Note: This recap appears in the Sunday, Nov. 17 newspaper edition.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — It was a battle in the trenches, a slug fest at the line of scrimmage, a game where every yard was earned.
Friday’s Division VI, Region 21 semifinal was exactly the kind of contest the Trimble Tomcats have made a habit of winning in the cold of November.
Except this time, the Tomcats’ opponent seemed to find one more big play when it was needed.
No. 4 Trimble dropped a heartbreaker on Friday, 20-19, to No. 1 Springfield at St. Clairsville’s Red Devil Stadium.
The Tomcats’ dream of a return trip to the state championship game came to an end despite a valiant effort in a classic back-and-forth playoff game.
“That’s a good football team we just faced tonight,” Springfield coach Sean Guerriero said. “Kids played hard and we made plays when we needed them.”
The box score showed Trimble gaining the upper hand in a lot of categories. The Tomcats ran 28 more offensive plays than the Tigers — 66 to 38 — and gained 341 yards of offense compared to Springfield’s 260.
Trimble senior tailback Conner Wright played like a warrior, carrying the ball 34 times for 157 yards and three touchdowns. Senior quarterback Cameron Kittle also rushed for 127 yards on 19 carries.
However, Springfield (12-0) sophomore quarterback Beau Brungard was up to the challenge, completing 16 of 21 passes for 196 yards with two touchdowns.
“Giving up 20 points to that team, I would have said I’d be happy with that because you watch them on film and they had so many weapons, starting with the quarterback,” Trimble coach Phil Faires said.
Friday’s game will be remembered for many reasons, but a series of big plays went in Springfield’s favor down the stretch.
One of the first momentum swings came after Wright’s third touchdown of the night, a 1-yard run to the outside that allowed Trimble to lead 19-14 with 6:06 left.
The Tomcats (11-1) went for 2, and used a muddle huddle that they’ve run many times this season. Kittle got the snap from Sawyer Koons and ran an option play to Wright.
Wright found the end zone, but there was a flag on the play.
Trimble was whistled for an illegal formation — Springfield was not penalized for what appeared to be an offsides player who was running onto the field late — and not only did the two points come off the board, but the Tomcats were penalized five yards.
After much discussion between Trimble’s coaches and the officiating crew, the call stood. Kittle was pressured into an incomplete pass on the 2-point try from the 8-yard line, keeping Trimble’s lead at five points.
Faires felt like the Tomcats were in a legal formation on the play.
“I thought we should have had it,” Faires said. “At the least, I thought it should have been offsetting penalties. They had a guy 10 yards in our backfield and he said he thought he got to the line of scrimmage. I said he’s behind our guys out there, how’s he making it to the line of scrimmage? But that’s a tough one there too. There was multiple penalties on that they said, but still we should have had the try over from the 3.”
The Tomcats were still able to hand the lead over to their defense, and Springfield was forced into a fourth-and-9 from its own 41 with 5:03 remaining.
The Tigers dug deep into their bag of tricks, calling a hook-and-ladder play.
Brungard found Clayton Medvec around the 47 yard line. He caught the pass under pressure and immediately pitched the ball back to Garrett Walker, who raced up the Trimble sideline.
The play would cover a total of 48 yards, giving Springfield a first down at Trimble’s 11-yard line.
“We practice stuff like that once a week and we go through it every week,” Guerriero said. “When you need it and it works out we look line geniuses. That was coach (Mark Brungard’s) call up top and the kids executed it.”
The Tomcats nearly broke the play up, as Bryce Downs hit Medvec on the initial reception, almost jarring the ball loose.
“We got a hand on the ball,” Faires said. “Just didn’t deflect it enough. We knock that down, it’s probably our ball game.”
The Tomcats continued to fight on defense though, and Springfield eventually faced third-and-9 at the 10-yard line.
Brungard threw a jump ball to the end zone to Mitchell Seymour, who came down with the football.
The Tigers’ 2-point pass would fail, but they still led 20-19 with 3:27 remaining.
Kittle led a final drive for Trimble, digging out of a third-and-14 hole with a 36-yard toss down the sideline to Austin Wisor.
Kittle then had runs of 13, 17 and 9 yards, setting Trimble up with a second-and-1 from the Tigers’ 24.
Springfield stopped Wright for a four-yard loss on second down with 1:33 left, then Kittle’s third-down run gained a yard.
The Tomcats went to the air on fourth down from the 27, Kittle lofting a pass up the middle of the field to Downs in the end zone.
Walker was in coverage and came down with his second interception of the game, giving the ball back to Springfield with just 40.3 seconds to play.
“If we had a few more minutes I think we would have had a better plan, went back to our wishbone offense,” Faires said. “We just ran out of time and was forced to make a play. But Cam did a great job getting us down that far.”
The Tomcats were in a position to win thanks in large part to that wishbone offense, and the blocking of linemen Ian Joyce, Shawn Turley, Zach Guffey, Jack Nagucki, Garrett Richards and tight ends Tabor Lackey and Blake Guffey.
Trimble ran the ball 61 times for 305 yards, while Springfield only gained 64 yards on 17 rushing attempts.
The Tomcats struck first, leading 7-0 after Wright’s 2-yard run in the opening quarter. Trimble went 60 yards in just five plays, thanks in large part to a 34-yard run for Kittle.
Springfield tied the game at 7-7 when Walker took a handoff from Brungard on a jet sweep, scoring from seven yards out in the second quarter.
The Tomcats imposed their will on the Tigers on the ensuing drive. Trimble put together a 19-play, 68-yard drive that ate the final 9:24 off the first half clock.
Despite the success, Trimble came away with no points. Koons was stopped at the line of scrimmage on a third-and-goal run from the 6.
With no timeouts left, Trimble got back to the line to run a fourth-down play with the clock ticking down. Walker was able to intercept a Kittle pass in the end zone as time expired, keeping the 7-7 tie.
“They made the plays,” Faires said. “Made that play and forced us to where we couldn’t run Conner up the gut. We were out of time outs. Like I said, if we had another minute in the first half, two minutes in the second half, think it would have been a different outcome.”
Trimble was undeterred and went on another long march to start the third quarter. This time it was a 14-play, 80-yard drive that ate 6:47 off the clock.
The Tomcats remarkably ran 33 consecutive offensive plays, gaining 148 yards and taking 16 minutes and 11 seconds off the clock to lead 13-7 after Wright’s 3-yard run.
However, the extra point was missed and the Tigers roared back with a five-play scoring drive, leading 14-13 when Brungard found Seymour for a 17-yard touchdown pass.
It was the first time all season Trimble found itself trailing in a game.
“All in all, it was a great game,” Joyce said. “Tough opponent. I’m going to be cheering them on through the rest of the season.”
Springfield will take on Mogadore in the Region 21 championship game next Friday.
The loss marked the end of an era for the Tomcats, who had 11 seniors on their roster. Many were three-year starters and key contributors in six playoff wins since their sophomore seasons.
“All we can think of is looking toward the future, the future of Trimble Football,” Wright said. “I just hope that we can leave a lasting impression that they’re hard workers. I hope they keep working hard just like we did.”
The 2019 season was one to remember, as Trimble posted its fifth 10-0 regular season in school history.
In 11 official games, Trimble outscored the competition 493-40 with eight shutouts, only falling to an unbeaten team in a one-point affair.
“It’s just a good group of kids,” said Faires. “They get along together. They fight sometimes like families do... I would say I’ve had some good groups and this is probably the top, with their work in the weight room and their work in practice. They didn’t complain a lot. They’re fun to be around.
“It’s going to sink in to me too tomorrow that I’m not going to get to see them anymore. Seems like I’ve been around them forever. It’s tough to lose a class like this. We’re going to have to change things up a little next year for sure because of missing all these kids. They’ve just been a joy to be around.”
Springfield 20, Trimble 19
Trimble 7 0 6 6 — 19
Springfield 7 0 7 6 — 20
T — Conner Wright, 2-yard run (Blake Guffey kick), 2:14, 1st
S — Garrett Walker, 7-yard run (Clayton Medvec kick), 9:31, 2nd
T — Conner Wright, 3-yard run (kick failed), 5:13, 3rd
S — Mitchell Seymour, 17-yard pass from Beau Brungard (Clayton Medvec kick), 3:53, 3rd
T — Conner Wright, 1-yard run (pass failed), 6:06, 4th
S — Mitchell Seymour, 10-yard pass from Beau Brungard (pass failed), 3:27, 4th
First downs 22 11
Plays from scrimmage 66 38
Rushing (plys-yds) 61-305 17-64
Passing yards 36 196
Total net yards 341 260
Passes (cmp-att-int) 1-5-2 16-21-0
Fumbles (no-lost) 0-0 1-1
Penalties (no-yds) 3-25 4-21
Punts (no-avg) 2-32.5 1-14
Trimble — Conner Wright 34-157 3 TDs, Cameron Kittle 19-127, Bryce Downs 6-17, Sawyer Koons 2-4; Springfield — Beau Brungard 6-23, David Duvall 6-22, Garrett Walker 2-11 TD, Austin Tindell 1-7, Chris Shoemaker 1-2, TEAM 1-(-1)
Trimble — Cameron Kittle 1-5-2-36; Springfield — Beau Brungard 16-21-0-196 2 TDs
Trimble — Austin Wisor 1-36; Springfield — Garrett Walker 5-75, Evan Ohlin 5-51, Mitchell Seymour 3-36 2 TDs, Clayton Medvec 3-34