By Michael Rich
MANSFIELD — Stow-Munroe Falls forced four turnovers, scored twice in the third quarter to create separation and went on to end Olentangy’s run in the Division I playoffs with a 38-16 regional semifinal win Saturday at Arlin Field.
Quarterback Kyle Vantrease tossed two touchdown passes and ran for two more to lead the Bulldogs.
“I thought (Vantrease) made some plays for them,” Olentangy coach Mark Solis said. “That was kind of the difference in the ball game. I saw first-hand why he’s got a number of offers. That kid’s a good football player.”
The third quarter rally started on an interception by Stow’s Owen Faulkhauser. Senior running back Jayson Gobble broke a 53-yard touchdown run off right tackle two plays later to push the lead to 24-10.
Gobble, who started the drive with a five-yard run, had been held to 21 yards on 11 carries before the long touchdown.
Gobble had 2,007 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns to lead the Bulldogs through the first 12 games of the season, and finished the game with a solid 104 yards on 22 carries.
“That’s a darn good football team,” Solis said of Stow. “I think they’re extremely well-coached, they’re extremely unselfish, they’re extremely disciplined and we didn’t help ourselves out with turnovers.”
Vantrease found receiver Logan Lindsay from 10 yards out two possessions later to push Stow’s lead to 31-10 with 1:17 left in the third quarter.
Stow forced four Olentangy turnovers, including three interceptions by senior quarterback Deeb Haber, but only converted them into 10 points.
“You can’t turn the ball over this late in the season,” Solis said. “You’re just not going to win. We all are at fault for turnovers.”
The Bulldogs never trailed, beginning with a 23-yard field goal by Garrett Rigby with eight minutes left in the first quarter. Haber’s first pass of the game was intercepted by Monte Board to set up the score.
Olentangy had a chance to tie the game on the next possession, but elected to go for the touchdown instead. Seth O’Neal’s pass fourth-down pass from 10 yards out was knocked down in the end zone by Joe Andrassy.
“We should have probably taken the points there,” Solis said. “We had something dialed up. We had a kid that used to be a quarterback throwing the ball to a kid that’s going (to Toledo next fall). We thought we had something we could hit. They did a good job of jamming it and we didn’t execute. Sometimes you have to take your hat off to the other team.”
Vantrease found Lindsay down the left sideline for a 57-yard pass play and, five plays later, he ran in his first touchdown from six yards out to push the lead to 10-0 with 2:40 left in the first quarter. Lindsay finished with 115 yards receiving on six catches.
Olentangy got things going midway through the second. Haber found O’Neal over the middle from 13 yards out to cap a 15-play drive.
Haber had runs of 11, eight and 19 yards and sprinkled in completions of 15 yards to Derrick Wyche, 10 yards to O’Neal and 11 yards to Obi Anunike to set up the score.
Haber finished with 298 yards through the air on 33-of-52 passing, two touchdowns and three interceptions. He added 38 yards on the ground on 14 carries.
Anunike led Olentangy with 10 catches for 130 yards and Wyche added 53 yards on four receptions.
But Vantrease found Board on a short out-route that he turned into a 42-yard touchdown to push the lead back to 10 before the half.
Olentangy’s Jacob Bell opened the third quarter scoring with a 25-yard field goal.
Sam Durst caught a 10-yard touchdown pass with 32 seconds left in the third to cap the Olentangy scoring.
Vantrease finished out the scoring with a 54-yard touchdown run with 3:59 to play. He finished 11-for-21 passing for 197 yards and an interception along with 74 yards rushing on seven carries.
Solis was proud of what his seniors accomplished, which included a 32-5 record over the past three seasons, back-to-back OCC-Capital titles, a final four appearance in the D-II playoffs last season and a round of eight appearance this season.
“I think our kids have some great memories,” Solis said. “They had a hell of a run and we’ve got a lot to be proud of.”
Stow advances to the regional final against top-seeded Lakewood St. Edward, which defeated Euclid 33-0.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.