WEST CARROLLTON – Even Fenwick football coach Joe Snively who has taught history wasn’t sure when the Falcons last advanced to the third round of the playoffs.
“I don’t spend a lot of time talking about (past teams),” he said. “I realize we’re trying to start a new tradition here. Kids are all about what’s happening in this era.”
The last time Fenwick reached this stage was 1987.
On Saturday night, the Falcons moved one step closer to recapturing the glory of back-to-back state championships in 1973 and ’74.
Senior running back Michael Sheridan rushed for 113 yards and scored the clinching touchdown on a 28-yard run in the fourth quarter as Fenwick defeated Kettering Alter 19-9 in a Division IV regional semifinal played at Dayton Outpatient Center Stadium.
“It’s great for our program, to beat Alter twice in a season,” said Fenwick’s Nathan Jeffers who had 73 yards rushing and a TD and two catches for 47 yards. “We don’t want to stop until we reach our goal.”
Fenwick advanced to face No. 3 seed Clinton-Massie (11-1), which outlasted Indian Hill, 40-34, on Saturday, in the regional finals at 7 p.m. Saturday at an undetermined site.
“I’m excited for our fans and the student body who have been unbelievable in their support,” Snively said. “You can feel the excitement.”
The Falcons defeated Alter 24-0 in September, handing the Knights their first shutout since 2005.
Fenwick’s defense allowed only 84 total yards in that game and was impressive again on Saturday night, giving up just 57 yards in the first half, 198 overall.
“We hang our hat on playing solid defense,” Snively said. “That’s what we started from day one and that’s what we expect to do until this great thing ends. That’s our plan.”
The teams traded miscues during a wild sequence in the first quarter.
After a sack by Fenwick junior linebacker Sammy DeBiasi forced a punt, a bad snap gave the Falcons the ball at the Alter 47.
On Fenwick’s first play, Knights defensive back Jordan Coovert recorded the first interception thrown by the Falcons this season.
Fenwick’s Anthony Frohlich recovered a fumble moments later.
Rather than attempt a 43-yard field goal, the Falcons ran a fake but junior QB Alan Nix’s pass fell incomplete.
The game remained scoreless until fewer than five minutes remained in the second quarter.
Jeffers had a 29-yard run and hauled in a 17-yard pass on third-and-11 then capped off the 75-yard drive with an eight-yard touchdown run making the score 7-0.
Fenwick had another impressive drive late in the first half, but Matthew Hirko’s 31-yard field goal attempt was partially blocked.
The Falcons outgained Alter 193-57 in the half but clung to a 7-0 lead.
The teams traded fumbles on their opening possessions of the second half. Alter took advantage of its opportunity.
After a pair of penalties stalled their drive, the Knights settled for a 27-yard field goal by Matt Ruffolo, their first points against Fenwick in more than six quarters this season.
Just as momentum was shifting toward Alter, Hirko’s 59-yard punt was downed inside the one-yard line.
Fenwick forced an Alter punt from its own end zone and took over at the 50.
After a pass interference penalty helped extend the Falcons’ drive, they chose to go for it on fourth-and-four from the 28-yard line, and Sheridan burst through the line nearly untouched for the TD.
“The fullback made a great cut-back and it was off to the races,” said Snively. “I lost him when he got through the line of scrimmage.”
The point-after was missed making the score 13-3 with 9:57 left.
Senior Jimmy Gephart, a converted QB, intercepted a pass with four minutes left to help Fenwick seal the victory.
Fenwick nearly kept Alter out of the end zone for all eight quarters this season, but Knights receiver Jacob Brinkman hauled in a 17-yard TD pass with four seconds left.
“We all play as a unit, we have full faith in our linebackers and the calls they make,” said senior defensive back Logan Gearhart.
Fenwick 0 7 0 12 – 19
Alter 0 0 3 6 – 9
Jeffers 8 run (Hirko kick)
Ruffolo 27 FG
Sheridan 28 run (kick failed)
Nix 3 run (kick failed)
Brinkman 17 pass from Markoff (pass failed)
Records: A 10-2, F 12-0.