November 5, 2011
It was Golden Eagle football at its best … a solid ground game combined with an equally solid defense.
Fourth-seeded Big Walnut opened the 2011 Division II OHSAA playoffs with a hard-earned 14-7 victory over fifth-seeded Columbus Beechcroft in a Region 7 quarterfinal contest Friday night at Golden Eagle Stadium.
The Eagles took a 7-0 opening-quarter lead on senior quarterback Tyler Beam’s 39-yard touchdown run following a Cougar fumble at the Big Walnut 46-yard line with 57 seconds left in the period.
Big Walnut (9-2) then took the second-half kickoff and drove 66 yards in 13 plays with senior back Lucas Garcia, who rushed for 39 yards in 9 carries on the series, scoring from 4 yards out with 6:05 left in the period for a 14-0 lead.
Beechcroft (9-2) broke through for a touchdown with 2:58 left in the contest as the Cougars’ 6-foot-2, 168-pound sophomore quarterback Maurice Hale, who threw for 252 yards, found senior wide receiver Kevin Chapple on a 15-yard touchdown pass following an Alex Clark fumble on the Golden Eagles’ 47-yard line.
The Cougars got the ball back on a Tyler Beam fumble at the Golden Eagle 45, but on Beechcroft’s first play, BW defensive back Joey Johnson stepped in front of a Hale pass to end the threat … and the game with 1:49 to play.
“We relied on our strengths running the ball and executing on defense, the things that have been good to us all season,” Big Walnut head coach Joe Weaver said. “We looked to our running attack with Lucas and he responded with 143 yards in 23 carries … his running got our line excited and we fed off that energy.”
For the game, Big Walnut rushed for 283 yards and 17 first downs in 51 carries, averaging 5.55 yards per carry, while collecting 298 yards and 18 first downs in total offense. Tyler Beam backed Garcia on the ground with 82 yards in 16 carries.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Golden Eagles came up with six turnovers, three interceptions and three fumble recoveries, while sacking the athletic Hale, who completed 21 of 41 passes for 252 yards, six times before the final horn. Grant Beam and Seth Myers joined Johnson with interceptions while Carson Chatterton and Nick Shryock were credited with fumble recoveries.
“Our defense did a great job containing Hale.” Weaver said. “He’s a very athletic quarterback who can break a big play at any time and we pretty much held him in check.”
Hale carried the ball 17 times for a net of 42 yards, gaining 89 yards while losing 47 yards. As a team, the Cougars finished with 66 yards rushing to close with 319 yards and 19 first downs in total offense.
Shryock, the Golden Eagles’ 5-foot-10, 180-pound linebacker, left the game with a foot injury with 4:25 left in the third quarter. He had to be carried from the field and Weaver said his condition is still being evaluated.
With the victory, Big Walnut, upping its postseason record to 15-6, advances to the Region 7 Semifinals next Friday against top-seeded Columbus Marion-Franklin (11-0) at 7 p.m. at a site to be determined. The Red Devils advanced with a 34-28 victory over eighth-seeded Columbus Brookhaven (7-4) last night.
“Marion-Franklin will present us with similar problems, both offensively and defensively,” Weaver said. “We know we will have to be ready to play from the opening whistle if we expect to advance in the playoffs.”