By Guest Writer David Barger
BELLEFONTAINE – Blanketed by the first accumulating snowfall of the season, the Tri-Village Patriots took to the field against the Allen East Mustangs. The all-white Tri-Village jerseys were at times barely visible against the backdrop of Bellefontaine’s snow-covered turf field and additions of fresh powder as the snow fall continued throughout the night made the sub-freezing temperatures feel that much colder. Unfortunately for the Patriots, the weather wasn’t the only thing chilled Saturday night, as the momentum they had carried into this game had also been frozen and resulted in a disheartening conclusion to their stellar season. At the end of the contest, Allen East would come out on top with a decisive 37-7 victory.
Play began with the opening kick-off being fumbled by Joseph Hoel of the Mustangs, however he would recover and make a run out to Tri-Village’s 42-yard line. Despite the huge advantage given by the special teams, Allen East struggled initially with the defensive play of Tri-Village, led with by Austin Rismiller who came up with a tackle for loss of yards.
The Patriot’s first drive would come to an abrupt halt as Brayden Keating on 1st and 5 would have the ball popped loose and the fumble recovered by Allen East’s Kade Wireman, who would run the ball down to the Tri-Village 29-yard line.
Brayden Keating gets to the outside for a gain. (Dale Barger Photo)
Allen East would again struggle with the Patriots defense. After moving the sticks only once in the drive, the Mustangs were forced to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Braylen Kennedy. With 7:17 remaining in the first quarter, Allen East led 3-0.
On the Patriots next drive, the run game steadily moved things along, including an 8-yard Reed Wehr run that would pick up a first down. However, that drive would stall out for Tri-Village, and they would be forced to punt.
The back-and-forth of defensive efforts continued, including a sack on 3rd and 2 by Seth Cook. This would force the Mustangs to punt on 4th down and left the Patriots with a short field advantage for their next offensive drive.
Brayden Keating would have his first pass completion on 2nd down connecting with Tanner Printz and achieving a Patriots first down getting them into the Mustangs side of the field for the first time on the night. At the conclusion of the 1st quarter, with the Patriot’s still within striking distance only down 3 points, it was anybody’s game at this point.
The second quarter would be anything but typical. On the first play of the quarter, Tri-Village would have two fumbles, one by Keating recovered by Wehr, which was then fumbled again and recovered by Caleb Hopkins and blown dead at the 19-yard line when his helmet came off during play.
The ball wasn’t bouncing the Patriots way against Allen East in Regional Semi-Final Game. (Dale Barger Photo)
It is often said that in tournament time skill alone does not carry a team through the tournament, but instead you need a little bit of luck on your side. For Tri-Village the ball simply would not bounce their way. The conditions made it a challenge for both teams to get equal footing, control the football, and more.
These challenges for the Patriot’s continued. On the next Mustang drive, Jayden Hollinger would have QB Jacob Hershberger on the ropes, held by the tail of his jersey and during pulling him down Hershberger would make a desperation throw to get rid of the football. Fullback Jack Hoel would be just in the right place at the right time to make the catch and continue the Mustang drive.
The Patriots Jayden Hollinger gets double teamed, his in the grasp play on the QB turned into a first down for Allen East on a desperation pass going to the ground. (Dale Barger Photo)
Allen East kept plugging away this drive, including a 4th down 5-yard run by Hershberger that put the Mustangs on the Tri-Village 1-yard line. Jack Hoel busted up the middle for the Mustang touchdown with 7:04 left in the 2nd quarter.
Tri-Village’s next drive saw the ability to move the ball, including a 25-yard pass completion to Wehr. However, the drive again stalled, and the Patriots forced to punt. The punt was returned, 75-yards, by Jacob Hershberger for another Allen East touchdown to move ahead 17-0 with 4:02 remaining in the half.
The next Patriot went 4 and out but Keating’s punt however would be recalled after two Allen East players were penalized for roughing the kicker and the drive for the Patriots resumed.
They chipped away with small run gains and a sideline pass completion to Justin Finkbine getting them into position to score. Keating then dodged two defenders on 2nd down at the 15-yard to find Justin Finkbine in the endzone for the first Patriot’s score of the night. With 35 seconds remaining in the half, Tri-Village had brought the game back to within ten points, 17-7.
TV got on the board on a Brayden Keating Pass to Justin Finkbine but the PATS high powered offense was stalled most of the night. (Dale Barger Photo)
On the ensuing kick-off, Joseph Hoel would return the ball all the way for another Mustang touchdown with 22 second remaining in the half, pushing the score to 23-7.
Allen East attempted an onside kick and recovered looking to get more before the end of the first half but fell short concluded the first half at 23-7.
Tri-Village Band performs at the half during regional semi-final football game. (Dale Barger Photo)
Tri-Village made changes in the second half, favoring a run game and attempting to slowly chip away at the Mustangs. However, the momentum continued to favor the Mustangs who would find ways to score once in each quarter of the second half and fought off Tri-Village’s steady drives with continual runs up the middle by Reed Wehr and Brayden Keating.
Despite the unwanted outcome, the Patriots season will be one to remember. The boys in Red, White, and Blue achieved a share of the conference title and finish the season 11-2. A trip to the Regional Semi-Finals is something few teams can achieve, and in only their 6th varsity season, this is now the 2nd team to achieve the feat at Tri-Village. The future continues to remain bright at Tri-Village after yet another successful season in 2022.
The Allen East Mustang’s season will continue next Saturday night when they face the MAC powerhouse program and the undefeated Marion Local Flyers.
The Tri-Village Cheerleaders were in full support mode for regional semi-final game. (Dale Barger Photo)