LEIPSIC — Leipsic went to the air often in Friday’s key Northwest Conference football matchup against visiting Columbus Grove at John Edwards Field.
However, after Columbus Grove found themselves down 21-3 at the halftime break, the Bulldogs came roaring back to pull out a thrilling 25-21 victory over Leipsic on homecoming night.
With the hard-fought victory, Columbus Grove improves to 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the NWC. The Bulldogs are currently alone at the top of the NWC standings.
Leipsic slips to 3-3 overall and 2-1 in NWC play.
The two teams came into Friday’s NWC matchup being the only two programs with undefeated league marks, so far this season.
In the latest Associated Poll, Columbus Grove was ranked ninth in the state in Division VI.
In the first half Friday, it was all Leipsic as the Vikings’ offense was clicking, and their defense was stellar. Leipsic’s defense held the potent Columbus Grove offense to just 36 total yards in the first half.
However, in the second half, Grove finally started to move the football.
With 34 seconds remaining in the game, the Bulldogs finally claimed the lead, 25-21, on a 1-yard run by Colin Metzger, that capped off an impressive 98-yard scoring drive.
For the game, Metzger rushed for 81 yards, with 69 of those yards coming in the second half.
“We just weren’t playing,” Columbus Grove head coach Andy Schafer said. “We hold our hat on special teams, defense and running the ball. … In all three facets, we didn’t have it going in the first half.
“Our special teams – we made some bad plays. … We couldn’t get the running game going. Defensively, we could not stop them. I told them at halftime, that we had to get the offense, defense and special teams fixed. And the guys came up to the challenge. I said, ‘Just one play at a time’.”
The Vikings were very successful throwing the football.
In the first half, Leipsic passed for 131 yards. Leipsic starting quarterback Dillan Niese was 8 of 13 passing for 83 yards in the first two quarters.
Leipsic was forced to punt on the opening drive of the game.
On Columbus Grove’s first possession of the contest, senior Rece Verhoff booted a 50-yard field goal to give the Bulldogs an early 3-0 lead with 8:25 left in the opening quarter.
Then, a little more than midway through the first quarter, Leipsic got a huge break when Columbus Grove fumbled a punt and the Vikings recovered the loose pigskin on Grove’s 27-yard line.
The Vikings cashed in.
Eight plays later, senior running back Fabian Pena ran it in from a yard out. With the extra point by Quin Schroeder, the Vikings led 7-3 with 39 seconds left in the first quarter. That 4-point lead for Leipsic held up to the end of the first stanza.
Leipsic went deep into its playbook.
With 10:14 left to play in the half, Leipsic wide receiver Quin Schroeder came around, got the handoff on a reverse, and then threw a perfect pass to
Trent Siefker, who traveled 48 yards to the end zone. With the extra point, the Vikings now led 14-3.
Then Leipsic’s defense got in on the act.
Right before the break, senior defensive back Blake Liffick picked off a pass from Grove quarterback Brenton Renner and ran it back 35 yards for the score.
Columbus Grove finally put a long drive together.
The Bulldogs traveled 59 yards in 10 plays to hit pay dirt.
Jacksen Schroeder lined up in a Wildcat position, took the snap from center and then ran it in from 7 yards for the score for the Bulldogs. With the PAT, the deficit was cut to 11, 21-10, with 3:33 left to play in the third quarter. That 11-point advantage for the Vikings held up to the third stop.
In the fourth quarter, Grove put it together and outscored the Vikings 15-0 to come away with the big win.
“It was a heck of a momentum (change),” Shafer said about the second half. “It’s nice to have a kicker who can kick field goals. That (50-yarder) certainly helped. Then we had all the confidence in the world in making our plays down near the end zone (late in the game).”
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