MACEDONIA -- Mansfield Senior is bound for next Friday's Division III state championship football game, and will meet a foe with plenty of title experience.
The Tygers beat Aurora 27-21 in double-overtime as Michigan State recruit Angelo Grose caught a 5-yard TD pass from QB Cameron Todd in the corner of the end zone to claim Friday night's state semifinal encounter.
Mansfield Senior (13-1) plays Trotwood Madison (11-3) at 3 p.m. at Canton's Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. The Tygers did claim the 1949 International News Service state championship, a poll title. However this marks the first time Senior High has played for a state championship on the field.
The Rams beat No. 1-ranked Columbus Hartley 24-19 Friday night in the other state semifinal. Trotwood Madison rolled to a 24-0 lead through three quarters, and withstood a furious Hawks' rally that included a Hail Mary at the end.
This will be the Rams' eighth appearance in the state championship game. They are 2-5 in title contests. It will be the third trip to the championship in the last four years for Trotwood-Madison. The Rams won the Division III state title in 2017, posting a 15-0 record. Trotwood-Madison reached the finals in 2016, losing to Akron Hoban in the title game.
Trotwood plays mostly Division I teams on its schedule, and lost 22-21 to Division I state semifinalist Springfield in its final regular-season clash.
The Tygers' lone loss came in the last 23 seconds at Wooster, 18-17 on Oct. 18. Coach Chioke Bradley's team hasn't fallen since, and has reached the state finals in dramatic fashion.
Last week's 15-9 regional championship victory over Sandusky dripped with drama. Mansfield Senior nearly drowned its supporters in that emotion on Friday night at Nordonia High School.
Senior High took a 7-0 first-quarter lead as Grose scored on an 11-yard TD run at the 6:30 mark of the first quarter.
Aurora responded immediately. The Greenmen's superb receiver, John Pappesh, hauled in a 66-yard touchdown pass from Alex Moore with 4:51 showing in the first period to tie it at 7-7.
Senior High moved in front 14-7 as Todd snuck in from the 1 with 7:24 showing in the quarter. On the ensuing march, Aurora drove 86 yards, but the Tygers' defense stopped them at the 2 with just seconds to play in the half. That stand proved to be pivotal.
The Greenmen controlled the ball for nearly the entire third period, but could not score, and the game advanced to the fourth quarter with the Tygers on top 14-7.
Aurora finally broke through on a 35-yard TD pass from Moore to Pappesh to tie the game with 10:12 remaining. Neither team could dent the scoreboard again, setting up overtime for the second consecutive week.
This time the Tygers got the ball first, and promptly converted on Terrance Flickinger's 3-yard dash. That made it 21-14.
But Aurora again fought back, as Evan McVay powered in for a 10-yard touchdown to send it to a second overtime.
The Greenmen got the ball first, yet Grose stepped in front of a quick pass for an interception to halt Aurora on its possession.
The Tygers then got their chance as Todd converted a fourth-and-1 at the 11 on a five-yard gain, and then found Grose for the game-winner.
This was Aurora's first loss of the season. The third-ranked Greenmen finished 13-1.
Pappesh had a spectacular game, with six catches for 157 yards and 2 TDs. Defensively he also picked off a pair of interceptions. McVay ran 29 times for 147 yards and a score.
But the ninth-ranked Tygers had the answers, thanks to Grose's timely plays, including two touchdowns and an interception, as well as a resilient defense.
Flickinger ran for 85 yards and Todd completed 10 of 16 passes for 115 yards and a score. Senior High was outgained 334-240, but the Tygers' defense made a number of crucial stops in the red zone to deny Aurora and plot a course to Canton.