Nearly any coach will preach the importance of special teams and turnovers as keys to win.
Cliche or not, it was the case in Saturday’s Division IV Region 14 semifinal as Ottawa-Glandorf did just enough to win and advanced in the postseason with a 21-14 win over Wauseon at Defiance High School’s Fred J. Brown Stadium.
The Titans (9-3) forced three first-half turnovers from Wauseon (9-3) and took advantage of a stellar night from punter Ethan Alt to keep the high-flying Indians in check for most of a frigid night of football.
“You play field position in the playoffs,” said longtime O-G head coach Ken Schriner, whose Titans will take on Clyde in the D-IV Region 14 championship game Saturday at Findlay’s Donnell Stadium. “You try not to make mistakes and we had some dumb penalties that we’ve got to clean up but you know, it’s survive. It’s find a way to win and our kids were gritty.”
Alt finished with six punts for 270 yards (45 yards per kick) and pinned Wauseon at its own 15, five, 15, 3 and 22 in the victory.
From the opening possession, Wauseon had opportunities to seize control as the Indians ripped off 47 yards in five plays before losing a fumble at the O-G 16 that snuffed out a scoring chance.
Even after forcing an O-G punt, the Indians threw an interception on their second possession, punted on their third before finally breaking through early in the second quarter to tie things up at 7-7 with a 23-yard touchdown connection from Cody Figy to Connar Penrod, the duo’s 15th scoring pairing of the year.
The Titans, however, used a balanced mix of runs from senior back Eric Heebsh and passes from junior QB Jacob Balbaugh to score twice in the first half. The opening score came on a dazzling deep fade down the right sideline as Balbaugh found speedy senior Jarrod Beach for a 53-yard scoring strike. Heebsh punched it in with 5:29 to go until halftime to put O-G up 14-7, a lead the Titans did not relinquish.
Wauseon set up Heebsh’s touchdown run with a lost fumble at its own 33 to give the Titans a short field.
“We had some bad plays at the beginning of the first half and some field position deep in our own end most of the game,” said first-year Wauseon head coach Shawn Moore. “They had an excellent punter that pinned us back a lot of the time and it was just tough for us in the first half to make some plays.”
O-G nearly made it a two-possession lead before the halftime break but a drive from its own 32 stalled at the Wauseon 11 and Alt misfired on a 28-yard field goal attempt. With 1:09 left, Wauseon did reach the Titan 35 but was ultimately held out of the endzone to enter the break down 14-7, another example of the Titans’ bend-don’t-break excellence.
“We gave up a lot of yards but you know, we’re opportunistic,” said Schriner, whose Titans were out-gained by nearly 100 yards but did not commit a turnover. “We got some turnovers and our kids are battling their tails off. Offensively we just seem to be doing enough.
“Overall, it’s a great effort and that’s playoff football. You’ve got to find a way to make the plays at the right time and get it done.”
The second half did not provide much in the way of opportunity for the Indians, which possessed the ball for just 7:24 of the final two periods. The Titans went up by a decisive two scores thanks to an 11-play, six-minute drive that traveled just 33 yards after a short punt from Wauseon’s own endzone.
Down two scores, Wauseon reached the Titan 24 before a drive stalled. Both teams traded three-and-outs to start the fourth but O-G wound 6:45 off the fourth-quarter clock with 13 plays to leave Wauseon just 3:44 to go and a 14-point deficit.
Though O-G picked off Figy on a deflection, the Indians forced another Titan three-and-out and scored with just nine seconds left in regulation on a 29-yard pass from Figy to Penrod to make it a one-score game.
A well-executed onside kick was recovered by the Indians and a pass and lateral got the ball to the Titan 45 before being taken down and the clock expiring, sending O-G to its first regional final since 2016.
“Our guys gave it everything they had out there and (O-G) was just able to come up with some conversions and stay on the field and kill the time,” said Moore. “They had some pressure, more pressure than we’ve seen this year. Hats off to those guys, we just weren’t able to get the ball into the spaces that we normally have this year.”
Balbaugh finished with a cleanly-efficient 214 yards on 13-of-19 passing while Figy tallied 310 yards through the air, including seven completions for 99 yards to Penrod. Jonah and Noah Tester combined for 13 catches for 168 yards.
“I couldn’t ask for a better group this year,” added Moore. “Nobody thought we were going to be here and it’s a testament to those kids in the way that they worked this year that we were able to get here. We’re not satisfied, we wanted to go farther and it just didn’t work out for us today.”
First Downs 10 16
Rushing Yards 39-69 21-58
Passing Yards 214 310
Total Yards 283 368
Passing 13-19-0 22-43-2
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 2-2
Penalties 6-70 7-64
Ottawa-Glandorf 7 7 7 0 — 21
Wauseon 0 7 0 7 — 14
O-G — Beach 53-pass from Balbaugh (Alt kick).
W — Penrod 23-pass from Figy (Blanco kick).
O-G — Heebsh 4-run (Alt kick).
O-G — Balbaugh 1-run (Alt kick).
W — Penrod 29-pass from Figy (Blanco kick).
RUSHING: Ottawa-Glandorf — Heebsh 21-59; Balbaugh 11-8; Beach 3-2; Recker 3-0; Kaufman 1-0. Wauseon — Wilson 9-51; Figy 8-(-13); Penrod 3-8; Britsch 1-12. PASSING: Ottawa-Glandorf — Balbaugh 13-19-0-214. Wauseon — Figy 22-43-2-310. RECEIVING: Ottawa-Glandorf — Kaufman 6-57; Beach 5-119; Blevins 1-35; Buddelmeyer 1-7; Heebsh 1-3. Wauseon — Penrod 7-99; J. Tester 7-83; N. Tester 6-85; DeGroff 2-41; Wilson 1-15; Brock 1-11