COLUMBUS, Ohio – For the third time in school history and second consecutive season the Wayne Warriors saw their state championship hopes dashed by the St. Edward Eagles as they fell in one of the most thrilling state title games in OHSAA history, 45-35.
Wayne erased a 17-point deficit with less 11 minutes left in the contest by scoring 21 unanswered points to take a 35-31 lead with just 3:47 left to play. However, the Eagles answered the call with a pair of their own touchdowns in a span of 12 seconds in one the craziest playoff finishes ever.
After registering just 95 total yards of offense, Wayne only trailed 17-7 at the half. The Warriors would get things rolling on that side of the ball and in a big way in the game’s final 30 minutes.
Running back Daryl McCleskey got things going in the second half by scoring on 67-yard scamper less than five minutes into third quarter to trim the deficit to three points.
St. Edward answered on the ensuing possession as Jimmy Keefe connected with Matthew Gonzalez on 3-yard scoring strike. He would add 2-yard TD pass to Michael O’Malley on the Eagles’ next possession and just like that it was three-score contest at the 10:43 mark in the fourth quarter.
Keefe tied an Ohio Division I state championship record by throwing for 419 yards and two touchdowns on 24-of-34 passing.
As they did so many times this season when facing adversity, the Warriors dug in. Messiah DeWeaver connected deep down the sidelines with L’Christian Smith for a 70-yard touchdown pass. After a successful onside kick attempt, DeWeaver threw for a second score on a 21-yard TD pass to Matt Wilcox.
Wayne would take the lead for the first time in the contest following a big turnover as Wilcox punched in a 1-yard run for as score.
St. Edward drove right down the field though with a mix of Keefe passing and big runs by All-Ohio running back Cole Gest. Gest capped off a seven-play, 68-yard drive that took 2:25 with a 5-yard TD run and just like that the Eagles were back on top.
With 1:19 left play, Wayne still appeared to be very much in the ball game as St. Edward lined up for the kickoff. The Eagles’ attempt at a squib kick hit a Wayne player on a hard line drive and ricocheted right into the arms of a St. Edward player.
The Warriors had three time outs left so there was still some hope, but it would diminish quickly as Gest took the first snap to the house on a 51-yard TD run.
Gest finished with 122 yards and two scores on 23 carries and added three catches for 103 yards. Gonzalez led all receivers with 11 catches for 134 yards in the win.
DeWeaver completed 8 of 21 passes for 168 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. McCleskey rushed for 156 yards and a score on 11 carries in the defeat.
vs. ST. EDWARD 10-7-7-21-45
S: Jimmy Keefe 2-yard RuTD (Budyka kick)
W: Matt Wilcox 4-yard RuTD (Strong kick)
S: Jake Budyka 35-yard FG
S: Jared Supinski 1-yard RuTD (Budyka kick)
W: Daryl McCleskey 67-yard RuTD (Strong kick)
S: Matthew Gonzalez 3-yard ReTD from J. Keefe (Budyka kick)
S: Michael O’Malley 2-yard ReTD from J. Keefe (Budyka kick)
W: L’Christian Smith 70-yard ReTD from M. DeWeaver (Strong kick)
W: Matt Wilcox 21-yard ReTD from M. DeWeaver (Strong kick)
W: Matt Wilcox 1-yard run (Strong kick)
S: Cole Gest 5-yard run (Budyka kick)
S: Cole Gest 51-yard run (Budyka kick)
Records: Wayne (14-1); St. Edward (14-1)