MANSFIELD — It was billed as a potential Region 10 championship preview and Friday’s Ohio Cardinal Conference opener between Mansfield Senior and West Holmes lived up to the hype.
Unfortunately for Senior High fans, the Knights had the last laugh.
West Holmes erased a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit and escaped with a 20-17 win Friday at Arlin Field.
Mansfield Senior (3-1, 0-1) led 17-7 early in the fourth quarter, but the Knights (4-0, 1-0) scored back-to-back touchdowns in a three-minute span and took a 20-17 lead when running back Sam Williams-Dixon picked up a fumbled shotgun snap and dashed into the end zone from 4 yards out with 6:26 remaining.
That’s when things got interesting.
Senior High took the ensuing kickoff and immediately marched deep into West Holmes territory. The Tygers had the ball first-and-10 at the West Holmes 20-yard line with about a minute remaining, but a botched shotgun snap on third and five resulted in a 16-yard loss and forced Senior High to burn its final timeout. On fourth down, quarterback Brock Hill lofted a ball into the end zone but an open Senior High receiver stumbled to the turf and the ball fell incomplete.
“Just a horrendous lack of execution on both sides of the ball,” a distraught Senior High coach Chioke Bradley said. “They wanted it more than we did and they came out here and took it.”
Mansfield Senior took a 14-7 lead in the third quarter on a 1-yard Brock Hill run on a quarterback keeper. The score was set up when the Tygers blocked a punt and Ricky Mills returned it 51 yards to the West Holmes 1-yard line.
Mansfield Senior extended its lead to 17-7 early in the fourth on Sean Putt’s 28-yard field goal with 9:49 to play.
On West Holmes’ next offensive play, quarterback Noah Clark hooked up with Bret Shearer, who bounced off a couple of would-be tacklers and rumbled 80 yards for a touchdown.
“We’ve done a great job tackling the previous three weeks,” Bradley said. “We came out here tonight and did a horrible job tackling when we needed to.”
Shearer pin-balled off multiple defenders and raced down the sideline for the score.
“We’ve been practicing that play all week. We actually ran that play last year and it worked pretty well, but we never scored a long touchdown on it,” Shearer said. “I was wide open and I caught it.
"One of their safeties recognized it pretty quick and came out and tried to tackle me. Thankfully I kept my legs turning and scored a touchdown.”
On Senior High’s next offensive possession, West Holmes’ Tucker Kaufman picked off a pass and returned it to the Mansfield Senior 5-yard line. Two plays later, Williams-Dixon scooped up the fumbled snap and dashed into the end zone.
Mansfield Senior will visit Tiffin Columbian next week.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys, coaches included, who have got to look themselves in the mirror and get it figured out,” Bradley said. “It doesn’t get any easier for us.”
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