By Josh Brown
HUBER HEIGHTS — Two years ago, Tippecanoe surprised football pundits from across the state of Ohio, putting up a battle before faltering late in the regional title game against a heavily-favored Trotwood-Madison team.
One thing above all changed between then and now — Raveion Hargrove.
The elusive, fast and strong Trotwood sophomore had more than 250 yards and Trotwood touchdowns before halftime, then he added one more clutch score in the fourth quarter to put the game away, leading the Rams to a 33-19 victory in the Division III, Region 10 semifinals Friday at Wayne’s Heidkamp Stadium.
The third-seeded Rams (9-3) advance to face No. 1 Wapakoneta, a 12-7 winner over Mount Healthy in the other semifinal, in next week’s regional championship game. The Red Devils, meanwhile, saw their final season before entering the Greater Western Ohio Conference end with a 10-2 record.
“Just like that game two years ago, Trotwood is a good team and played all four quarters. We played about three and a half,” said first-year Tippecanoe coach Joel Derge, whose first year as an assistant with the team was that regional final season. “They broke a couple of big runs in that first quarter. They’re a good team.”
The Devils, meanwhile, began without one of their biggest weapons in the versatile Jakob Prall. And when Cameron Gibbs went down with an injury early in the first half, Tippecanoe found itself without either of its home run hitters around the edges.
“Going into today, we weren’t sure if Jakob would be able to go,” Derge said. “We made the decision at about 5 p.m. today. Then Cameron went down, and it was tough. But the kids stepped up. The kids fought hard even though we were shorthanded.”
Two of Trotwood’s losses this season came when Hargrove was injured — and both to teams that will be GWOC North Division rivals of Tippecanoe’s next year, Troy and Piqua. The Devils defeated the Indians in last week’s playoff opener to advance to Friday’s game.
Hargrove definitely made all the difference — he finished with 371 yards and five touchdowns on 35 carries in the game. The Red Devils finished with 298 yards of total offense.
“We knew if we could keep him under 200 yards, it would be a game. And I don’t think we did that,” Derge said.
On Trotwood’s opening drive of the game, it became clear just how dangerous Hargrove was.
After forcing a Tippecanoe three-and-out, the Rams took over at their own 19. They converted a third-and-13 after recovering a fumbled handoff on second down, but a false start had the Rams facing a second-and-20 from their own 24. Hargrove took a handoff off-tackle to the left side and was met at the line, but he slipped through a pair of arm tackles and streaked down the sideline 76 yards for the game’s first score. After the point-after failed — a running theme throughout the first half — Trotwood led 6-0 less than five minutes in.
The Red Devils answered with a nine-play, 66-yard drive of their own — one that looked as if it would stall at the Trotwood 23-yard line on fourth-and-2. But Trevor Staggs, playing for the injured Jakob Prall, took a handoff to the right side, cut through the first opening he saw and took it 23 yards for the game-tying score as Tippecanoe missed the point-after, making it 6-6 with 4:46 left in the first quarter.
Trotwood fed Hargrove on six out of the next seven plays, taking the ball 66 yards and capping it off with a 3-yard Hargrove touchdown to claim a 12-6 lead with 2:21 in the quarter. Tippecanoe answered immediately, though, with Staggs breaking a 50-yard touchdown run on the second play of the ensuing drive — and Dylan Shomper connected on the point-after to give the Devils a 13-12 lead with 1:53 left in the first.
Trotwood retaliated even quicker, though, as Hargrove broke an impressive 70-yard touchdown run on the Rams’ first play from scrimmage, taking the ball down the right sideline then cutting all the way across the field to the left sideline to finish the run and make the score 18-13 Rams at the end of one quarter.
Tippecanoe refused to give up, though, driving the ball to the Trotwood 13 in 15 plays – converting one fourth down and two third downs along the way — but the Devils still faced fourth-and-8 at the end of the drive. Tippecanoe missed a 30-yard field goal attempt, and Trotwood retook control.
Eleven plays and 80 yards later — seven of those plays being carries by Hargrove — later, Hargrove scored on a 4-yard run and then added the two-point conversion with another run to make it 26-13 Trotwood, and that was where things stood at the half.
“His vision,” Derge said when asked what made Hargrove so dangerous. “Obviously the speed is there. We were trying to force him to run sideways, and he would run sideways — and then he’d get vertical right away again. His vision is scary.”
Tippecanoe began the second half with a defensive stand, picking off a tipped pass on third-and-14 and taking over at the Trotwood 33. After a roughing-the-passer penalty on third-and-20 kept the drive alive — and a facemask on a 16-yard run by Cole Barhorst put the Devils near the goal line — Aaron Hughes punched it in from 2 yards out to make it 26-19 Trotwood with 6:30 left in the third.
The Devils drove the ball to the Trotwood 34, a drive that lasted 15 plays and ate up the rest of the third quarter. It stalled there, though, but quarterback Brandon Gotthardt pinned the Rams at their own 3-yard line with a pooch punt.
Trotwood then embarked on a 16-play, 97-yard march down the field, converting a pair of clutch third downs along the way. Hargrove — despite leaving briefly with an injury early in the drive — returned and carried the ball nine times on the drive, finishing it off with a 2-yard touchdown on third-and-goal that made the score 33-19 with 3:20 left.
Tippecanoe took over at the Trotwood 43, and Gotthardt hit Williams with a 15-yard pass to convert a fourth-and-3 to put the ball on the Trotwood 21. The Ram defense forced four straight incompletions, though, and the Devils turned the ball over on downs with 2:20 left in the game. The Rams picked up a first down to exhaust Tippecanoe’s supply of timeouts and knelt to kill the clock.
Staggs led the Devils with 113 yards and two scores on 11 carries, Barhorst had 50 yards on 12 carries and Gotthardt was 9 for 19 passing for 105 yards, with Barhorst leading the team in receiving with three catches for 40 yards.
“I’m really proud of the guys, especially the seniors, for everything they’ve accomplished this year,” Derge said. “We wanted to win the division title, and we did that. The senior class had won the most playoff games of any class. We wanted to play in the regional final, but we just came up short. We just played a really good team tonight.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.