Jonathan Alder’s Jackson Izzard stretches for an interception on Friday against Columbus Bishop Hartley. The Pioneers fell, 27-14, during the Division III regional championship game at Hilliard Darby.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
There are times when the final few minutes of a sporting event provide enough drama and suspense to keep fans on
both sides of the field talking for days and weeks after a winner and loser have been decided.
Columbus Bishop Hartley’s 27-14 victory over Jonathan Alder on Friday during a regional championship football game
may, at first glance, appear to have been rather lopsided.
Up until the final seconds, however, the contest could very well have gone into overtime.
It took an amazing 100-yard interception return for a touchdown by Hartley to completely seal the deal as time expired.
The Hawks and Pioneers met on Hilliard Darby’s field to decide the Region 11 crown in Division III of the state playoffs.
Hartley went into the contest with an 11-1 mark and the region’s top seed.
The Pioneers, ranked No. 2, had yet to taste defeat in 12 games.
The game did not feature much offense during the first three quarters as each defense came up with big stops and
forced numerous punts.
Both teams took turns scoring during the opening half.
The Hawks held a 7-0 lead after the first quarter.
Jalan January, who went on to rush for 179 yards on 30 carries, tallied the game’s initial touchdown on a nine-yard run.
Treyvhonn Saunders booted the extra point for Hartley’s 7-0 lead.
JA forced the Hawks to punt late in the first stanza and took possession at its own 40 with 4:03 left in the quarter.
The Pioneers mounted their first scoring drive as action moved into the second period.
Garret Proxmire did most of the heavy lifting with the ground game, while quarterback JT Keith connected on a handful
of passes to Jacob Fenik.
Keith’s toss to Fenik moved the ball down to the Hartley seven-yard-line, but left the Pioneers facing fourth-and-one.
Hartley gave Alder a helping hand by jumping before the snap.
That gave JA a first down at about the three-yard-line.
The Pioneers then moved before the snap and the penalty pushed the pigskin back to the eight.
Keith got five yards back with a completion to Fenik.
On the next play, the signal-caller carried the ball into the line and was stopped cold.
Players from both sides came up from the pile, but when everything was cleared, Keith stayed on the cold turf, pounding
his fist in agony.
It was discovered the junior quarterback had dislocated a knee.
He was helped off the field and did not return the rest of the night.
Fenik lined up in the wildcat formation and took the direct snap from center.
He scooted into the end zone at the 9:46 mark of the second set.
Dylan Moore firmly planted the extra point to tie the game at 7-7.
The Hawks moved deep into JA territory, only to see Alder’s Jackson Izzard pick off the first of two interceptions thrown
by Hartley quarterback Miles Fleming.
Izzard wrestled the ball away from a Hawk receiver for the pick at the JA eight-yard-line.
The Pioneers kept the ball for 11 plays and moved down to the Hartley 37.
The series stalled and JA was forced to punt.
The Hawks regained possession with 59.5 seconds left until the break.
They chose to run two plays as the clock wound down to zero.
Hartley took the kickoff to begin the second half. In just two plays, the Hawks went from their own 31 to the Pioneer 34.
Fleming took off on the second play and made a nice gain.
The quarterback, however, was stripped of the ball by Izzard.
Once again, JA could not capitalize on a Hawk turnover and was forced to punt.
Both punters were kept busy for the next several minutes as each team’s defense make vital stops.
Hartley regained possession with 4:11 left in the third quarter at its own 30-yard-line.
Fleming gained 14 yards on a keeper and later completed a pass to Dylan Newsome that moved the ball to the JA 31.
January later picked up nine yards to the 19 and finished the series on the next snap with a burst into the end zone.
The extra point attempt was blocked as Hartley led 13-7.
Things got mighty interesting and exciting as action moved into the final 12 minutes.
Proxmire, who rushed for 107 yards on 19 carries, was a workhorse as the Pioneers marched to the go-ahead score.
His nine-yard scamper into the end zone tied the game at 13.
Moore, who did not miss an extra point or field goal all season, gave JA a 14-13 lead with 8:48 to play in the contest.
Izzard once again stopped Hartley’s next progress with another interception.
JA, though, went three-and-out, surrendering a ball on another punt.
January came up with his biggest series of the night, carrying 12 times.
His final run resulted in a five-yard touchdown.
Fleming then snuck into the end zone for the two-point conversion to give Hartley a 21-14 lead.
Tabor Headings, JA’s backup quarterback, had struggled completing passes from the time Keith was injured in the
second quarter until the final minute-plus of the game.
Like Superman coming out of the phone booth, Headings completed five passes to Fenik and Izzard on the next series.
As such, the Pioneers marched toward what they hoped would be the TD that pulled them to within a point.
Headings passed JA down to the Hartley 15 with 14.6 seconds to play.
He threw an incompletion with 8.3 ticks on the clock.
The Pioneers faced fourth-and-seven when they called their final timeout of the half.
A field goal would do them no good and a play was decided upon.
Headings took the snap and faded back to pass.
He spotted Izzard at the goal line, but the ball was thrown just a bit off the mark.
Hartley’s George Dunor intercepted the ball and started to weave his way up field.
Dunor hit the right sideline and didn’t stop until he had raced the entire length of the field for the final touchdown after
time had expired.
It was a disappointing end to an otherwise outstanding season for the 12-1 Pioneers.
“This is a tough pill to swallow and I really feel bad for the guys, especially JT,” said Alder head coach Brett Glass.
“Tabor, as a backup quarterback, didn’t get a lot of reps this season, but hit Jackson and Jacob with some key passes
toward the end of the game.
“Tabor did enough to get the job done, but we just couldn’t get enough stops of our own (on defense),” said Glass.
“That’s just football at times.”
Tabor Headings (16), JA’s backup quarterback, throws a pass against Hartley. Headings had to come into the game after a knee injury suffered by starter JT Keith. (Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
Alder running back Garret Proxmire gains yardage against Bishop Hartley on Friday. The Pioneers fell, 27-14. (Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
Jonathan Alder’s Brayden Blain (50) pursues Bishop Hartley quarterback Miles Fleming during Friday’s Division III regional championship game at Hilliard Darby. The Pioneers saw their season come to an end with a 27-14 loss. (Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
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