By Rob Kiser
HARROD — In an opening half of mistakes, the Lehman football team was unable to convert and went on to lose a 14-7 heartbreaker to Delphos St. John’s Friday night at Allen East High School in the Division VII, Region 28 semifinal round.
Lehman recovered three fumbles in the first half and came up empty on all three opportunities
On Delphos St. John’s opening play, there was a fumble with Lehman’s Kameron Lee recovering near midfield.
But on fourth-and-short, Owen Smith was stopped just short of a first down at the Delphos 41.
After both teams forced punts, Delphos St. John’s put together a 15-play, 69 yard drive. The Blue Jays converted two fourth downs on the drive. On fourth-and-two from the 10, quarterback Jared Wurst ran four yards for a first down.
Then, on fourth-and-goal from the 9, Wurst found Connor Hulihan in the right corner of the end zone. Brandon Wrasman’s PAT kick made it 7-0 with 9:49 to go in the first half.
Lehman then fumbled the ensuing kickoff and DSJ recovered on the Lehman 34.
On first and 10 from the Lehman 22, Wurst hooked up with Hulihan for a 22-yard TD pass, but the Blue Jays were called for a chop block, wiping out the score. On the next play, Bunker made a strip sack and Ethan Knapke recovered the fumble at the Blue Jays’ 43 — but Lehman could not move the football and punted.
On the next DSJ possession, Bunker again forced a fumble with Logan Richard recovering at the DSJ 41.
This time, Lehman had the ball for just 14 seconds.
On the Cavaliers’ first play, DSJ’s Colin Will intercepted near the end zone and returned the ball to the DSJ 28.
It looked like the half might end 7-0, but with less than a minute to go, there was a bad snap on a Lehman punt. An attempted rugby-style punt was blocked by Devin Lindeman and Hunter Bonifas recovered it in the end zone. Wrasman’s kick made it 14-0 with 48 seconds to go in the half, and that was the score when the teams went to the locker room after Lehman managed just one first down in the opening two quarters.
Lehman began to move the ball in the third quarter.
On one drive, Michael Bunker caught a 41-yard pass from Elliott Gilardi to move the ball to the DSJ 23. But a run for no yards and three incompletions turned the ball over on downs.
Lehman broke through on its next possession.
An 11-yard pass to Braiden Sherman and a 25-yard pass to Brandon Barhorst moved the ball down to the DSJ 22. Owen Smith ran for 10 yards to the 1, and two plays later, Gilardi ran it into the end zone. Michael Denning’s PAT kick made it 14-7 with 3:05 remaining in the third quarter.
On the next possession, DSJ connected on a 33-yard pass from Wurst to Curtis Schwinnen to the Lehman 29. But Brandon Barhorst broke up a pass near the goal line giving Lehman the ball back.
The Cavaliers had a 9-yard run by Smith and 18-yard run by Gilardi to move the ball to the DSJ 32. RJ Bertini came in at quarterback and ran 10 yards for a first down before Gilardi returned. And on fourth-and-5 at the 14-yard line, Gilardi was sacked for a 3-yard loss to give DSJ the ball back with 8:04 remaining.
But five plays later, Lehman’s Bradley Haines intercepted a pass to give Lehman the ball at the DSJ 41 to give the Cavs one final chance.
Lehman picked up two first downs, but on third-and-9 from the 19, Will had his second interception of the game, giving DSJ the ball at its own 13 with 3:34 to go.
The Blue Jays were able to pick up two first downs and run the clock out on another outstanding season for Lehman.
The Cavaliers finished the season 10-2 and won another NWCC title.
Rob Kiser can be reached at (937) 451-3334.