Second-seeded Olentangy Berlin put together its best drive of the game late in the first half, finding the end zone to make it a one-score game at the break, but couldn’t get anything going in the second half as sixth-seeded Dublin Coffman parlayed a 14-7 halftime lead into a 24-7 Division I, Region 2 semifinal win Friday night at Westerville Central.
Down a couple touchdowns after Shamrock quarterback Quinn Hart scored his second one-yard TD of the second quarter, the Bears and backup quarterback Aiden Eviston went to work.
After moving the chains with his legs, Eviston found Zach Siegrist to pick up a first down on a third-and-seven play. He then hit Joe Beaumier to push the ball into Coffman territory and used another strong run to get inside the 23. Mason Ziegler plowed to the five with a strong run and, a play later, Eviston powered into the end zone from three yards out. Spencer Conrad added the extra point to slice the Bears’ deficit to 14-7 with 2:10 left in the half.
Unfortunately for Berlin, which was playing without starting QB Harrison Brewster — the OCC-Cardinal Division co-Offensive Player of the Year — that was as good as the offense looked all night as three second-half turnovers spoiled the comeback bid.
“I just think we kinda shot ourselves in the foot a couple times, really,” Berlin coach Mark Nori said. “We knew what we wanted to run and we knew we had some plays that would work. We threw an untimely pick — there’s really never a good time for one of those — but, you know, we were moving the football, but shot ourselves in the foot from time to time.”
The game was tight until the fourth. The Bears stopped Hart on a third-and-short, but Matt Schramm cashed in on a 34-yard field goal to make it a two-score game — 17-7 with 9:29 left.
Eviston — the OCC-Cardinal Division Defensive Player of the Year — did his best Brewster impersonation on the ensuing drive, finding Siegrist for a big gain into Coffman territory. He then converted a third-and-six play on the ground, but, on the next one, was picked off by Coffman’s Charlie Mitchell to end the threat.
Berlin got another stop on defense, but had to burn all of its timeouts in the process. It was then, after an Azariah Thompson punt pinned the Bears at their own one-yard line, disaster struck as Eviston was intercepted by Ashton Berry on the very next play. Berry only needed to return the pick a few yards to find the end zone as Coffman ballooned its edge to 24-7 with 2:50 left.
It certainly wasn’t an ideal situation for the Bears — replacing their best offensive player with their best defensive one — but Nori said he can’t complain about the way his team handled it.
“I’m just really proud of the whole team,” he said. “The resiliency all the kids had … there wasn’t a hiccup in practice, nothing. We moved right along with the next man up. The kids showed it all week, they showed it last week — we lost Harrison in the first quarter and Aiden did a hell of a job and we were able to win that game — and then we went right into this game hitting the ground running.
“The kids did a good job of believing in one another and coming out and playing football.”
The loss ends what was the best season Berlin’s ever had. The Bears won their second straight league title, made it to the regional semifinals for the first time in program history and won 11 games.
Coffman, meanwhile, advances to play 12th-seeded Springfield, which upset top-seeded Olentangy, 37-24, in Friday’s regional championship at a site to be determined.