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LaBrae falls to Mogadore in overtime

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes LaBrae senior Aidan Stephens breaks off a big run during the first half against Mogadore Saturday evening Niles.

NILES — Instant classic.

In the end, it was Mogadore’s tradition that beat LaBrae’s skill, 48-42, in a Division VI Regional Semifinal at Bo Rein Stadium.

The win was the 700th in school history for the Wildcats.

“Going into this game, playing Mogadore in the playoffs, we knew that this was going to be a knock-down, drag-out fight,” LaBrae coach John Armeni said. “I think that’s kind of what transpired over the last 48 minutes.

“We battled back. We face some adversity coming back from a 14-point deficit. It looked like we were seizing the momentum a little bit there. In the end, it didn’t pan out quite the way we wanted it to.”

The Vikings (11-2) scored on their opening possession in less than two minutes with a combination of Aidan Stephens and Devin Carter with Stephens running it in from two yards out.

The two-headed attack rushed for 311 of LaBrae’s 329 yards on the ground with Stephens’ 195 yards rushing on 25 carries with four touchdowns.

Carter added 162 yards on 20 carries with one touchdown.

“Running the football is what we always want to do,” Armeni said. “We feel very confident with any of those guys carrying football. Those guys are class athletes. They’re great football players, and they showed that tonight. I wish we could have gotten a few more carries there at the end, but I think that those guys played the way they played for their entire careers.”

Mogadore (10-3) responded with an 11 play, 52 yard drive that took over six minutes off the clock with Nick Coffman hauling in a 15 yard pass from Zeke Cameron.

Both teams would score on their ensuing possessions to make it 14-13 in favor of the Vikings after Gavin Schrock’s PAT was no good at the 9:26 mark of the second quarter.

It was definitely an offense show in the first half as both the Vikings and the Wildcats combined for 24 first downs and 429 yards of offense.

If it was’t obvious, neither team punted as they traded scores in the opening half.

Though, it was an interception by Mogadore’s Schrock that changed the complexion of the ballgame.

The Wildcats had cut the Vikings’ lead to 21-19 after Mason Williams’ 10 yard run with 1:58 left in the half.

LaBrae set up shop at their own 28 on the ensuing kickoff.

After a four yard run from Devin Carter, the Vikings facing a second-and-six decided to throw the ball for just the third time despite rushing for 157 yards in the first half.

It turned out to be a bad decision as Schrock returned the interception to the Vikings’ 32 with 1:27 left in the half.

Aided by a LaBrae penalty, the Wildcats scored on a one yard jump pass from Will Butler to Williams to make it 27-21.

“It’s what we expected,” Armeni said. “We thought that it would be a battle. I didn’t quite expect a shoot out, but that’s what it turned into. Wish we had an opportunity to make a few more plays because maybe that would have had a different result.”

Mogadore extended their lead to 35-21 to start the second half on Williams’ two yard run.

The converted tight end finished with six touchdowns, 149 yard on the ground on 25 carries.

He replaced the injured Tyler Knight who Mogadore coach Matt Adorni described as the best player he’s coached during his time at Mogadore.

“We’ve kind of had to find our way after we lost him and it took a while but just the way our offensive line stepped up and controlled the line of scrimmage,” he said.

The Wildcats finished with 329 yards on the ground.

“It was like a Big 12 football game but this was mostly running,” Adorni added. Unbelievable game. It’s a cliche but you hate to see a team lose because they’re a great football team. We’re turning into a great football team. We’re so proud of these kids where we’ve come back from down the stretch with a couple losses.”

LaBrae battled back despite the Wildcats’ rushing attack controlling the line of scrimmage to tie it up at 35 all after a Stephens’ 11 yard touchdown run with 5:51 left and forcing a turnover on downs when Cameron missed an open Williams in LaBrae territory.

Five plays later, Ashton Dunbar picked up the Stephens’ fumble and ran it from 18 yards out to tie it up with 1:16 left in the third quarter.

After both teams traded scores to make it 42 all with 3:06 left in regulation, the Wildcats seemed poised to win it after Corey Lehner’s 66 yard kickoff return set Mogadore up at the LaBrae 25.

Cameron’s pass was intercepted by Dunbar at the 20 three plays later.

The Vikings had costly mistakes on their last possession of regulation and on their opening possession of overtime which ended both drives.

It only took the Wildcats four plays to send them to the regional final when Williams ran it in from six yards out.

“We had some opportunities,” Armeni said. “We had the ball there with two minutes left and three timeouts. Penalties killed us. We converted a first down and it gets called back with an ineligible man downfield. In overtime, it was the same thing. We get hit with a 15 yard facemask penalty. Penalties kind of killed us there when we felt like we had an opportunity to win the football game.

“It’s been a real enjoyable season. We have 11 seniors that mean an awful lot to our football program. They left their mark, Tonight notwithstanding. This didn’t work out the way we wanted it to. I still think that they did an awful lot that they can be proud of in their careers.”

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