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Stapleton’s running, Hicks’ last-second TD catch give Hornets 35-28 thrilling win over Loudonville


Coal Grove end Jarren Hicks cradles a 16-yard pass from Clay Ferguson in the final seconds that gave the Hornets a 35-28 win over the Loudonville Redbirds in the Division 6 Region 23 playoffs last Saturday. (Photo By Tim Gearhart)

Jim Walker
jim.walker@irontontribune.com

COAL GROVE — If Austin Stapleton was a horse, he’d be a Quarter Horse.
Or as the case with the Coal Grove Hornets, he’d be a Four Quarter Horse.
The Hornets rode the 5-foot-10, 235-pound senior fullback yet again to another playoff win as Coal Grove scored the winning touchdown in the final seconds to beat the Loudonville Redbirds 35-28 in the Division 6 Region 23 playoffs.
Stapleton carried 35 times for 294 yards and scored three touchdowns and his big 28-yard run on fourth down late in the fourth quarter kept the game-winning drive alive.
“(Stapleton) is a horse, man,” said Hornets’ coach Jay Lucas. “He’s the work horse that goes out and pounds it in there and gets us yardage when we need it.”
Stapleton’s run got the ball to the Loudonville 43 and his 14-yard run on fourth down put the ball at the 20-yard line.
Three plays later the Hornets were facing a four-and-6 and quarterback Clay Ferguson hit a wide-open Jarren Hicks in the left corner of the end zone for a touchdown with 12.3 seconds to play.
Coal Grove (6-2) will now play at Fairland on Saturday in the regional semifinals. The Hornets played at Fairland in the second game of the season and fell behind 27-0 before losing 27-21 in an Ohio Valley Conference game.
Loudonville (3-6) took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 4-yard run by Sam Williams-Dixon who set up the score with a 46-yard pass reception.
Coal Grove rallied to take the lead in the second quarter.
Stapleton had a 42-yard scoring run and Justin Newcomb’s kick tied the game with 10:39 on the clock.
An interception by Morgan Schultz gave the Hornets the ball back at their own 39 and eight plays later Malachai Wheeler bolted 26 yards for the score and it was 13-7 with 5:40 left in the half.
The Redbirds came right back after getting the ball at their own 47 on the kickoff and six plays later Logan Huffman hit a wide-open Chuck Ganson with a 24-yard scoring pass.
Trevor Portz’ conversion put Loudonville up 14-13.
Loundonville threatened to put the game away by scoring twice to start the third quarter.
Williams-Dixon got a 7-yard TD run to cap a 74-yard, 9-play drive to begin the half.
After forcing a Coal Grove punt, the Redbirds went 8-2 yards in four plays highlighted by a 36-yard pass to Zach Franford and a 40-yard halfback touchdown pass from Williams-Dixon to Ganson and it was 28-13 with 4:35 left in the quarter.
The Hornets came back to score fueled by a 19-yard run by Stapleton to the Loundonville 35 and then he shed tacklers and ran 33 yards for a touchdown. He added the conversion run and Coal Grove was down 28-21 with 2:31 on the clock.
Loudonville came back with a drive to the Hornets 18, but a couple of holding penalties and an illegal procedure helped stall the march. Portz attempted the 36-yard field goal and sailed wide left and breathed new life into the Hornets.
“It seemed like right there is when the kids started believing, ‘hey, we’re going to go and get this. That was a big shift for sure,” said Lucas.
Stapleton exploded on a 54-yard run on first down to the Redbirds 26-yard line and then he scored from 2 yards out six plays later as Coal Grove tied the game at 28-all with 7:30 to play.
The Hornets forced a punt and then went 80-yards in 12 plays keyed by Stapleton’s 28-yard run and capped by Hicks’ clutch TD reception.
The Hornets finished with 473 total yards. They ran 61 times for 420 yards with Wheeler added 84 yards on 16 carries.
Ferguson was 4-of-8 passing for 53 yards and a TD. Hicks had two catches for 43 yards.
Loudonville piled up 379 yards including 178 rushing and 201 passing. Williams-Dixon ran 22 times for 138 yards and Huffman was 10-of-16 passing for 161 yards and a TD.
Loudonville 7 7 14 0 = 28
Coal Grove 0 13 8 14 = 35
First Quarter
Lo — Sam Williams-Dixon 42 run (Trevor Portz kick) 2:19
Second Quarter
CG – Austin Stapleton 42 run (Justin Newcomb kick) 10:39
CG – Malachai Wheeler 26 run (kick failed) 5:40
Lo – Chuck Ganson 24 pass from Logan Huffman (Trevor Portz kick) 3:05
Third Quarter
Lo – Sam Williams-Dixon 7 run (Trevor Portz kick) 8:51
Lo – Chuck Ganson 40 pass from Sam Williams-Dixon (Trevor Portz kick) 4:35
CG – Austin Stapleton 33 run (Stapleton run) 2:31
Fourth Quarter
CG – Austin Stapleton 2 run (Justin Newcomb kick) 7:30
CG – Jarren Hicks 16 pass from Clay Ferguson (Justin Newcomb kick) 0:12
——
Lo CG
First downs 17 19
Rushes-yards 28-178 61-420
Passing yards 201 53
Total yards 379 473
Cmp-Att-Int 11-17-1 4-8-0
Fumbles-lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 7-59 3-40
Punts-average 1-53.0 1-46.0
——
Individual Leaders
RUSHING — Loudonville: Sam Williams-Dixon 22-138, Logan Huffman 3-24, Peyton Regan 3-16; Coal Grove: Austin Stapleton 35-294, Malachai Wheeler 16-84, Chase Hall 6-21, Clay Ferguson 2-6, Morgan Schultz 2-15.
PASSING — Loudonville: Logan Huffman 10-16-1 161 TD, Sam Williams-Dixon 1-1-0 40 TD; Coal Grove: Clay Ferguson 4-8-0 53 TD.
RECEIVING — Loudonville: Chuck Ganson 8-107 2TD, Sam Williams-Dixon 2-58, Zach Franford 1-36; Coal Grove: Jarren Hicks 2-43 TD, Malachia Wheeler 2-10.