TIFFIN — Cade Stover and his Lexington teammates sent a message to the rest of Region 10 on Friday.
The Minutemen are the real deal.
An Ohio State recruit, Stover picked off two passes and rushed for two touchdowns as the seventh-seeded Minutemen upset No. 2 Tiffin Columbian 31-21 at Frost-Kalnow Stadium on Friday.
Lex (7-4) will play sixth-seeded Sandusky (7-4) in the regional semifinals at a site to be determined. The Blue Streaks upset No. 3 seed Bay 34-14 at Bay Village on Friday.
The Minutemen, who have won six straight after starting the season 1-4, picked off five passes against the Tornadoes (8-3). Three of the five interceptions led to Lexington touchdowns.
“In games against good teams, you have to be opportunistic,” Lex coach Taylor Gerhardt said. “We preach that to the kids. It’s always never give up, never give in.
“You have to step up and take advantage of things when they happen and we were able to.”
Stover got the Minutemen on the board with a 3-yard touchdown run with 5:13 remaining in the first quarter. The 10-play, 48-yard drive wet set up when Josh Aiello intercepted a Chase Frankhauser pass on Columbian’s first offensive play from scrimmage.
Stover’s first interception came on Columbian’s second possession and led to an unorthodox 18-yard touchdown by Troy Keller. Anthony Harkness fumbled just inside the Columbian 20 yard line and Keller scooped up the loose ball and darted into the end zone for a 14-0 Lexington lead.
The Keller TD capped a seven-play, 55-yard drive and sparked a wild second quarter that saw the teams combine for 31 points.
The Tornadoes recovered a muffed punt and cut Lexington’s lead in half with 8:10 remaining. Robert Daniel hauled in an 8-yard touchdown pass from Frankhauser to trim the deficit to 14-7.
Lex answered when Davis Hassmann booted a 24-yard field goal with 2:53 left in the first half for a 17-7 lead. Columbian’s next possession resulted in a turnover on downs and Stover, who stopped Cody Craig for no gain on fourth-and-one from the Columbian 31, ran for a 25-yard touchdown and a 24-7 advantage.
Columbian responded with a four-play, 77-yard drive that included a pass interference call on Lex and a long reception by Nick Koerper. Frankhauser hooked up with Koerper on a 9-yard TD pass with just 33 seconds remaining to make the score 24-14 at intermission.
Stover’s second interception came on Columbian’s opening possession of the second half. Later in the quarter, Mitch Dummitt picked off a pass in the end zone to short-circuit a Tornadoes' drive set up what proved to be the back-breaking touchdown.
Speedy junior Alex Green took a handoff from quarterback Jake Depperschmidt on second-and-16 from his own 14-yard line and dashed 86 yards around the right end for a touchdown.
“That’s huge,” Stover said of Green’s TD run. “He’s one of the fastest dudes I’ve ever been around. Once he gets the corner, there’s no looking back.”
As for Green, he was a little surprised to find himself on the open field.
“I didn’t see it coming,” Green said. “We weren’t expecting it to go anywhere. We were backed up into our red zone.”
Columbian made things interesting when Frankhauser ran for a 16-yard touchdown with 9:18 remaining in the fourth quarter. The TD dash capped an 11-play, 69-yard drive and made the score 31-21.
That’s as close as the Tornadoes would get, however, as Green sealed the win with an interception near the Lexington goal line with 3:17 remaining. The Minutemen picked up one first down and ran out the clock.
Stover rushed for 170 yards on 29 carries. Green added 168 yards on 18 attempts.
“Now that we’re in this position, we’re all letting it loose and going hard every play,” Green said. “All of us have more heart.”