Until Saturday, Brookhaven had been the only City League football team to advance to a state-championship game.
The Bearcats, who earned the Division II title in 2004, now have company. Eastmoor Academy earned its spot in the Division III state final with a 14-10 victory over Licking Valley in a semifinal at Gahanna.
"It's a great thing for our school, a great thing for the City League," said Eastmoor's Aaron Flowe, who rushed for 70 yards on six carries and scored the game's first touchdown.
The Warriors improved to 13-1 and advanced to play Aurora in the state final at 11 a.m. Nov. 29 in Fawcett Stadium in Canton. Aurora defeated defending state-champion Big Walnut 20-14 in the other state semifinal Saturday in Ashland. The Panthers, who lost to the Eagles 17-10 in last year's title game, finished 12-2.
"Give them credit," Licking Valley coach Randy Baughman said. "They made some big plays when they had to."
Quarterback Malon Johnson's 26-yard pass to Toche Hopkins on the left sideline on third-and-8 from Licking Valley's 46 set up his team's second touchdown, a 5-yard run by Devon Ross that made it 14-3 with 1 minute, 36 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Johnson completed seven of 12 passes for 75 yards and he scrambled for first downs twice on third-and-long during the fourth quarter as the Warriors were trying to work the clock. The first resulted in an 8-yard gain even though lineman Greg Christo-Baker appeared to have him pinned for a sack 13 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
"Our quarterback, he made some great runs when we needed them playing with a hurt ankle," Flowe said.
Eastmoor had taken the lead on a 13-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in Flowe's 3-yard touchdown run to make it 7-3 late in the first quarter. Flowe, a 5-foot-7, 205-pound fullback, had a 30-yard run during the drive and Johnson twice completed passes to Alex Coleman as the Panthers fell behind for only the second time this season and first in the playoffs.
The Panthers didn't have much to show for a pair of turnovers by Eastmoor in the first half. Chase Houston intercepted Johnson on the right sideline near midfield on the game's first play and that led to a 35-yard field goal by Vince German. Drew Ryan's fumble recovery did stop a drive in which the Warriors advanced to Licking Valley's 15 early in the second quarter, however.
The Panthers missed another opportunity when their punt in the final seconds of the first half was fumbled, but Eastmoor's Shawn Jackson fell on the ball near his own 20. They fumbled the ball away after running nine plays to start the third quarter, reaching Eastmoor's 35.
Early in the fourth quarter, Ryan's 5-yard touchdown run trimmed the deficit to 14-10, but time was no ally. The Panthers took the ball at their own 7 for the last time with 3:35 left to play, but Jordan Broomfield sacked Ryan for a 10-yard loss on fourth-and-7 at the Licking Valley 30.
Ohio State-recruit Storm Klein rushed for 64 of his 89 yards in the second half, but Ryan completed only two passes for 36 yards and the first didn't come until 9:11 remained in the third quarter.
"They're a tremendous football team," said Eastmoor coach Jim Miranda, whose team had won only one game in five previous playoff appearances entering this season. "Their running game was their biggest asset and we took it away until pretty late, and we played well at the end."
LICKING VALLEY 3 0 0 7 -- 10
EASTMOOR 7 0 7 0 -- 14
LV--German 35 FG
E--Flowe 3 run (Sample kick)
E--Ross 5 run (Sample kick)
LV--Ryan 6 run (German kick)