It took 16 years for Lakota East to earn its first trip to the postseason in school history, but it only took one try to win its first playoff game as the Thunderhawks defeated Springboro 45-38 in overtime at CareFlight Field in front of more than 5,000 cold football fans on the campus of Springboro High School Saturday.
Springboro trailed 31-14 midway through the 3rd quarter, but roared back to tie the game 38-38 with less than a minute to play. After scoring a touchdown in OT, the Thunderhawks defense then stopped senior Rahman Hardin before he could cross the goal line on a 4th-and-goal from the 2-yard line.
“I think our kids are resilient and persevered.,” Lakota East head coach Rick Haynes said. “We just kept fighting, but they just kept coming back.”
“They did a great job after everything they went through this week and we are just happy to be moving on.”
It was an emotional game for the Springboro Panthers, who lost one of their teammates this week. Prior to kickoff, Shaun Frechette was membered with a moment of silence and a balloon release. The junior lineman, who hoped to play in the NFL one day, died in a one-car crash on his way to school on Ohio 741 Thursday morning.
“It was obviously something we hadn’t planned on and it certainly shook up our week physically and emotionally, but these guys have fought through a lot of adversity and found ways to overcome,” Springboro head coach Ryan Wilhite said.
It was the Thunderhawks, however, who spoiled the evening on their first offensive play when senior Will Mahone raced 76 yards down the visitor’s sideline to the 4-yard line. Mahone then took the next two handoffs and from 1-yard out scored 50 seconds into the contest.
Lakota East scored two more times in the first half, each time on big plays. The first one coming on a pitch from junior quarterback Eric Eichler to senior Chamada Palmore, who raced 80 yards for the touchdown. Then later, junior Bobby Brown made a one-handed catch in the corner of end zone on a pass from Eichler.
Springboro hung around, scoring on a one-yard run by junior quarterback Jack Schaaf and again on a 6-yard pass play from Schaaf to sophomore D.L. Knock with 43 seconds left in the first half, making the score 21-14.
After adding a field goal, Lakota East scored on another big play when Eichler found Brown wide open for a 58-yard touchdown on a play-action pass play that fooled the Panthers’ defense and gave the Thunderhawks a 31-14 advantage midway through the third quarter.
The two teams then traded blows.
Springboro scored when Schaaf fumbled the ball at the Lakota East 1-yard line and his tight end Jordan Rigg recovered in the end zone. Eichler then completed a 22-yard touchdown pass to linebacker Jake Chestnut, who lined at tight end, with 9:33 left in the game. The Panthers followed that with 37-yard pass play from Schaaf to senior Jake Johnson, making the score 38-28 with 7:45 left to go.
Needing points in the fourth quarter, Springboro decided to kick a field goal on a 4th-and-5 from the Lakota East 19-yard line. Senior placekicker Josh Depp converted the 36-yard attempt with 4:19 left to play, to make the score 38-31.
The Panthers then forced a three-and-out and regained possession at their own 42-yard line with 3:08 left in the game. On that drive, Schaaf converted a 4th-and-1 on a screen pass to Knock. Overall, Schaaf orchestrated a 10-play, 58-yard drive that ended on a 22-yard TD pass to Johnson with 54 seconds left in regulation.
In overtime, Springboro won the coin toss and elected to play defense. Eichler then completed an 18-yard pass to Palmore, who was tackled on the 2-yard line. A play and a false start penalty later, Eichler gave East a 45-38 lead on a 6-yard touchdown.
The Panthers then took it down from the 20-yard line to the 2, but failed to punch it in.
“We are hurting tonight because we don’t want this to end,” Wilhite said. “A chance to spend another week with this team would be a dream come true. The 2012 group will be remembered in Springboro forever.”
Lakota East will have another week to build on its legacy, as it will play Moeller in the regional semifinal at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium at 2 p.m. next Saturday.
Lakota East 7 14 10 7 7 45
Springboro 7 7 7 17 0 38
LE – Mahone 1-yard run (Smith kick)
S – Schaaf 1-yard run (Depp kick)
LE – Palmore 80-yard run (Smith kick)
LE – Brown 25-yard catch from Eichler (Smith kick)
S – Knock 6-yard pass from Schaaf (Depp kick)
LE – Gasser 42-yard field goal
LE – Brown 58-yard catch from Eichler (Smith kick)
S – Rigg fumble recovery in end zone (Depp kick)
LE – Chestnut 22-yard catch from Eichler (Smith kick)
S – Johnson 37-yard pass from Schaaf (Depp kick)
S – Depp 36-yard field goal
S – Johnson 22-yard pass from Schaaf (Depp kick)
LE – Eichler 6-yard run (Smith kick) in OT