Not this night

No. 1 Wyoming ends Girard’s ‘family’ run to final

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple Girard players, from left, Ben Lileas, Mark Waid and Jack DelGarbino wait for instructions from the sideline Saturday night during the Division IV state title game against Cincinnati Wyoming at Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton. The Indians lost, 42-14.

CANTON — Girard quarterback Mark Waid blamed himself for the Indians’ loss in the Division IV state championship game on Saturday.

Waid said he took “full responsibility” for Girard’s 42-14 defeat to Cincinnati Wyoming at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Coach Pat Pearson blamed him, too, but not in the way someone might think.

“I told Mark on the field that it is his fault. It’s his fault we’re in the state championship game,” said Pearson about the star quarterback who, at times, carried the Indians during the playoffs.

The loss really wasn’t Waid’s fault. It was Wyoming quarterback Evan Prater’s.

Prater ran for 242 of the Cowboys’ 355 rushing yards and scored two touchdowns, and the highly recruited 6-foot-5 junior also completed 6-of-11 passes for 149 yards and two more touchdowns. He made countless plays when Wyoming faced long down-and-distances — following a powerful offensive line and finding talented receiver Joey Edmonds for big pass plays in critical moments.

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple Girard reciever Nick Malito finishes off a 96-yard scoring play in the third quarter Saturday. The TD, coming on a pass from Mark Waid, got the Indians within 28-14.

“He’s a really talented guy,” said Girard standout defensive lineman Jack DelGarbino about Prater. “He made a lot of big plays for them, and he got the better of us today.”

Some of the biggest plays for Wyoming came on defense.

The Cowboys (15-0) took a 28-7 halftime lead and appeared on the verge of pulling away in the third quarter, but Girard forced a punt and scored on a 96-yard pass from Waid to Nick Malito to cut the lead to 28-14.

Wyoming was driving near midfield on the ensuing possession when a reverse resulted in a fumble recovery for Girard with 5 minutes left in the third quarter. With the momentum swinging and a raucous Indians crowd that more than doubled that of the Cowboys becoming even louder, a comeback seemed plausible.

However, the Indians misfired on a deep pass to Malito, just missing a reception that could have resulted in a touchdown, and the series ended up being a three-and-out.

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple Coach Pat Pearson and members of the Girard Indians hoist the Division IV state runner-up trophy Saturday night in Canton.

“It was amazing,” said DelGarbino of the fumble recovery. “We needed a big play to get back in the game, and I thought that was going to be it, and when we got back on offense, we just didn’t really click.”

The Cowboys responded with an 82-yard, game-sealing touchdown drive, capped with an 18-yard jet-sweep around the left side that silenced the-once energized Girard crowd. The 35-14 advantage was too much to overcome, even for the high-powered Indians offense.

Waid played well, but his numbers weren’t as gaudy as normal. He completed 11-of-29 passes for 194 yards, one TD and two interceptions. He ran for 31 yards on 13 carries.

The senior took the loss hard and was emotional as he spoke to the media.

“I take full responsibility for our team’s loss tonight,” he said. “I just want to apologize to Girard and my teammates and coaches. It was an honor to play this game with them. I couldn’t be happier to come from Girard and represent our community.”

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple Girard quarterback Mark Waid, right, looks for running room.

The Cowboys’ victory was more about what they did than what Waid and the Indians didn’t.

Wyoming converted on 10 of 16 third-down conversions and was 2-of-2 on fourth down. In fact, four of its six touchdowns came on third or fourth downs. The Cowboys also dominated time of possession, holding the ball for more than 30 minutes of the 48-minute game.

Girard was 4-of-10 on third down (0-for-1 on fourth down) and just couldn’t find a way to get off the field despite forcing Wyoming into difficult situations.

“They were really talented, really aggressive and a big group,” said defensive back Aidan Warga of defending the Cowboys. “They were quick, fast, you name it. Just a really solid group.”

Prater was named the Division IV Player of the Year in Ohio, an honor many thought Waid deserved. The talk about Waid being more deserving trickled into the Cowboys’ locker room, and it apparently provided motivation for Prater.

Girard coach Pat Pearson consoles the Indians following Saturday’s loss.

“I just saw a lot of talk about how I shouldn’t have got D-IV player of the year, and he should have,” Prater said. “I kind of took that to heart, and it motivated me to come out here and play my best. I played as hard as I could, got the result of a win and couldn’t feel better.”

Wyoming got out to the big early lead thanks mainly to Prater and Edmonds.

Prater gave the Cowboys a 7-0 lead with a 32-yard run, and after Girard tied it on a Waid TD run, Prater threw a near-perfect TD pass to Edmonds on fourth-and-13 from the 16-yard line. He found Edmonds again on a third-and-21 play from the Indians’ 29 — hitting the 6-1, 190-pound senior on a seam route for another touchdown. Edmonds finished with 94 yards and two TDs on four receptions

The loss ended an incredible run for the Indians, who were playing in the first title game in school history. Their “family” motto encompassed the entire community and made for an atmosphere rarely seen before in the city.

“This is my family,” Pearson said. “These are my kids. My (own) kids have grown up with these kids. We’re all together. When we say that word (family) and we talk about it, it’s for real. It doesn’t get any better. I was more sad tonight, not about losing a state championship game, I was sad that we’re going to have to say goodbye to some special kids.”

Girard’s Jimmy Jones (1) gets tackled by a Wyoming defender.