By Jim Manion | Correspondent
The Mogadore Wildcats dream season came to a close Friday night at New Philadelphias Woody Hayes Quaker Stadium when the Green Wave of Newark Catholic notched another victim in its run to a potential ninth state championship.
The two storied programs of Mogadore and Newark Catholic slugged it out for 48 minutes, but when the final whistle sounded, the Green Wave came away with a 38-21 victory and earned the right to advance to the Division VI state championship game next Friday at Massillons Paul Brown Stadium.
There comes a time when coaches have to admit that the team across the field played a better game than you. That was the case Friday as Mogadore head coach Matt Adorni admitted his team was beaten by the better team.
This senior class was really great and a part of two 13-1 seasons and unfortunately the bar is really set high in Mogadore and people expect to play in that game next week, said Adorni.
We played a team tonight that sets the bar equally as high and those people are really passionate about their teams also. Tonight they were just a little bit better than us, they were good.
There was a lot of pressure on our team this year with a lot of people thinking we were the best in the region and league favorites, Adorini said. We got 13 victories that nobody is going to take away from us, and Im real proud to be their coach.
Mogadores Gary Strain ended his career by going over the 200-yard mark for the fourth straight playoff game and going over 2,000 yards rushing for the season. The All-Ohio running back put his team on his back and did everything humanly possible to advance his Wildcats.
In total, Strain rushed 34 times for 227 yards and a pair of touchdowns. After trailing 24-7 at the half, Strain came out and punched in both of his touchdowns to cut the deficit to only three points 24-21, but the Green Wave answered with a pair of scores to clinch the victory in the fourth quarter.
The Green Wave (12-2) put points on the board in all four possessions of the first half.
Receiving the opening kickoff, quarterback Chayce Crouch engineered his Green Wave 70 yards down the field in 11 plays. He carried the ball four times on the drive and went in for the score from the 7 to put Newark Catholic up 7-0 with 6:40 on the first-quarter clock.
The Wildcats picked up three first downs on their first possession, but the drive stalled and Newark took over on downs at the 32-yard line. The Green Wave picked up yardage in big chunks when Crouch hit Mitch Cox with an 11-yard pass, fullback Brian Schumaker ripped off 13 yards and Crouch took another run to the 34.
Crouch then hit Kevin Bourne on a post pattern at about the 20 and the speedy back outraced the Mogadore secondary for a 14-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter.
The Wildcats answered with an 80-yard drive as Strain carried six of the drives eight rushes. Jake Cramer found the end zone from the 7-yard line, when he broke off left tackle and skirted just inside the pylon for the Wildcats first score of the night at 9:09 remaining in the first half.
Aaron Jurden returned the Mogadore kickoff 31 yards to the Wildcats 49-yard line to set up another Green Wave touchdown. Ten plays later, Spencer Magers went in for the score from the 7 and established a 21-7 advantage with 4:34 on the clock.
The Wildcats failed to make a dent on the Newark Catholic defnese and the Green Wave would be the next team to score again when Crouch booted a 36-yard field goal with plenty of room.
The kick gave Newark Catholic a 24-7 halftime lead.
The Wildcats took the opening second-half kickoff and moved the ball 70 yards as Strain carried nine times in the 11-play scoring drive and, he went in from the 2 for the score with 7:32 on the clock.
Mogadore forced Newark Catholic to punt for the first time in the game and gained possession on the 20 after the punt bounced into the end zone. Wildcats quarterback Anthony Ricci converted a fourth-down play when he hit Cramer on a 20-yard sideline pass at the 20-yard line to end the third quarter after Strain had carried the ball eight more times.
Strain opened the fourth quarter by taking a pitch from Ricci and sweeping left to go untouched into the end zone and trail only 24-21 with 11:55 on the clock.
A failed onside kick attempt by the Wildcats gave the Green Wave the ball at midfield and Crouch went to work in an attempt to move the ball while also using some clock. Bourne took a handoff from Crouch and went over right tackle and then cut left to sail 29 yards untouched for another Green Wave score and move the lead back to 10 points (31-21).
The Wildcats attempted a fourth-down conversion with five minutes remaining and Mitch Cox made a perfect play on an intended pass for Kasey Beard, which essentially sealed the win for Newark Catholic.
With 2:04 showing on the game clock, Newark had the ball on the Mogadore 26. Crouch was looking at a fourth-and-2 situation and went with play-action into the line and found Bourne open over the middle again for a 26-yard touchdown close out the scoring.
Crouch finished the night with 185 yards passing hitting 10-of-18 attempts.