CANTON — As Youngstown Cardinal Mooney High School senior defensive back Ryan Farragher tipped the ball to the ground, the Shawnee High School football team’s Division III state title hopes ended with a thud.
“When I saw the ball tipped, my heart sank,” said Shawnee lineman Lucas Sparks. “There was one minute left, and there was no way to get the ball back.”
The Braves came just seven points shy of the first OHSAA state championship in Clark County history, falling to the Cardinals 21-14 at Fawcett Stadium in Canton on Friday.
For Mooney (11-3), it was the eighth state championship in school history. Shawnee (14-1), making its first appearance in the state finals, lost its first game of the season. The Braves finished with more wins than any other team in Clark County history, and came closer to the state title than anyone before them.
“You don’t feel good after you lose,” said Shawnee senior quarterback Brad Jarzab. “We hadn’t lost all season. Not that you forget how losing feels, but you do forget how losing feels when you win 14 straight. Coming back, I knew it could happen. It just didn’t work. It came up short. It’s a terrible feeling.”
The Braves nearly pulled off another dramatic comeback, something they’d done in each of their last three playoff victories.
Trailing 21-7 with 11 minutes remaining, the Braves drove 91 yards in 15 plays, resulting in a 7-yard touchdown run by Jarzab.
On Mooney’s next possession, the Braves held them to a three-and-out, setting up one last drive down the field.
“The defense played well enough to obviously slow them down,” said Shawnee coach Rick Meeks. “They gave our offense a chance. We got a score and we were in the position we wanted to be, keeping it close and having a chance to win it or tie it in the end. We just couldn’t get it done.”
Shawnee drove the ball to the 12-yard line, but a false start penalty on fourth-and-inches made it fourth-and-6 from the 17. Jarzab, who finished the game with 140 yards rushing, 122 yards passing and two rushing touchdowns, left the pocket and lofted the ball to Tyler Sherrock in the end zone, but Farragher knocked it down before Sherrock could reach it.
“I dropped back to look for it and it wasn’t there, so I got out of the pocket,” Jarzab said. “I knew through the whole day that (Mooney linebacker Courtney Love) had been following me even though I would (run) off the pass. For a second I looked at (running), but I didn’t know if I could get the five yards for that first down. I saw an open receiver in the back of the end zone, and threw it. It just didn’t go our way.”
Mooney scored first, opening the second quarter with an 18-yard touchdown run by Roosevelt Griffin, who finished with 119 yards rushing. Shawnee tied the game on the next drive on a 15-yard touchdown run by Jarzab.
The Cardinals answered right back, driving 70 yards on seven plays. They scored on a 2-yard TD run by quarterback P.J. Quinn.
Then, Mooney’s Marcus McWilson intercepted a Jarzab pass and returned it to the 18, setting up a 1-yard TD run by Quinn with 1:31 remaining in the first half.
The Braves were out sized across the board by Mooney. Meeks said the biggest difference in the game was the Cardinals’ size and speed. Shawnee adjusted in the second half, nearly pulling off another comeback.
“No matter what happens at this game, we should be proud,” Meeks said. “Obviously, playing a traditional powerhouse like Mooney and having a chance to win, we fought. We’re proud of these guys.”
Thank you for reading the Springfield News-Sun and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Springfield News-Sun. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.