Cowboys’ late-down efficiency too much

CANTON — Fourth-and-one from midfield. Girard wanted to take a chance and show the No. 1-ranked team in Division IV it deserved to be in this championship game.

Cincinnati Wyoming had other ideas, stuffing the Indians and taking over in a 42-14 win over Girard in Saturday’s title game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.

Evan Prater eluded the Girard defense a couple of plays later for 32-yard touchdown run, something he did most of the first half and most of the four quarters.

The Division IV All-Ohio Offensive Player of the Year had 231 of Wyoming’s 257 first-half yards as the Cowboys outdueled the Indians for a 28-7 lead.

Prater finished with 242 yards rushing on 35 carries and three touchdowns. He passed for two more, but it was his offense’s efficiency on third down that stymied the Indians.

Wyoming was 10 of 16 on third downs and 2 of 2 on fourth downs. Four of the Cowboys’ scores came either on third or fourth down.

Wyoming finished with 355 rushing yards and 149 passing.

“That’s a heckuva group, heckuva unit,” Girard coach Pat Pearson said. “We had a lot of third downs and long that we couldn’t capitalize on. Our defense battled. They played with a lot of heart and soul.

“There were a lot of third and longs and fourth and shorts. This whole playoff run we’ve found ways to get off the field. Tonight, it was a struggle at times.”

It wasn’t that there weren’t opportunities for the Indians. Waid, who was 11 of 29 for 194 yards, had a few overthrows and dropped passes from his receivers. There was some good coverage by the Cowboys as well.

Waid did connect with his favorite receiver, Nick Malito, on a first-and-10 from the Girard 4 with 8:04 left in the third. The 96-yard touchdown play was the spark Girard needed to get back into this game.

With 4:56 left in that quarter, another gift came the Indians way.

Wyoming’s Pierson Rogers took a handoff in the backfield from Prater, pitched it to Joey Edmonds, but the ball landed on the ground and Girard’s Jamil Bannister landed on the loose ball.

But, the Girard offense ended with a three-and-out series.

“We needed a big play to get back in the game and I thought that was going to be it,” Girard senior lineman Jack DelGarbino said. “When we got back on offense, we didn’t really click.”

It was that way most of the night.

Girard’s defense, which was on the field for about 33 minutes, tried to hold off the potent attack of Wyoming.

The Cowboys defense kept Girard’s high-flying offense off the field, limiting the Indians to 15 minutes.

“It wasn’t in the cards for us tonight,” Pearson said. “We couldn’t have played any harder. I couldn’t be more proud of these guys.”