big kick-off return and a pass interference call had the Rams first and 10 at the Grove 38 yard line. But on the next four plays, the defense stopped a run for a loss and then Gunner King made the sack of the night on the next play for a loss of 10. On the next two play, the Tinora passes went incomplete and Grove was in the clear.
With the win, Columbus Grove (8-0) travels to play Archbold in the regional semifinals.
“I tell you maybe about two minutes before that I heard on the headset, one of my coaches said ‘where is Gunner. We haven’t seen a big play,’ and I said it’s coming. It’s coming and sure enough he had that big play,” Columbus Grove head coach Andy Schafer said. “Gunner is kind of our emotional leader and he is the kind you always kind of hear and screaming and yelling so for him to come up with the play we needed it and it was huge.”
Prior to the that it was the offense that kept their composure and came through behind the steady hand of Bulldog quarterback Blake Reynolds. Down 35-33, the Bulldogs got the ball back in excellent field position at their own 42 yard line with 6:55 left on the clock.
Behind the passing of Reynolds and the legs of Colin Metzer, the Bulldogs drove to the Tinora 3-yard line before Reynolds capped off the 12 play drive for the go-ahead touchdown. Reynolds then completed the 2-point conversion when he found Braylon Baxter in the right corner of the end zone.
The senior signal caller finished the night, 19 for 29 with 190 yards and ran the ball 16 times for 46 yards and a touchdown.
Metzger did the job on the ground with 93 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries.
“You have a four year starting quarterback. You have an offensive line with four seniors on there and I think that is what helps,” Schafer said.
Columbus Grove put points on the board first when Rece Verhoff kicked a 33 yard field goal on the Bulldogs’ first possession to go up 3-0 with 9:09 left in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs opened up a 10-0 lead on their next possession when Gabe Clement dove into the end zone after going nine yards for the touchdown.
It took Tinora just three plays to slice into the Columbus Grove lead on its next possession when the Rams went 75 yards in three plays to notch their first touchdown of the game. With the successful extra point Columbus Grove led 10-7 with 3:34 left in the first quarter.
Columbus Grove regained its 10-point advantage on its next possession when the Bulldogs marched 58 yards in 13 plays that was capped off by when Blake Reynolds bulled in from 1-yard out for the score. After the successful extra point, the Bulldogs led 17-7 with 10:54 left in the first half.
Tinora came back on its next possession to get back within three when the Rams went 66 yards in 12 plays to score their second touchdown when Ram quarterback Nolan Schafer bulldozed in from three yards. With 4:14 left in the first half.
Schafer went a little longer for his next score when he dashed 96 yards on the Rams’ next possession for paydirt with 1:30 left in the half.
But that left enough time on the clock for Columbus Grove to get in scoring position when they drove to the Tinora 23. There the reliable leg of Rece Verhoff booted a 40-yard field goal with time running out in the first half to get the Bulldogs within one, 21-20.