Turnovers Haunt Waterford in loss to Harvest Prep
Waterford falls to Harvest Prep in regional semifinal
THORNVILLE — Turnovers were Waterford High’s big bugaboo.
A trio of them cost the fourth seeded Wildcats as they dropped a 35-21 decision to Canal Winchester Harvest Prep Saturday night in an OHSAA Division VII, Region 27 semifinal football game at Sheridan High’s Paul Culver Jr. Stadium.
“I don’t know if it was the cold weather or not, but those three turnovers got us,” said WHS head coach Eric McCutcheon. “But that happens. It’s a part of the game.
“You’ve got to play almost perfect, especially against a team like this. They’re the number one seed for a reason, but we battled them hard, and played with great energy.”
Harvest Prep (11-1), No. 4 in the Nov. 4 Final AP State Poll, advances and is scheduled to play second seeded Newark Catholic (9-3) in a regional final at 7 p.m. Saturday at a site to be determined. Newark Catholic blanked Shadyside, 40-0, in another semi Saturday evening.
The Milan Smith-coached Warriors were led by 5-foot-6, 175-pound senior quarterback/running back Javon Eggert, who rushed for 175 yards and five touchdowns.
“He had five touchdowns?” McCutcheon said. “Gee-whiz, he was a speedster.
“We knew we had to try to contain him but he got his yards.”
Waterford (9-3) was led by senior QB Zane Heiss, wide receiver Nick Fouss, and senior linebacker Joe Pantelidis.
The 5-10, 170-pound Heiss completed 12 of 24 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns and had one interception. He also rushed for a team-high 63 yards on 13 carries.
“Zane played well,” McCutcheon said.
The 5-11, 155-pound Fouss finished with five receptions for 118 yards and two touchdowns of 19 and 15 yards.
“Zane and I just have that good chemistry,” Fouss said.
The 6-2, 180-pound Pantelidis had a game-high total of 26 tackles (3 solo, 23 assists) on defense. Junior Bailey McGraw chipped in with 17 total tackles (1 solo, 16 assists); sophomore Holden Dailey, 13 (4 solo, 9 assists); and junior Cole Miller, 10 assists.
Miller also recovered an HP fumble, and hauled in a 25-yard TD throw from Heiss. Dailey added four catches for 72 yards.
Junior Luke Teters had the Cats’ lone interception.
Early in the game, Harvest Prep capitalized on junior Manny Mullens’ fumble recovery when Eggert ran seven yards to paydirt. Senior Fransico Mungia’s point after touchdown made it 7-0.
Then, with under a minute left in the opening period and after getting good field position on a Wildcat punt, the Warriors moved the ball to the WHS 14, where Eggert covered the remaining distance and Mungia’s PAT stretched the lead to 14-0.
Waterford cut it to 14-7 just before the half when Heiss hit Fouss with a scoring strike. Gavin Brooker booted the extra point.
“We had a golden opportunity, being down only seven at the half.” McCutcheon said. “They (Warriors) took some stuff away from us and we tried to counteract it.
“Our offensive line and our seniors stepped up. That’s what they needed to do.”
The Wildcat O-line included Quentin Doak, Haden Offenberger, Haydon Reynolds, Nick Ellis, Owen Huck, Jude Huffman, Brooker, Miller, and McGraw.
Early in the third quarter, Waterford fumbled again, and it was recovered by Harvest Prep in WHS territory. Fortunately for the Cats, the Panthers ended up turning the ball over on downs.
But then HP senior Elijah Rogers recovered a fumble on the WHS 5-yard line. A couple of plays later, the Panthers extended their lead on Eggert’s third TD of the contest, a 1-yard run.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Harvest Prep got good field position on a bad snap from center by WHS to Heiss, the punter. Heiss was still able to get the kick off to about midfield. From there, the Warriors drove and got inside the 5 where Eggert scored on a 4-yard run. After the PAT, they led 28-7.
But Waterford answered that with a TD of its own when Heiss connected with Miller in the end zone, 25 yards away, to make it 28-13.
Harvest Prep, on the strength of QB Josiah Carroll’s and Eggert’s running came right back and scored on the latter’s 15-yard run, making it 35-13.
Waterford, however, was still offensive-minded and capped all the scoring in the game on Heiss’ 15-yard TD pass to Fouss with 40 seconds remaining. Dailey ran for the 2-point conversion.
“Zane and I kind of locked eyes on that one,” Fouss said. “I saw him rolling out, and he heaved it up. I extended my arms and tried to toe tap that one.”
Playing in their last Waterford Wildcats football game were Jimmy Hitt, Christian Schwendeman, DJ Robinson, Joe Zimmer, Reynolds, Heiss, Doak, and Fouss.
“I’m so proud of all of my guys,” McCutcheon said. “We fought and fought all year long. We’ve got a bunch of fighters. We got better every game. They were an exciting group of kids, and I’m going to miss the seniors. We had a great run.”
Fouss agreed and added, “It hurts a lot losing tonight, but we’ve just got to move on — and now we’re going on to basketball.”
Ron Johnston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org