NEWARK — Coach Mike Kopachy could only shake his head over this one, and Newark was left with another week of soul searching.
The resilient Wildcats twice came back to tie the game and were in position to possibly win it Friday, only to see two big plays turn against them in a 28-21 Ohio Capital Conference-Ohio Division loss to visiting Grove City at chilly, damp White Field.
Newark place-kicks its punts, and punting from its own end zone in the third quarter, had one blocked and recovered at the 1-yardline as the Greyhounds (2-4, 1-3) took a 21-14 lead. Late in the game, the Wildcats had Grove City pinned back to its 1 on Jed Quackenbush’s 40-yard punt with the score tied 21-21. But quarterback Jeremy Ford shook loose on a 75-yard run, setting up Dylan Schoonover’s game-winning 14-yard TD with 1:21 left.
“I take total responsibility. I have not been able to teach our guys a way to handle critical situations,” Kopachy said. “That’s the first field goal punt we’ve had blocked all season, and we did some uncharacteristic things. Yes, we’re young, but we can’t use that as an excuse. We have to get better in crucial situations.”
Ty Scott threw a 13-yard touchdown strike to Taveon Swift with 10:13 left and Quackenbush added his third PAT kick as Newark (0-6, 0-4) forged the 21-21 tie. Parker Emerine pounced on a Grove City fumble at Newark’s 33, and the Wildcats drove for a pair of first downs to the Greyhounds’ 31. But two consecutive false starts set Newark back and a potential game-winning drive was derailed.
After Grove City took the lead, the Wildcats still had life as Levi McKee had a determined 41-yard kickoff return to the Greyhounds’ 44. Scott hit Ashton Gilkey for six yards on fourth-and-2 to the 17, but two passes fell incomplete and on third down and just 2.5 seconds left, Scott was hit at the 21 and fumbled with Grove City recovering.
Kenny Chesterton, who later had an interception, recovered a Greyhounds’ fumble on the opening kickoff at the 12, and two plays later, D’ante Woods ran it from the 2 as Newark led 7-0 less than a minute into the game. After a three-and-out, Scott found Gilkey for an apparent 15-yard touchdown, but it was called back for holding and Quackenbush missed a 43-yard field goal. The Wildcats were flagged 13 times for 88 yards.
Grove City, which completed just one of four passes for four yards, methodically drove 80 yards in 15 plays to tie it early in the second quarter, then took the lead right before halftime as Newark was hit with a personal foul call. That was after the Wildcats were stuffed for no gain on fourth-and-3 at the Grove City 46.
“I made the call, and we had run it successfully the whole game,” Kopachy said.
Newark drove 70 yards in 13 plays with the second-half kickoff and Woods capped it with a 1-yard TD run to tie the game. Woods ran for 91 yards on 22 carries, while Scott completed 17 of 32 passes for 177 yards, with two interceptions. Gilkey caught seven passes for 86 yards and Swift six for 59 yards. Ford’s 25 carries for 187 yards paced the ground-hugging Greyhounds.
“I’m proud of our kids. We’re playing harder, and we did battle back,” Kopachy said. “But we couldn’t make a couple of plays we had to have. Credit Grove City. They made less mistakes than we did, and they made one more play than we did.”