"Miracle Finish" Lifts SE Past Catholic Central

In the words of nationally-known sports broadcaster Al Michaels from the 1980 U.S. "Miracle on Ice" hockey win over the Soviet Union- "Do you believe in miracles?- YES!!!"

The Southeastern Panthers snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat in an unbelievable turn of events in the closing minute of their 44-40 OHSAA Division 6/Region 23 Football Quarterfinal Playoff win over Steubenville Catholic Central, Friday night.

Trailing 40-36, the Panthers failed on a fourth down and less than one yard at the Crusaders 31 yard line with just over one minute to play. Catholic Central had the ball with only one Southeastern time-out remaining, and basically only had to take a knee a couple of times to secure the win. However- Crusaders quarterback Justin Hartzell, in the shot-gun formation, fumbled the exchange with Craig Smith. The ball kept squirting away from Panther defenders, before they finally recovered the pigskin at the Catholic Central 9 yard line. 

The Panthers got down to the 1 yard line, but a penalty, then a bobbled snap put Southeastern with 4th down on the 5 yard line with no timeouts remaining. Southeastern quarterback Lane Ruby took the snap and rolled right, finding Dakota Houser in the end-zone for the go-ahead touchdown at 42-40 with three seconds remaining. The two-point conversion attempt saw Ruby hit Trey Brown with a pass for a 44-40 lead.

A pooch-kick gave Catholic Central the ball on their own 47 yard line with 1 second left, but quarterback Justin Hartzell's desperation pass was knocked away by Southeastern, to secure the Panthers first-ever football playoff victory and a trip to the "Sweet 16".  

The game never saw either team with more than a seven point lead. The Crusaders took the 7-0 lead at 10:22 in the first quarter, when Craig Smith scored on a 2 yard TD run, followed by the PAT kick. That capped a 65 yard drive in 7 plays.

Southeastern pulled to within 7-6 at the 4:22 mark of the first quarter, set-up by Dalton Chaffin's interception. Southeastern scored two plays later on s Lane Ruby 34 yard TD run, but the PAT kick was missed.

CC came right back with a 54 yard/7 play scoring drive, to take a 13-6 lead on a Justin Hartzell 7 yard run. Their PAT kick was missed as well.

The Panthers took their first lead of the game at 7:31 to play in the second quarter, when Carson Stauffer darted around right end for a 36 yard TD run, then converted a two-point PAT to put them up 14-13. That completed an 85 yard/8 play drive.

The offensive fireworks continued as Catholic Central grabbed the lead back at 21-14, when they drove 60 yards in 13 plays as Craig Smith dashed 1 yard for the TD at 3:00 left in the first half. A two-point conversion was successful on a pass to Levi Thompson. 

Southeastern's Dakota Houser returned the kick-off 90 yards for a score, followed by Ruby's two-point PAT run for a 22-21 lead with 2:43 to play.

That lead didn't last long. The Crusaders hurried down the field, traveling 62 yards in 7 plays as Smith scored on a 12 yard run. The PAT failed, leaving CC with a 27-22 halftime lead over Southeastern.

The Panthers took the second half opening drive 67 yards in 6 plays, leading to a 34 yard screen pass from Ruby to Houser for a TD. Ruby ran a two-point conversion in for a 30-27 SE lead at 7:33 left in the third quarter.

Catholic Central came right back, scoring with 5:31 left in the third quarter, when Hartzell ran a 24 yard TD, followed by a PAT kick for a 34-30 advantage. That drive went 64 yards in 5 plays.

Southeastern put the first points of the fourth quarter on the board at 10:56 remaining with a Lane Ruby 5 yard jaunt to cap a 61 yard drive in 12 plays. The PAT two-point try failed, giving the Panthers a 36-34 lead.

The Crusaders would take their final lead of the see-saw affair at 40-36 with 7:32 to play in the game, driving 52 yards in 8 plays as Craig Smith scored on a 3 yard run. Their two-point try failed.

That sent us to the wild finish as was described earlier, as Southeastern advanced with the 44-40 win.

The Panthers had 313 total yards, with 219 on the ground. Carson Stauffer rushed for 150 on 25 carries, Dakota Houser added 97 yards on 19 carries and 3 touchdowns, while Lane Ruby ran for 72 yards in 15 carries. Ruby was also 7/11 passing for 94 yards and 2 TD's.

Steubenville Catholic Central amassed 384 yards, 344 of those on the ground. Quarterback Justin Hartzell ran for 148 yards on 18 carries. He was only 6/16 passing for 40 yards. CC running back Craig Smith scored four touchdowns.

CC had 2 turnovers, including their huge miscue in the closing minute, while Southeastern threw one interception. Dalton Chaffin intercepted one pass, whcih set-up Southeastern's first score of the game.

The Panthers improve to (11-0) on the season and will face Coal Grove Dawson Bryant next Friday at a neutral site in the Sweet 16 (Regional Semis). Dawson Bryant was a 7-6 winner over Shenandoah. The OHSAA will announce the site of the game Sunday afternoon. 94 Country WKKJ will broadcast the game, with airtime at 7:10pm.

While Southeastern pulled out a miracle finish for the win Friday, WKKJ wasn't able to pull out our own miracle, as our computer recording the game froze-up, two hours in, leaving us with no podcast. :( 

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