CLYDE — Ahmaan Thomas and his classmates lingered on the frosty Bishop Stadium turf Friday night, some fighting back tears and others sharing laughs.
Friday’s 41-10 loss to top-seeded Toledo Central Catholic marked the end of the road for Mansfield Senior’s 17-man senior class, but the Tygers were in no hurry to retreat from the cold and into the warmth of the visitor’s locker room.
“We’ve got a lot to be proud of,” Thomas said. “We’ve had to deal with some adversity the last few weeks after we lost our home game last week (because of security concerns at Arlin Field), but we came together and played for each other and our city.”
Playing in a regional semifinal for the second year in a row, the fourth-seeded Tygers (10-3) gave the highly-regarded Fighting Irish (13-0) all they could handle in the early going. Senior High jumped to a 10-0 lead on a 45-yard Duke Reese touchdown run and a 39-yard field goal by Quinten DeBolt.
“Our kids came out fired up and ready to play,” Senior High coach Chioke Bradley said. “They laid it out here for us. I can’t say enough good things about this bunch back there. I just love those guys.”
Things began to unravel for Senior High late in the first quarter. The Tygers lost a fumble at their own 33-yard line and, three plays later, TCC’s Tyler Morgan scampered for a 4-yard touchdown to make it 10-6.
The Irish took the lead for good with 8:06 remaining in the second quarter when quarterback Terry Collins Jr. tossed a screen pass to the slippery Jaylen Watson, who turned it into a 68-yard touchdown.
Marquan Braswell scored on a 7-yard run with 3:51 remaining in the second quarter to push the lead to 20-10. The Fighting Irish scored the back-breaker on the final play of the half when Watson scored on a 5-yard run to make it 27-10.
“We knew that we were going to have to come out and … make minimal mistakes,” Bradley said. “We knew that we had to play near-perfect in all three phases.”
The Tygers received the second-half kickoff and moved the ball into Central Catholic territory, but the drive was short-circuited by another turnover.
The Fighting Irish again capitalized and took a 34-10 advantage on Morgan’s 1-yard run with 8:32 to play in the third.
Senior High committed its third turnover on the ensuing possession and TCC triggered the running clock when Collins hooked up with Sharard Vaughn on a 17-yard scoring strike with 2:24 to play in the third.
Collins completed 7-of-9 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Braswell rushed for 111 yards and a score on 22 carries, while Watson had three catches for 86 yards and a receiving and a rushing TD.
Reese completed 7-of-19 passes for 86 yards and rushed for 48 yards on six carries. Amarr Davis had four catches, while La-La Owens and Ja’ontay O’Bryant each had a 30-yard reception.
“I told those guys don’t walk off this field with their heads low,” Bradley said. “They won a lot of football games here. They won an outright (Ohio Cardinal Conference) championship and went undefeated in the league, which is always tough.
“We hadn’t done that since 2013 and we went to the state championship game in 2019 and still couldn’t do it.
“I commend our seniors for leading us and the underclassmen who filled in and played their roles. It’s a blessing for me to coach these guys. I love my players and I love my city.”