Nathan Zehner

Shelby's Nathan Zehner sacks Rossford quarterback Alex Williams in the first half of the Whippets 32-13 win over the Bulldogs. Zehner had a strip-sack in the fourth quarter that gave Shelby the clinching TD when teammate Caleb Baker fell on the ball in the end zone.

SHELBY -- The way Shelby played defense Saturday night in a 32-13 win against Rossford, it was fitting the backbreaking score came from a couple of hungry Whippets defensive linemen.

Protecting a 19-13 lead in the fourth quarter and Rossford backed up at its own 5-yard line, Shelby senior defensive end Nathan Zehner powered through the offensive line and slammed into Bulldogs QB Alex Williams, jarring the ball loose in the endzone.

Junior Caleb Baker quickly pounced on the ball with 6:24 remaining, giving the undefeated Whippets their first two-score lead of the game and clinching the second-round playoff win in Division IV, Region 14.

Afterward, Shelby coach Rob Mahaney credited his defense for stopping a powerful Rossford (4-3) passing attack, limiting the Bulldogs to just one TD and a pair of FGs.

One week ago, while No. 1-seed Shelby enjoyed a first-round bye, Williams threw for 345 yards in a 44-34 first-round win against Wooster Triway, including eight passes for 260 yards and five TDs to 6-4 senior wide receiver Jamari Croom.

Against the Whippets, despite great pressure from the defense, the 6-foot, 195-pound sophomore quarterback still completed 26 of 49 passes for 287 yards and one TD. Croom finished with eight catches for 84 yards.

"We were kind of careless with the football at times tonight, but our defense found a way," Mahaney said. "They had some long drives and they ate up a lot of clock, but (defensive coordinator Jon Amicone) does a great job and our defense settled down and made plays.

"That play in the end zone, that strip sack and getting on the ball, that was the game."

Owen Fisher

Shelby running back Owen Fisher goes airborne while being tackled in the first half against Rossford on Saturday night. Fisher had two TDs as Shelby defeated the Bulldogs, 32-13.

Shelby cruised through the regular season with only Ontario in week one coming even within two TDs of the Whippets. Mahaney said the struggle against Rossford will help.

"I think it's good. You need to be battle tested. When you get farther and farther in the playoffs, you gotta be handle to respond to adversity. Tonight we had some adversity that really for the last five weeks we haven't had," Mahaney said.

"Going into halftime, it's 13-10 and we felt we could have been down because of the turnovers.  To be able to come out in the second half and play like we did, it was a good job and something that we needed.

"(Croom) might be the best player we have seen. I mean, he is a heckuva an athlete. I don't want to say it's the rust from the bye week, but it really did take us a while to kind of get going," Mahaney said.

Rossford took advantage of one of those Whippet turnovers in the first quarter, taking a 3-0 lead with 5:27 on a 24-yard FG by Nawrocki.

Shelby responded quickly, taking a 7-3 lead about two minutes later when Andre Hill hauled in a 20-yard scoring pass from Marshall Shepherd on a fourth-and-18 play.

The Bulldogs bounced right back, scoring on a fourth-and-five when Williams connected on a 5-yard pass to Trenton Brachmayer, regaining the lead at 10-7 with five seconds left in the first quarter.

Shelby running back Owen Fisher scored the first of his two TDs with a 3-yard run with 6:01 left in the second quarter to give the Whippets a 13-10 lead at the intermission. The PAT kick failed.

Jamari Croom

Rossford wide receiver Jamari Croom hauls in one of his eight catches on Saturday night.

Shelby found fourth-down gold again in the second half. The Whippets went on an 11-play, 69-yard drive that ate up the last 5:19 of the third quarter.

Shelby scored on the first play of the fourth quarter on a fourth-and-two from the Rossford 4-yard line when Shepherd connected with Blaine Bowman on a scoring pass. The PAT kick again failed and the Whippets led 19-10.

Rossford responded with a lengthy drive of its own, starting from its own 21-yard line. After using 10 plays to move to the Shelby 6-yard line, the Bulldogs were forced to settle for another Nawrocki field goal, this one from 23 yards away.

After the strip-sack made the score 25-13, Fisher concluded the scoring with a 17-yard run with 1:58 left to play.

UP NEXT: Shelby hosts No. 7 seed Oberlin Firelands (7-1) next Saturday at 7 p.m. in the regional quarterfinals. Firelands defeated No. 10 seed Napoleon, 21-20. 

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SCORING SUMMARY

1st quarter

Rossford -- Michael Nawrocki 24-yard field goal 

Shelby -- Andre Hill 20-yard pass from Marshall Shepherd (PAT Shepherd kick) 

Rossford -- Trenton Bachmayer 5-yard pass from Alex Williams (PAT Nawrocki kick)

2nd quarter

Shelby -- Owen Fisher 3-yard run (PAT kick failed)

4th quarter

Shelby -- Blaine Bowman 4-yard pass from Shepherd (PAT kick failed)

Rossford -- Nawrocki 23-yard field goal 

Shelby -- Caleb Baker fumble recovery in the end zone (PAT pass failed)

Shelby -- Fisher 17-yard run (PAT Shepherd kick)

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"