By Mark Pinto
FOREST PARK, Ohio – A failed extra point early in the third quarter was the difference as Loveland defeated Winton Woods, 7-6, in a thrilling battle of unbeatens Friday at Charlie Frederick Stadium.
Coming out of halftime down 7-0, Winton Woods kick returner senior Kamaren Barnes returned the second-half kickoff 75 yards to Loveland’s 8 yard line.
On the next play junior running back Marcus Davis ran the ball into the end zone for the score, but the extra point was missed.
“High school football is all about if you want to be the best, you have to play the best,” Loveland head coach Fred Cranford said. “Our defense came out with a bend-don’t-break, emphasizing all the little things for the week and it really paid off in the end. It’s great for the Loveland community.”
Cranford stressed minimizing big plays to his defense. That unit prevented Winton Woods quarterback Shamar Hooks from completing a pass on six attempts, and the longest play for Winton Woods was a 30-yard run.
Loveland senior linebacker Mike Weber led the team with 11 tackles and recorded two sacks.
“We always had Winton Woods on our minds, and to have that weight off our shoulders is incredible,” Weber said. “It was more serious at practice this week preparing, but everything stayed the same because we have a really good scheme going.”
When the game started, it looked like it could be an offensive shootout after Loveland scored on the third play on a touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Drew Plitt to freshman running back Luke Waddell.
But the defense for both teams stole the spotlight.
Winton Woods had a few opportunities throughout the game, but penalties or turnovers stalled the drives. The Warriors were penalized seven times for 67 yards and some of those penalties came at opportune times.
In the third quarter, Winton Woods went into Loveland territory but a holding call on third down moved the offense back 10 yards and was forced to punt on the next play.
In the first half on two occasions, Winton Woods was inside Loveland’s 20-yard line, but came out with no points due to a fumble on the 16 in the first quarter, and a missed 25-yard field goal in the second stanza.
Winton Woods settled for the field goal attempt after Loveland stopped the Warriors on a third-and-goal from the 7. Winton Woods got as close as the 2, but a false start penalty pushed the team back.
This was a regular-season game but it felt like a playoff environment. Both bleachers were full and other spectators were standing around the fence watching the action.
The Loveland school district supplied five buses for students to travel to the game to support their school so it looked more like the game was being played at a neutral site with both teams equally represented.
“Student body has overwhelmed me with pride since I walked into the building,” Cranford said. “This was a community win and that 12th man support behind me meant something special.”
Loveland will look to stay undefeated as it hosts Walnut Hills next week, and Winton Woods hosts Elder.