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Hornets zap Zeps with 41-38 win in closing seconds of playoff game

Jim Walker
jim.walker@irontontribune.com

SARAHSVILLE — The Coal Grove Hornets haven’t changed their game plan. And they haven’t changed their winning ways, either.
Using their ball-control power running game, the Hornets ran for 411 yards on an amazing 70 attempts including a 1-yard touchdown run by Austin Stapleton with 17 seconds to play that gave Coal Grove a thrilling 41-38 win over the Shenandoah Zeps in the Division 6 playoffs on Saturday.
Stapleton was the workhorse as he had nearly half of the Hornets’ carries. He ran 32 times for 235 yards and scored four touchdowns. Malachai Wheeler had nearly as many carries as he ran 31 times for 156 yards and scored twice.
For their efforts after a three-hour bus trip, Coal Grove (5-2) is rewarded with another home game as the Hornets host Loudonville at 7 p.m. next Saturday. Loudonville upset second-seeded Centerburg 42-41.
The Hornets’ offensive line of center Kye Robinson, tackles Dustin Lunsford and Tucker Meadows, guard Brad Wheeler, ends Perry Kingery and Steve Easterling and All-Ohio guard and leader Ben Compliment were all instrumental once again as Coal Grove won its fourth straight.
Coal Grove scored on the opening drive of the game by going 58 yards in 10 plays capped by Stapleton’s 1-yard run. Morgan Schultz ran for the conversion and it was 8-0 at the 7:28 mark.
After a Zeps’ punt, Stapleton added a quick score as he broke free on a 43-yard scamper and Justin Newcomb’s conversion kick made it 15-0 just 40 seconds into the second quarter.
Shenandoah (4-3) got a kickoff return by Briar Portman to the Hornets’ 34-yard line and a clutch fourth-and-14 pass from Dayton Hill to Baylor Wentworth covering 26 yards set up an 11-yard shovel pass from Hill to Cade Denius for a touchdown.
Hill ran for the conversion and the Hornets’ lead was cut to 15-8.
The Hornets’ answered with a 5-yard scoring run by Stapleton and the lead was 21-8 with 5:34 to go in the half.
Shenandoah scored on the kickoff return when Hill caught the ball and threw across the field to Denius who raced 75 yards for the touchdown and the Zeps trailed 21-14 with 5:18 to go in the half.
The Zeps got five double-digit yardage-plays to start the second half including a 14-yard pass from Hill to Portman with 9:25 on the third quarter clock. Preston Mackie ran for the conversion and the Zeps led 22-21.
But Coal Grove would answer with an 11-play, 65-yard time-consuming drive capped by Wheeler’s 4-yard scoring run. The conversion run failed and the Hornets were up 27-22.
A 44-yard kickoff return by Denius set up the Zeps with good field position, but the drive hit a speed bump with a holding penalty that left them facing a fourth-and-13 play.
Not to worry as Hill found Tanner McVolld for a 13-yard scoring strike and the 285-pound Mackie added the extra point run and the Zeps were back in front 30-27 with 1:21 to go in the third quarter.
Coal Grove regained the lead once again on a 6-yard scoring run by Wheeler that capped a 70-yard, eight–play drive. Stapleton added the important conversion run and the Hornets were back on top at 35-30.
Shenandoah put together another scoring drive that resulted in a 4-yard touchdown run by Mackie. Robbie Cool caught the conversion pass now the Zeps had a 38-35 lead with 6:02 to go.
The Hornets then went on their biggest drive of the season covering 59 yards that included a fourth-and-6 conversion.
Wheeler had a 10-yard run to the 3 and two plays later Stapleton’s second straight career was for one-yard and the game-winning touchdown with a mere 17 seconds left.
Shenandoah finished the game with 218 total yards. Hill was 8 of 14 passing for 81 yards and ran eight times for 49. The running game generated 137 yards led by Portman with 84 yards on 11 carries.
Coal Grove 8 13 6 14 = 41
Shenandoah 0 14 16 8 = 38
First Quarter
CG – Austin Stapleton 1 run (Morgan Schultz run) 7:28
Second Quarter
CG – Austin Stapleton 43 run (Justin Newcomb kick) 11:20
Sh – Cade Denius 11 pass from Dayton Hill (Hill run) 9:03
CG – Austin Stapleton 5 run (kick failed) 5:34
Sh – Cade Denius 75 kickoff return off lateral from Dayton Hill (run failed) 5:18
Third Quarter
Sh – Briar Portman 14 pass from Dayton Hill (Preston Mackie run) 9:25
CG – Malachai Wheeler 4 run (run failed) 4:47
Sh – Tanner McVolld 13 pass from Dayton Hill (Preston Mackie run) 1:21
Fourth Quarter
CG – Malachia Wheeler 6 run (Austin Stapleton run) 9:27
Sh – Preston Mackie 4 run (Robbie Cool pass from Dayton Hill) 6:02
CG – Austin Stapleton 1 run (run failed) 0:17