CONVOY – Though they came out on the losing end of a 63-22 score, Ansonia football coach Eugene Hoening left the field Friday night feeling proud of the Tigers’ accomplishments.
Ansonia made the Ohio High School Athletic Association playoffs for the first time in seven years, losing in the regional quarterfinals to Crestview on Friday night. But after averaging just two wins a season the last five years and starting this season 1-4, Hoening was proud to end the year with a winning record and a playoff appearance.
“I think we exceeded our expectations,” he said. “After these seniors went through some lean years, finally they made the playoffs. I’m happy for them. It’s a good experience for them. I know the score doesn’t indicate it, but going to the 11th week it’s something special.”
While the final score wasn’t in Ansonia’s favor, it was the Tigers who set the tone early in Friday’s postseason opener.
Ansonia went for it on fourth and 2 on its opening possession and picked up a big first down with a Jarvis Thwaits run. That was just the beginning of a 17-play, 76-yard drive that culminated in a 1-yard touchdown run by Brock Shellhaas. Michael Hall converted the extra point, and Ansonia led 7-0 midway through the first quarter.
“We came out strong,” Hoening said. “We got the kickoff, drove down the field and scored. Then we had to give them the ball, and they’re a good football team. They’re not No. 1 in the region for nothing. They have a lot of good skill people, and they’re extremely fast. We thought on the film they were probably the fastest team we saw this year, and I still think they were. They’ve got a great quarterback. They’ve got great skill people. Just a good football team. Good for them. I congratulate them.”
Crestview, which averaged more than 41 points a game during the regular season, displayed its high-powered offense on its first drive. The Knights needed just two plays to cover 61 yards with Trevor Gibson scoring on a 55-yard run to tie the score at 7-7 with 4:55 remaining in the opening quarter.
Crestview then recovered an onside kick, which put the Knights in position to take their first lead of the game. They drove down the field and capped off an eight-play scoring drive with a 2-yard run by quarterback Drew Kline, giving Crestview its first lead of the night at 14-7.
After Ansonia turned the ball over on downs in its own territory at the end of the first quarter, Crestview marched down the field for another score. This time a seven-play drive culminated with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Kline to Derick Dealey. The extra point was no good, leaving the score at 20-7.
Ansonia threw an interception on its next possession, but the Tiger defense stepped up and stopped the Knights for the first time, giving Ansonia the ball back at its own 29-yard line.
The Tigers began to move the ball, but then Kline hauled in an interception – his second of the game – to stop the momentum.
With less than two minutes to go before the half, Crestview quickly moved the ball down the field beginning with a 54-yard run by Charles Stefanek. Two plays later Kline, the Northwest Conference offensive player of the year, ran 16 yards for his second touchdown of the night. The Knights converted a two-point conversion and led 28-7 entering halftime.
Ansonia attempted an onside kick to start the second half, but Crestview recovered it at midfield. That set up the Knights for a two-play scoring drive with Wade Sheets hauling in a 42-yard touchdown pass from Kline. The extra point was blocked, making it a 34-7 game.
Ansonia’s first drive of the second half ended in disaster with Sheets intercepting a pass at midfield and taking it all the way into the end zone. A two-point conversion made it 42-7 with 10:18 remaining in the third quarter, and the running clock commenced.
The troubles continued for Ansonia as the Tigers fumbled the ensuing kickoff. One play later Kline found Sheets for a 59-yard touchdown pass to put the Knights up 49-7 with 9:08 left in the third quarter.
Crestview started subbing in some new players but still was able to move the ball. Luke Mefferd ran for a 5-yard touchdown less than a minute into the fourth quarter to make it a 56-7 game.
After surrendering 56 consecutive points, Ansonia broke its scoreless drought in the fourth quarter when Shellhaas broke free for a 42-yard touchdown run – his second touchdown of the night.
“He’s always been capable of that,” Hoening said. “He’s only a sophomore. He’ll get better. And you’ve got to remember, we’re coaching boys. So he’ll mature, improve and so will these other guys.”
With both teams’ backups on the field the offenses struck quickly. Crestview’s Kaden Short ran for a 79-yard touchdown run then Ansonia’s Isaac Barga threw a 63-yard touchdown pass to Reece Stammen, bringing the final score to 63-22.
Unofficially Ansonia finished the night with 285 total yards, 171 rushing yards and 114 passing yards.
Thwaits ran 21 times for 70 yards. Shellhaas had five carries for 58 yards and two touchdowns.
Hunter Buckingham was 3-of-11 passing for 51 yards and three interceptions. Barga was 1-of-2 passing for 63 yards and a touchdown.
Hunter Muir caught two passes for 42 yards while Stammen caught one for 63 yards and a touchdown.
Crestview unofficially had 510 total yards with 319 on the ground and 191 through the air.
Short had two carries for 78 yards and a touchdown. Gibson ran eight times for 76 yards and a touchdown. Kline ran six times for 50 yards and two touchdowns. Mefferd had four carries for 48 yards and a touchdown.
Kline was 10-of-13 passing for 191 yards and three touchdowns. Sheets had six catches for 147 and two touchdown receptions. Dealey had one catch for a 24-yard touchdown. Stefanek had three catches for 32 yards.
Crestview advances to play Minster in the regional semifinals next week while Ansonia’s season ends with a 6-5 record. The loss also marks the end of the high school football careers of Ansonia seniors Taylor Brewer, Dylan Burnfield, Nathan Denniston, Rygh Fortkamp, Aydan Sanders, Cody Sanders, Jarvis Thwaits, Austin Ward and Max Wardrip.
“I’ll miss every one of them,” Hoening said. “You know, after four years you get them playing the way you want them to play and then they graduate on you.”