With what will undoubtedly go down as one of the best games of the Northwest Ohio Athletic League football season, Swanton came back from a 13-point halftime deficit and although they squandered a lead late, the Bulldogs outlasted Archbold in four overtimes on a rainy night Friday, 33-27.
The victory jolted Swanton into the playoff field in Division V, Region 18, in what will be their third straight playoff appearance.
“We took advantage of some opportunities. We did not in the first half, but we did in the second half,” said Swanton coach Randy Kerns. “With that snap issue that they had on the punt where we picked it up (and ran it into the end zone). We were able to build off that. And we really did a nice job defensively. Early in the game they got some long runs on us. We really settled in. The kids played disciplined ball. Read their keys, got where they needed to be defensively, and embraced the environment I thought.”
Archbold, ranked seventh in the state in Division V heading into the game, took advantage of a Swanton fumble in the first quarter to strike first. Blue Streak quarterback Gabe Petersen ran it in from a yard out and Kaiden Bedsole’s extra point made it 7-0 at the 8:53 mark.
Later in the frame, Gabe Petersen found Nic Rodriguez in the back of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown pass, but the point after try was no good and Archbold’s lead was 13-0 after one. That would be the halftime score as well.
Things quickly changed after the break as the Streaks went three-and-out on their opening possession of the half. Then, on the punt, a bad snap let the Bulldogs get in for a block where they then fell on the ball in the end zone for a TD. Anthony Howard missed the extra point to make it 13-6 with 10:09 left in the third.
Both offenses went stagnant for the remainder of the quarter until another Blue Streak turnover set the Dogs up on their side of the field. It came when Crew Oberheim stepped in front of a hitch route near the Archbold 20 yard line.
They cashed in with a five yard TD run from Gage Pachlhofer and Michael Lawniczak’s two-point conversion, putting Swanton in front 14-13 46 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Archbold, who ripped off some big runs early, was pretty much bottled up in the second half.
“We did a little bit more with the safeties. As far as run stuff,” said Kerns on what defensive adjustments they made in the second half. “We wanted to be more aggressive with the (bad) weather. If he (Gabe Petersen) makes some Peyton Manning passes and beats us, he beats us in this weather. And obviously, he came pretty darn close to doing that. He’s a great player.”
In what appeared to be the game-clinching touchdown, Lawniczak ran to pay dirt for a 39-yard score with 2:03 left in regulation to give them a 21-13 lead.
However, the Streaks took advantage of a short kick off and then a roughing the passer penalty on a completion to Isaiah Gomez set them up at the Bulldog 25 with 1:16 left in the game. On the next play, Rodriguez hauled in a pass in the end zone, and that same pair hooked up on the two-point conversion which tied the game and eventually sent it to overtime.
Swanton turned it over on downs in the first overtime, but Archbold missed a 20-yard field goal on their possession to extend the game.
The Streaks turned it over on downs to start the second overtime, and making matters worse, a penalty was called on them after the play which set Swanton up at the 10. But, after Lawniczak picked up six yards on first down, he fumbled a ball that was recovered in the end zone by the Streaks for a touchback.
Lawniczak made up for it in overtime number three with a score from four yards away, however, the extra point missed to make it 27-21 with possession going over to Archbold.
The Streaks were pushed to third-and-10 at the 20, when Gabe Petersen hit LJ Tijerina on a skinny post for a TD. But, their extra point was blocked, keeping the score tied at 27 and sending it to a fourth overtime.
The Dogs then picked off an Archbold pass on third-and-8 at the 18. Using five straight runs from Lawniczak, the junior tailback capped off the win with a two-yard TD on third and goal.
“So proud. So proud of these guys,” said Kerns. “This is really special to me, the type of kids that we have. Didn’t give up. Down 13-0, could of gave up. Especially the last game on the road, bad environment.
“All year long our motto has been finish. It’s been a word I’ve used since June. And tonight, we made it a battle, but we finished.”
“This was just a good old fashioned football game that came down to whoever made the fewest amount of mistakes,” added Archbold coach David Dominique. “Unfortunately for us, we made too many and Swanton was able to capitalize on that. Both teams left it all on the field so as a coach that is all you can ask for.”
Lawniczak led Swanton on the ground with 168 yards and three TDs on 36 carries. Pachlhofer added 89 yards and a TD on 16 carries.
Gabe Petersen had three TDs through the air despite completing just 4 of 11 passes. He added 88 yards and a TD on 28 carries, while Sam Petersen picked up 75 yards on 18 carries.
Swanton (7-3) will travel to the Region 18 top seed Eastwood (10-0) this Friday at 7:30 p.m. for the opening round of the playoffs. Archbold (8-2) is the third seed and is at the bottom of the bracket where they will host Indian Lake (7-3) Friday night.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010