Swanton put its mark on the Northwest Ohio Athletic League title race with a thrilling 28-27 overtime victory over Wauseon on Friday. The victory in the Indians’ Homecoming game leaves the Bulldogs alone in second place behind Archbold.
Swanton (5-2, 3-1 NWOAL) started overtime on offense and quickly faced a third and seven from the 17. Following a Bulldog timeout, quarterback Dylan Gilsdorf ran a naked bootleg to the left and dove to the pylon for the go-ahead touchdown. Anthony Howard’s extra point gave the Dogs a 28-21 advantage.
Wauseon (5-2, 2-2) answered in five plays as quaterback Hunter Yackee punched it into the end zone from five yards away. But, the extra point was blocked, giving Swanton the victory.
“What a win for our team. I’m sure most outside of our school and team did not give us a chance. Coach (Travis) Cooper has a great team at Wauseon,” said Swanton coach Randy Kerns. “I was worried about our ability to believe in ourselves enough to win this game, especially against a team favored to win the league that returned everyone. But what a job by our kids.”
“We didn’t come out ready to play. We were outplayed and out-coached,” said Cooper. “Their players played with fire and max effort. I didn’t see that same fire and effort out of our guys.”
The Bulldogs started strong, building a 14-0 first half advantage on a pair of Gage Pachlhofer touchdown runs.
“A lot of people don’t know how good of a player Gage is,” Kerns said. “He’s overshadowed by guys like Michael Lawniczak and others, but he’s a tremendous player. We were able to get the edge for him multiple times for two big touchdowns. Our perimeter blocking on those plays was oustanding as well, including Michael and Lukas Reiner paving the way.”
Pachlhofer’s first score, from eight yards out, gave Swanton a 7-0 cushion after one quarter. Following a failed fake punt by the Indians, Swanton took over just inside Wauseon territory. Pachlhofer took the ball on a sweep to the left and raced 34 yards to paydirt. Howard’s extra point made it 14-0 with 10:05 left in the second quarter.
Wauseon charged back, cutting the deficit to seven on the ensuing possession. Everett Bueter looked to be stopped behind the line but broke free for a 19-yard touchdown.
The Indians forced a three and out and put together another drive late in the half. Facing a third and five from their own 42, Yackee hit Owen Newlove on screen pass, Newlove cut to the middle of the field, and raced to the end zone. The Andrew Gray extra point tied the game with 44 seconds left in the half.
Swanton got the ball to start the third quarter and quickly drove down the field. A 48-yard pass to Hunter Mix set the Bulldogs up at the 2 yard line and Lawniczak punched it in for a 21-14 advantage.
The ensuing squib kickoff by Swanton was touched by Wauseon and recovered by Swanton’s Reece Pawlowicz, setting the Dogs up in good field position at the Wauseon 30. They drove to the 9 where Howard’s field goal attempt was blocked by Dawson Rupp.
Wauseon drove inside the Swanton 40 before a fumble was recovered by Swanton’s Kodi Jones.
The Indians got the ball after forcing a Swanton turnover on downs to start the fourth quarter. They methodically drove 69 yards down the field for the equalizer.
Xavier Torres took the ball down to the 3 yard line with a 14-yard run before Bueter punched it in. The extra point by Gray tied the game at 21 with 6:43 left in regulation.
Swanton drove just inside Wauseon territory twice on their final two drives of regulation but the Wauseon defense held, forcing overtime.
“To go into Wauseon on their homecoming, a place they never lose, and play at that high of a level throughout the entire game, was awesome to see. I am extremely proud of our kids,” said Kerns.
The Bulldogs outgained the Indians 287-283 in the evenly matched contest. Swanton had 199 rushing and 88 passing, while Wauseon had 124 through the air and 159 rushing.
Pachlhofer had 71 yards rushing and Lawniczak 65. Gilsdorf was 5-10 passing for 88 yards.
Yackee was 11-18 for 124 yards. Bueter had 46 yards rushing to lead Wauseon.
Swanton has now won three straight since a heartbreaking loss to Bryan in which the Dogs held a 24-7 fourth quarter lead.
“It’s a funny thing. That Bryan loss is one that will haunt a coach for years,” said Kerns. “To melt down that fourth quarter could have sent our season spiraling. But give our kids credit. They rallied that next week against Evergreen, and I believe the lessons we learned from that situation have been very useful to use in these close games the last 2 weeks. I think most people would agree that we are getting better weekly, and I think that showed against a tremendous team like Wauseon. We have to continue that, as LC is a definite bear this week.”
Swanton hosts the Tigers on Friday in a battle of 5-2 teams with much on the line in terms of playoff positioning.
Max Householder contributed to this article