CINCINNATI -- It was, quite simply, a classic. It was as good as it gets in high school football.
Winton Woods defeated three-time defending Division II champion La Salle 16-14 Friday night at Withrow on Yeri Velasquez's 31-yard field goal with one second left.
"Wow," Winton Woods coach Andre Parker said. "I need some time to process what happened in the last three minutes of that ball game."
That's understandable, Coach. So let's recap:
— Jake Ryle (@JakeWCPO) November 18, 2017
- LaSalle went 54 yards in 34 seconds and took a 14-13 lead on a 27-yard pass from Griffin Merritt to Jake Seibert with 2:04 left. Seibert made the extra point as well, thanks to a save by holder Drew Nieman on a low snap.
- Winton Woods took over at the 28-yard line. The Warriors faced a fourth-and-10 with 1:03 left, but quarterback Kenny Mayberry hit Raequan Prince for 32 yards to keep the drive alive.
- On the very next play, Mayberry hit Prince for 37 yards and a touchdown, but the Warriors were called for holding on the play. With 41 seconds left, that seemed like a soul-crushing blow.
- Mayberry ran for 8 yards, then went back to Prince for 27 yards to the 6 as time ticked away.
- Velasquez trotted on and drilled his third field goal of the night. "I knew I was going to get a chance," Velasquez said. "I was a little nervous, but I had to get the job done."
The Winton Woods players went nuts as the ball sailed through the uprights -- so nuts that they were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. LaSalle tried the lateral on the kickoff return, but Winton responded and win was sealed.
"What a heck of a football game," Parker said. "It was beautiful night. Playoff game. Regional final. I don't know what to say honestly. I'm so proud of my kids. They executed and played hard."
— Jake Ryle (@JakeWCPO) November 18, 2017
Velasquez is the same kid whose missed extra point in overtime against Elder kept the Warriors from an undefeated regular season.
"We talked about the kicker enough," Parker said. "Everyone knew the kicker because of the Elder game. Now, they should know him because of LaSalle. He bounced back."
PHOTO GALLERY: Winton Woods 16, La Salle 14
Both senior quarterbacks were brilliant. Merritt ran for LaSalle's first touchdown and threw for the other, but Mayberry got the ball last.
"How about Kenny Mayberry?" How about that last drive?" Parker said. "We had one timeout. We go 70 yards with one timeout. With the season on the line, down one. You can't call it any better than that."
Mayberry was walking around with the trophy afterward.
"I prayed for a drive like that my whole life," Mayberry said. "I was not going to get too down or too happy. I was just trying to lead my team to a victory."
Again, the called-back TD could have been crushing.
"I told my teammates, 'Let's get it back,'" Mayberry said. "We're blessed."
It was La Salle's first playoff loss after 17 straight wins.
"We're proud of the kids," first-year coach Pat McLaughlin said. "These seniors had a great four years."
Massillon vs. Winton Woods Division II state semifinal game will be played at Columbus St. Francis DeSales High School. Friday, Nov. 24, 7:30 p.m. Per @MTigerAthletics assistant AD Brian Pachis.
— Chris Easterling (@ceasterlingINDE) November 18, 2017
The game did not start like a classic. Winton Woods had scored 113 points in its first two playoff games, and LaSalle had scored 86, but this was a defensive struggle from the start. Each team had 12 yards total offense after 10 minutes.
"I thought we were nervous tonight," Parker said. "We made a lot of mistakes we hadn't made all year."
Winton Woods finally got something going as the second quarter began. Cornell Beachem broke off an 18-yard run on a jet sweep. Navar Gannaway ran for another 14 yards.
Then Mayberry hit a wide open Beachem down to middle for 37 yards to the LaSalle 8. But the Warriors stalled there and settled for Velasquez's 23-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead with 8:47 in the half.
The Warrior defense sacked Merritt on three consecutive plays to force a fourth-and-30. LaSalle was flagged for a personal foul on the punt, which meant Winton's drive started at the LaSalle 19.
One play later, Mayberry broke through the middle and sprinted 20 yards for the score. That made it 10-0 with 7:01 left in the half.
LaSalle nearly got right back in it. Merritt hit Sam Hildebrand, who broke loose for an 89-yard touchdown. But the play was called back by a holding penalty.
Winton had a 35-yard TD pass to Gannaway called back later in the half.
Still, the 10-0 halftime lead for Winton looked huge. LaSalle could not run the ball. The Lancers had 12 yards rushing on 14 tries in the half and the pass rush was able to get to Merritt.
But Parker knew it wasn't over.
"(The Lancers) had been here before," Parker said. "We were up 10-0 at halftime. I told the kids, 'They're going to come back. That's what a champion does.'"
Merritt got the Lancers right back in it with a 63-yard touchdown jaunt. That made it 10-7 just 1:32 into the second half.
Winton Woods pushed the lead back to six at 13-7 on Velasquez's 35-yard field goal with 2:52 left in the quarter.
It stayed that way until Merritt and Seibert hooked up. LaSalle's only mistake was giving Mayberry another chance.
"You've got to play 48 minutes against a good team," McLaughlin said. "Give them credit -- they made plays when they had to."
Knocking off the three-time champ makes the Warriors the favorite to win it all, just like they did in 2009. Parker is glad to have Velasquez for the rest of the run.
"We had a talk after the Elder game," Parker said. "I told him, 'If we're going to fulfill our goal and accomplish what we want to and win state, we're going to need you.' I'm so glad for him."