COLUMBUS – After Paint Valley topped Newark Catholic last week, 21-20, thanks to a successful two-point try in overtime, the Bearcats got an unfortunate taste of their own medicine Saturday night.
Fredericktown erased a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter and ousted the Bearcats 29-28 after a successful two-point conversion with just 57.4 left in regulation, at Hamilton Township High School in a Division VI regional semifinal.
“We got down by two scores and just kind of kept fighting,” Fredericktown coach Will Hartley. “We had a speaker come in, a former player of ours, this morning and he told us that we can’t get too low and we can’t get too high. We kind of reflected on that. I think our kids bought into that.”
The Bearcats lose a class of 11 seniors who went 33-12-1 in their four years while winning two conference and reaching the playoffs each of the last three years.
“It’s the end of an era,” Paint Valley coach Pete Hollon said. “Those kids really took us places where we haven’t been before. We really wanted to get to Week 13 because that’s always been our goal. But God had other plans for us.”
Fredericktown (10-2) struck first blood with 9:29 left in the second quarter when Austin Geiger capped off a 14-play, 88-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown plunge, giving the Freddies a 7-0 lead.
Paint Valley (10-2) had a quick answer, as quarterback Anthony McFadden found the goal line from four yards out with 6:03 left in the second quarter, tying the score.
The tie stood until halftime.
Coming out of the break, Fredericktown took the lead back when Geiger scored a second time, this time from a yard out, with 3:31 left in the third. The run capped off an 18-play, 80-yard drive as the methodical Freddies’ offense continued to win in the trenches. When the ensuing extra point attempt was blocked, the Freddies had a 13-7 lead and an unknowing setup to a dramatic finish.
McFadden scored with 17.6 seconds left in the third quarter, from five yards out, to put his Bearcats up 14-13.
Then the Freddies made what appeared to be two critical mistakes.
With 11:45, Paint Valley defensive lineman Dalton Waugh picked off quarterback Dillon Smith’s pass and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown, extending Paint Valley’s lead to 21-13.
Three plays later, at the 10:56 mark, McFadden took another pick to the end zone down the Freddies’ sideline for what looked to be the knockout punch.
“It was just kids reading their keys and making plays that they should be making,” Hollon said. “We had a lot of momentum and a hard time controlling our sideline with all of the excitement. Then (Fredericktown) hit a big double pass and it really put us on our heels.”
On the next drive, Freddies’ running back Brenden Reed hit receiver Braxton McQueen on a halfback pass that was goof for 38 yards. On the next play, Smith found McQueen wide open down the seam for a 21-yard score to cut the deficit to 28-21.
“We saw (Paint Valley) coming up on our short throws a bit,” Hartley said. “We thought we’d take a shot. It was an unconventional play call but Brenden did a good job of finding Braxton.”
On the next Paint Valley drive, the Bearcats drove to the Freddies’ 46-yard line, but mishandled an exchange in the backfield and Fredericktown jumped on the ball to regain possession.
From there, Smith led his team on a 12-play, 55-yard drive that ended with a four yard touchdown run with 57.4 left in regulation.
On the next play, the junior quarterback called his own number one more time and crossed the goal line to give his team the lead and, eventually, the win.
“It says a lot about our team’s heart,” Hartley said. “We’ve been working hard all season long and we knew someone would have to make a big play. We knew we had the momentum at that point and decide to go for it. It worked out for us.”
Hollon said, “We were just tired. We lost (defensive lineman) Josh (Krech), our run stopper in the middle last week and I thought they took advantage of that. Our pass defense wasn’t real good tonight and they caught us with that trick pass late. We thought we had the kid tackled about 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage but it just wasn’t meant to be. Credit to Fredericktown. They did what they had to do to get the win.”
Smith finished 17-of-23 through the air for 162 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions. He also rushed for 62 yards on 16 carries and scored once. Also on the ground, Geiger managed 51 yards on 14 touches with two scores while Reed had 59 yards on 17 carries. McQueen was the Freddies’ leading receiver with 99 yard on seven catches.
For Paint Valley, McFadden went 10-of-15 for 118 yards and an interception while rushing for 91 yards on 17 attempts. The senior scored scored three of the Bearcats’ four touchdowns. Running back Teagan McFadden led all rushers with 132 yards on 18 carries. Tony Hatfield led the Bearcats’ receiving corps with 76 yards on five receptions.
In total, Paint Valley had 341 total yards compared to Fredericktown’s 371. The Bearcats turned the ball over three times as the Freddies coughed it up three times as well.
Fredericktown will now face Grandview Heights, who was a 14-6 winner over Lucasville Valley, next weekend in a Division VI regional final. The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) will determine a site for the contest Sunday afternoon.