PLAIN TWP.: Entering the final Friday of the 2014 regular football season — and a night when admission to the playoffs was either gained or gassed throughout Ohio — the average margin of victory in all previous games played in the Federal League was a little more than eight points.
So, GlenOak’s 30-20 victory over visiting Perry on Bob Commings Field just about followed the norm.
It was anything but normal for the Golden Eagles. This one was special.
Getting big plays on offense, defense and special teams, GlenOak (7-3, 4-1) completed high school football’s version of the daily double. It won its first outright Federal League title since 2009 and qualified for the playoffs (Division I, Region 1) for the third time in the past four years and for the ninth time overall.
The game was billed as a winner-take-all, but it appears Perry did not go home empty-handed. It still has a chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2000 under the direction of coach Keith Wakefield and that is nothing to ignore. About seven weeks ago, the Panthers (6-4, 3-2) were on a 15-game losing streak but the veteran Wakefield has orchestrated a turnaround of remarkable proportions.
The Panthers did not go quietly Friday. After falling behind 16-0, they answered the Eagles at practically every turn in a steady rain. The Eagles could not relax until senior Jason Simon reeled off a scintillating 72-yard touchdown run with 5:24 to play. The extra point by Andrew George produced a 30-14 lead. Even then the Panthers did not fold and made the final 10-point difference on a 30-yard scoring play from sophomore quarterback Tevion Cleveland to senior Aaron Maag with 4:08 remaining. GlenOak failed to move the ball on the ensuing possession but stuffed Perry cold on its final chance.
“They were calling Perry the comeback kids, so we knew we had to keep playing,” said GlenOak senior Spencer Zernechel, one of several defensive stars that prevented Perry from getting any closer than eight points.
If anyone could be deemed a comeback kid it would by Perry running back Braxton Berry. The 5-10, 195-pound senior rushed for 174 yards and scored one touchdown on 22 carries. Countless times, Berry carried GlenOak players on his back for extra yardage. Berry finished the season with an unofficial 1,486 yards.
But GlenOak’s depth eventually paid off as the defense forced three turnovers and blocked a punt. One of the turnovers came from senior J’Mon Wells, who returned a pass interception 73 yards for the game’s first touchdown.
The offense was not without its big plays either. Senior Kyle Hall caught touchdown passes of 43 and 36 yards from junior Brennon Tibbs and Simon rushed for 160 yards on 21 carries.
“Our offensive line did a nice job and Jason ran hard,” said GlenOak coach Scott Garcia, whose team entered the week holding down the 15th place in the Division I, Region 1, rankings. “Kyle Hall is a big-time player and our kids got it done.”
The top 16 teams in the two Division I regions will play next week. Perry was 12th before Friday.
Hall’s 36-yard touchdown pass, which gave GlenOak a 23-8 lead with 4:54 to go in the third quarter, came after Simon recovered a muffed punt.
Read the high school blog at https://ohio.com/preps.