Davis explodes for 352 yards as KR advances

Jayden Davis running in the open field was what the Kenton Ridge football team wanted to see in Saturday night’s playoff opener. He hadn’t been the same Jayden in recent weeks. Instead, he’d been taking ice baths and trying to recover from knee and ankle injuries.

When Cougars coach Joel Marratta said after the game that Davis still wasn’t 100 percent, a reporter who had just seen the Cougars play for the first time was surprised.

That’s because Davis rushed for 352 yards on 27 carries, scored a crucial touchdown and led the Cougars to their first playoff victory since 2004, a 33-28 victory over Jonathan Alder in Division IV, Region 12.

The playoff victory is the second ever for Kenton Ridge. Before the game Davis said the team huddled and talked about how they wanted to play themselves into history.

“We talked about how much it’s meant over the last four years playing together,” Davis said. “We really wanted to add ourselves to that group.”

The Cougars (8-3) play a second-round game against Bellevue (9-2), an 18-0 winner over Wauseon, at 7 p.m. Saturday at Donnell Stadium in Findlay.

Alder (9-2) rallied from a 20-6 halftime deficit with two long drives to take a 21-20 lead with 8:44 left.

“I started to get a little bit nervous, but I knew if we started doing our thing we’d get through it,” said Cougars senior linebacker Tyler Batten.

And they did on the next play. Davis ripped off a 64-yard touchdown run to regain the lead for the Cougars at 26-21.

“Jayden hadn’t been loose for three weeks and it was refreshing to see him break loose and take off,” Marratta said. “He still doesn’t have that fifth gear.”

A short field goal miss by the Cougars gave the ball back to the Pioneers at their 20 with 1:38 left. But on the next play, Batten intercepted a pass and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown and a 33-21 lead with 1:27 left. It was Batten’s fifth interception and third for a touchdown.

“He’s been a big playmaker for us this year,” Davis said. “It was the biggest play I’ve ever seen in my four years here.”

Batten said, “I just read the seam and jumped it. And started running.”

The Pioneers answered with an 80-yard bomb for a touchdown, but the Cougars covered the onside kick and ran out the clock.

And Davis could finally rest.

“It means everything,” Batten said about having a more healthy Davis, who also intercepted a pass. “He’s our offense, basically. Without him, we don’t run.”

Davis, who always gives credit to his blockers, knew his team needed him to play well.

“I told my teammates that I was going to get recovered for this game best I could,” he said. “I felt real good in practice and I felt a lot more explosive than I have the last couple weeks. I definitely felt a lot better today.”

Davis had 165 of his yards in the first half. Luke Holt scored on runs of 40 and 15 yards to put the lead at 13-7. After the second score, Holt’s squibber on the kickoff didn’t go as far as he wanted, but that worked out when the Cougars recovered it at the Alder 31. Three Davis runs got the ball to the one and Kobe Holtz scored the touchdown for a 20-6 lead.

“That gave us mojo that we needed,” Marratta said. “And we kind of rode off that until the end.”

The Cougars (8-3) play a second-round game against Bellevue (9-2), an 18-0 winner over Wauseon, at 7 p.m. Saturday at Donnell Stadium in Findlay.

Division VI, Region 22: Mechanicsburg and West Liberty-Salem earned first-round wins. Mechanicsburg defeated Williamsburg 48-14 at home. WL-S won 21-7 at Cincinnati Country Day, defeating the Indians in the opening round for the second straight year.

The two Ohio Heritage Conference teams play in the regional semifinals Saturday at 7 p.m. Mechanicsburg meets Delphos Jefferson at Sidney High School. West Liberty meets Marion Local at Wapakoneta High School.

Quarterback Kaleb Romero led Mechanicsburg with 177 yards rushing and three touchdowns. He also passed for two touchdowns. Philip Cook scored on an 80-yard run.

WL-S shut down Country Day star rusher Darryn Jordan and overcame a 7-0 deficit. Trevor Anderson rushed for 111 yards and scored on a 2-yard run and a 36-yard reception from Brandon Upton.

Division V, Region 18: Greeneview, which beat Milton-Union 35-34 Friday, will meet unbeaten Brookville at 7:30 Friday in Xenia.

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