By Carol McIntire
MINERVA – The Carrollton vs. Minerva football game Friday was as a rivalry game should be: a see-saw back-and-forth, heart stopping battle with the score knotted at the end of regulation that is ultimately decided by overtime.
Minerva struck first, taking the opening kickoff and marching 55 yards to the end zone. Carrollton tied the game and went ahead and the Lions regained the lead, all in the first half. Carrollton took the second half kickoff, marched 68 yards down the field for a touchdown. They built a 26-13 lead before the Lions came roaring back in the fourth quarter to tie the game as time expired.
Carrollton scored first in the overtime period, but the extra point kick sailed past the goal post wide to the left, giving the Lions an opportunity to notch their first win of the season. An interception by Carrollton senior Teagin Mohn in the end zone gave the Warriors a 32-26 win.
“It was a great game,” said Carrollton Coach Phil Mauro following the win. “We stopped them once in the overtime period, but a roughing the passer call gave them new life. We were fortunate Teagin was in a position to get the interception that clinched the win.”
The Lion offense got a spark Friday that was missing during the previous nine games. Senior Jake Stewart, who competed for the Lions on the soccer field all season, strapped on a pair of shoulder pads and the #47 jersey and lined up in the backfield along side senior quarterback Brock Croston. Stewart ran for 93 yards on 13 carries to lead the Lions’ ground attack.
Minerva running back A.J. Vasilliu got the Lions on the board with a 6-yard touchdown on the opening drive of the game. The kick of Zack Banner was no good, the but 0-9 Lions were on the board first.
On the ensuing series, Carrollton senior Chase Flanagan broke loose for a 27-yard touchdown run to tie the game. The kick by Rigo Viveros was no good, and the two teams were tied at 6-6 with 3:05 left in the opening period.
The teams traded field position in the second quarter until Carrollton senior quarterback Parker Crim scored from seven yards out with 1:05 left in the half. The two-point conversion pass from Flanagan was incomplete and Carrollton led 12-6.
Minerva started the ensuing drive on their own 35-yard line. Runs by Stewart and Croston and a pass from Croston to Dominic Slentz set the Lions up with a first down on the Carrollton 18-yard line as time was about to expire. Croston took the snap, dropped back and found Connor Fritz in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown as time expired. Banner’s kick was good and the Lions led 13-12 at halftime.
The Warriors regained the lead on the opening drive of the second half.
Carrollton took the opening kickoff and, four plays later, Flanagan broke loose for a 23-yard score. Viveros’ kick was good and the Warriors led 19-13 with just over two minutes off the third quarter clock.
Carrollton stretched the lead to 26-13 on the next series when Crim scored on a keeper from 26 yards away and Viveros added the extra point.
The fourth quarter belonged to the Lions.
Croston hit Fritz for a 21-yard score with 7:31 left in the game. Banner added the extra point to cut the lead to 26-20.
With just over five minutes left in the contest, the Lions jumped on a Carrollton fumble on their own 40-yard line where they began the game-tying drive that brought fans from bleachers on both sides to their feet.
Fritz ripped off a 16-yard run to the Carrollton 44-yard line. Vasilliu picked up four yards to the Carrollton 40. An encroachment penalty against Carrollton moved the ball to the 35. Fritz picked up two yards on the next play to set the Lions up with a first down at the CHS 32.
Three plays later, the Lions had moved the ball to the CHS 20-yard line with 2:51 left on the clock. Two plays and 51 seconds later, the Lions had a first down on the CHS 12-yard line. Stewart picked up five yards on the next play and Slentz gained three to the 4-yard line before the Lions took a time out.
Vasilliu picked up a yard to set up a four down on the 3-yard-line with 20 ticks left on the clock.
The Lions ran the clock down to two seconds before taking a time out to set up the final play of the game. The Minerva sideline erupted as Fritz took the handoff from Croston and crossedth the goal line to tie the contest as time expired.
Carrollton fans stood silently stunned as Banner lined up for the extra point that could win the game and snap a 29-game losing streak for the Lions.
Banner’s low kick hit the bottom crossbar on the goal post and fell to the ground, sending the Carrollton fans into a frenzy.
The Warriors got the ball first in the overtime period and scored on a 3-yard run by Crim. The extra point kick by Viveros was wide left, setting the Lions up with another opportunity to win the game.
Carrollton forced the Lions into a fourth-down situation and fans were celebrating what they thought was a victory when Croston’s pass fell incomplete. However, a roughing the passer penalty gave the Lions life once again and set them up with a first down on the 10-yard-line. Mohn sealed the win for Carrollton when he picked off Croston’s pass three plays later.
Mauro had praise for his Warriors who won the last two games of the season to post a 3-7 record overall and 2-5 in the Northeastern Buckeye Conference (NBC).
“The last two games we refocused and it paid off,” Mauro said. “When you play Minerva, records mean nothing. The game is a new season. They have a good group of seniors who are big and tough up front. Our defensive line did a good job against them.”
Bryce Carte led the Warrior defensive effort with 10.5 tackles, including eight solo tackles, and five assists. Connor Clark had seven tackles, five of them solo, four assists and one tackle for loss. Brandon Wells had six tackles, including five solo, and two assists and one tackle for loss.
For the Lions, Fritz picked up 31 yards rushing on nine carries and caught four passes for 91 yards. Vasilliu rushed for 48 yards on 16 carries and caught one pass for three yards. Croston completed eight of 18 passes for 136 yards and picked up 28 yards on eight carries.
Coach Mauro had praise for his seniors, including Flanagan, who picked up 205 yards on 24 carries, and Crim, who picked up 123 yards on the ground on 17 carries and connected on four of seven passes for 49 yards.
“The seniors have played great all year and I am proud to send them off from their high school career with a victory,” said Mauro.
He praised the resiliency and toughness of this team during the season.
“We had a lot of injuries during the season,” Mauro said. “They showed a lot of resiliency and really grew in mental toughness. They learned how to handle adversity and showed grit and fight. At no time did they bow down to their opponent.”
The Warriors will close out the 2017 season when they sit down at the banquet table Nov. 12.