Mechanicsburg’s best chance to slow down Haviland Wayne Trace’s prolific passing attack was to keep the ball in running back Aertyon Erwin’s hands. But the Raiders also brought a stout run defense to Friday night’s Division VII state semifinal.
The combination was a 1-2 punch that Mechanicsburg could not handle in Wayne Trace’s 57-10 victory at Harmon Field.
Wayne Trace (13-1) will play unbeaten Kirtland, a 10-7 winner over Columbus Bishop Ready, for the state championship next week in Canton or Massillon. The OHSAA will announce Sunday whether the game will be played Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Kirtland will play in its third straight title game. The Hornets won in 2011 and were runners-up last year.
Mechanicsburg (11-3), smaller than Wayne Trace at almost every position, played in its first state semifinal and fell behind 8-0. But Erwin ran for 26 and 19 yards on the Indians’ first two plays. It looked like it would be a night of two opposites trying to outscore each other. But Erwin was held to three yards on the next three plays, and Brandon Purk kicked a 34-yard field goal. The Indians’ next first down came on the first play of the fourth quarter.
After starting with 45 yards, Erwin, who entered with 2,080 yards, finished the first half with 50 yards on 10 carries. He finished the game with 114 yards on 24 carries.
The first-half totals were enough for Wayne Trace. The Raiders, who had held opponents to 2.5 yards per carry this season, limited the Indians to 50 yards of offense in the first half and 154 for the game, all on the ground. Quarterback Kaleb Romero did not complete a pass in the first half on five attempts and missed on his only try in the second half.
Raiders’ senior quarterback Colby Speice, who stands 6-foot-3 at 200 pounds and is a big hitter at middle linebacker, picked apart the Indians from the start. He led four touchdown drives in the first half, completing 19 of 31 attempts for 263 yards and one touchdown. He also ran for two scores, including a 1-yard sneak on the final play of the first half for a 30-3 lead.
Speice, who tied a state record with nine touchdown passes last week against Ada and threw for 534 yards, finished 30-for- 46 for 346 yards and four touchdowns, running his season touchdown total to 62. The Raiders amassed 561 total yards.
The Raiders drove for the game’s first score in 1:53 to take an 8-0 lead. Speice threw incomplete on the first play, then hit on three straight to move the Raiders to the Indians’ 17. Speice handed off for the first time on the next play, and Jared Sherry scored on a draw.
The Raiders stayed in control the rest of the half. Speice scored on a 9-yard run, threw a 21-yard touchdown to Korbin Showalter on a screen pass and scored on the sneak. The second half was more of the same as the Raiders built a 50-3 lead after three quarters.