The Mechanicsburg High School football team is headed back to the state semifinals for the second time in seven years.
The Indians jumped out to a 28-14 halftime lead and never looked back, beating Covington 42-26 in the Division VI, Region 24 final on Friday night at Piqua’s Alexander Stadium.
“I’m unbelievably proud of the kids,” said Indians coach Kurt Forrest. “We had high expectations heading into the season and this one of the steps along the way that we wanted the region. They’ve worked like crazy. They’re a very talented bunch and they fight like crazy to overcome any adversity that comes their way. I’m completely in awe of them and very proud of them.”
Mechanicsburg (11-2) advanced to the state semifinals for the first time since 2013.
The Indians will play Anna (12-1) at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 29 at Wapakoneta High School. The Rockets beat Archbold 42-7.
In Indians football lore, the 2019 regional final will be remembered as simply, “The Jake Hurst Game.”
The sophomore running back scored four total touchdowns, rushing for 76 yards and two TDs and catching two more TDs.
“We’ve got good blockers on our line,” Hurst said. “They make the holes for us. We just have to hit (the hole), keep running and keep moving our feet.”
On defense, Hurst, a linebacker, had 13 tackles, including 2.5 sacks, a key forced fumble and fumble recovery and blocked two extra points.
“He was very motivated individual tonight, there’s no doubt about that,” Forrest said. “I think he saw some of the awards come out in the district and he felt a little shunned and wanted to make little statement tonight personally. But more importantly, he doesn’t care about anything but going to play football with his buddies. You put him on a stage like this and you put him on turf and his athletic ability really shows through.”
Covington quarterback Cade Schmelzer went 13-for-18 for 222 yards and two TD passes to Kleyton Maschino as the Buccaneers finished the season 10-3.
“Our kids never quit,” said Covington coach Tyler Cates. “They’re a joy to coach every day. It didn’t end up the way we wanted and that’s life. In life, you’re going to face a lot of adversity and how you respond to it and our kids have always responded the right way. When everything was going against us, they could’ve just quit and they never quit.”
The Indians took an 8-0 lead on its first possession, scoring on an 11-yard run by Chayse Propst. Covington made it 8-6 on a 25-yard TD pass from Schmelzer to Maschino on its first series.
On Mechanicsburg’s next possession, Jake Hurst scored on a 1-yard run to make it 14-6. They increased their lead to 20-6 on a 31-yard TD pass from Aaron Conley to Keith Bebout with 3:48 remaining in the second quarter.
The Buccaneers pulled to within six points on a 4-yard TD run by Duncan Cooper and a two-point conversion pass from Schmelzer to Kadin Presser.
Mechanicsburg scored on the first play of its next series as Conley hit Jake Hurst on a 63-yard TD pass to make it 28-14 at the half.
“They did a nice job with the way they ran their offense,” Cates said. “We missed too many tackles. We had some guys making some mental mistakes lining up wrong. We’ve got to a better job as a staff to correct that faster. You’ve got to tip your hat to (Mechanicsburg). That’s a good football team. They’re well-coached and they have a nice team.”
Hurst’s biggest play came on Covington’s first possession of the second half. The Buccs were driving near midfield when Hurst pressured Schmelzer, stripping the ball and recovering it in Covington territory.
“He’s got a knack for the ball,” Forrest said. “You can’t coach the things that he does. He finds a crease, he makes plays. It was huge to make that stop and get the field position flipped. All night, he made play after play. He’s a fantastic football player and a lot of fun to coach.”
Jake Hurst scored on a 1-yard run early in the fourth quarter and caught an 8-yard pass from Logan Hurst to make it 42-14, essentially sealing the Indians second trip to the state final four.
The Buccs scored two TDs in the final five minutes, but couldn’t get any closer.
In its last state semifinal appearance, Mechanicsburg lost to Haviland Wayne Trace 57-10.
This time, the Indians will play Midwest Athletic Conference champion Anna — coached by Urbana High School grad and former Hillclimbers coach Nick Marino. The two teams play 7-on-7 games in the summer, Forrest said.
“It’ll be fun to compete against him,” Forrest said. “They’ve had a tremendous season.”
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