KENTON — The Warriors went down swinging.
Ninth-seeded Ontario dug itself a first-half hole but fought back in the second half before falling to No. 8 Kenton 32-20 in the second round of the Division IV, Region 14 playoffs Saturday at Robinson Field.
The Warriors (5-3) trailed 26-7 at halftime after turning the ball over three times in the first half, but landed a couple of third-quarter haymakers against the Wildcats (4-3). First, quarterback Ethan Snyder hooked up with wideout Griffin Shaver on a 52 yards scoring strike to cut the deficit to 26-13. Then, after a Jaylon Scott interception, Snyder knifed right through the heart of the Kenton defense for a 72 yard touchdown run to make it 26-20 with 2:06 to play in the third.
“Ontario is a good football team. They’ve really worked their butts off,” Kenton coach Brent Fackler said. “They are tough, competitive kids. The best compliment I can give them is that they are very similar to Kenton kids.”
The Warriors had a couple of chances to tie or take the lead in the fourth, but turned the ball over on down in Kenton territory twice. The Wildcats iced it when quarterback Blaine Huston connected with Jayden Cornell on a 7 yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal with 4:28 remaining.
“i feel like we gave ourselves some opportunities that we squandered,” Ontario coach Chris Miller said. “Those things come back and hurt you when (you play) a good football team.”
Little went right for the Warriors in the first half as Kenton turned three Ontario turnovers into points.
“That is one thing we talked about going into the game. We had to force some turnovers,” Fackler said. “That was on our scouting report, force turnovers and try not to commit any on offense.”
Kenton struck first when Jacob Eversole scored on a 2 yard run with 8:32 remaining in the first, but the Warriors answered when Snyder found Scott for an 11 yard score with 2:53 to play in the opening quarter. The score was tied 7-7 after the first quarter.
The Wildcats took command in the second, scoring 19 points in the period. Cornell hauled in an 8 yard TD pass from Huston early in the second to make it 14-7 before Eversole scored on a 68 yard catch-and-run to make it 20-7. Eversole caught a 35 yard TD pass from Huston on fourth-and-13 with 7:15 to play in the half to make it 26-7.
Just when it looked like Kenton might run away and hide, the reinvigorated Warriors tightened up defensively in the second half. Ontario hounded Huston, with 6-foot-5 defensive end Jonathan Nagel knocking down several passes.
“We did a better job of calling the defense in the second half than we did in the first half,” Miller said. “We didn’t do anything up front differently in the second half than what we started with. We’ve got guys up there who have a motor.”
Ontario returns to action next week against Highland. The Warriors conclude the season at home against Lexington.
“We’re not done. Highland is one our schedule for Week 9 and you don’t really have to get up for Lexington,” Miller said. “There’s still stuff to play for. We can still put seven wins on the board and that hasn’t been down at Ontario for a long time. There’s still things to fight for.”