ANSONIA, Ohio — Two goal-line stands spelled the end of Tri-County North’s playoff hopes as Ansonia pulled off a 17-6 win on Friday, Oct. 16.
The Division VII, Region 28 playoff matchup was a rematch between these two teams from earlier this season where Ansonia won 22-21 after a late 2-point conversion.
This time around, the Panthers were able to hold the Tigers better on defense, but North struggled moving the ball against Ansonia.
On their opening drive, Ansonia marched down the field on a grueling 12-play, 5:14 drive that included a conversion on fourth-and-inches.
With first-and-goal at North’s 8-yard line, the Panthers forced a third-and-goal at the 1-yard line, but the Tigers pounded the rock into the end zone for the touchdown and the 7-0 lead.
North responded with a similar 13-play, 6:15 drive, but were unable to find the end zone, punting on fourth-and-10 at Ansonia’s 44-yard line.
After another long Ansonia driving stretching into the second quarter, the Panthers forced a stop on third-and-8 at their own 11-yard line, but the ensuing 26-yard field goal by the Tigers was successful, giving them a 10-0 lead.
The lone bright spot of Friday’s game for North came on the following drive as the Panthers were set to punt on fourth-and-6 from their own 44-yard line.
Senior Cooper Cole bobbled the high snap but was able to collect it, and with the defense closing in, he broke a tackle and begin rumbling down field.
He ran toward North’s sideline before streaking back to the middle of the field, fighting off a stiff hit to remain on his feet as he ran it into the end zone for the 56-yard touchdown, though the extra point was no good, making it 10-6.
The game would then enter halftime after punts by both teams.
In the second half, North continued to have success stifling Ansonia’s offense, but North’s own offense had struggles moving down the field.
The Panthers turned the ball over on three of their next four drives – two interceptions, one turnover on downs – with two of the turnovers on Ansonia’s half of the field.
“We couldn’t finish drives tonight that we have been able to do all year,” North coach Adam Hall said. “We struggled to move it once we got down there.”
Conversely, North’s defense forced a stop on fourth-and-3, an interception and a missed field goal on Ansonia’s first three drives in the second half.
With 6:40 remaining in the game and Ansonia still up 10-6, the Tigers began their drive on a short field, getting the ball at North’s 38-yard line after an interception.
Six plays later, Ansonia was knocking on the door of North’s end zone with first-and-goal at the 1-yard line, and on second-and-goal, they ran it in for the dagger, making it 17-6 with under four minutes remaining.
North attempted to score on their final drive, but after a personal foul on the Panthers, they would later turn the ball over on downs, and Ansonia would kneel out the game.
“They had some different looks tonight,” Hall said. “They were in a 6-2 some. Ansonia’s a good football team. We weren’t able to move the ball as well tonight as we were [before]. We didn’t take care of the ball better. We didn’t have as many turnovers but. Congratulations to Ansonia.”
Outside of Cole’s 56-yard touchdown run, the Panthers picked up just 104 yards on 31 carries, just over 3.3 yards per carry.
Freshman Logan Flory completed five passes for 92 yards and rushed eight times for 42 yards.
Senior Peyton Giolitto led the Panthers with 11 tackles, while Cole had six tackles and two tackles for loss. Senior Wyatt Royer added nine tackles while junior Brett Woodyard, freshman Jordan Foose and Flory each had seven.
“I’m proud of the way that our guys have played. I feel like we’ve been in every game except for the first one against Fort Loramie, and they’re a good football team. I’m just proud of the way that we’ve played,” Hall said. “We have a lot that we should be proud of. We’ve got a lot to build on. We’ve got a lot to fix, but there’s still a lot to be proud of so far this year, and we’ve still got two left, so we’re gonna focus on that.”
Tri-County North will host National Trail this week.
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles