The only regret Hilliard Davidson High School football coach Brian White had as he tried to console his players after a 13-11 loss to Cincinnati Moeller in the Division I, Region 2 final Nov. 30 at Welcome Stadium in Dayton was that he would no longer be able to spend time with them on the field this season.
The Wildcats, who were making their first final four appearance since 2010 and their sixth overall, finished 13-1 overall, falling one win shy of reaching the state final for the third time in program history.
Moeller improved to 13-1 and will play Mentor for the state championship Saturday, Dec. 7, at Fawcett Stadium in Canton.
"What a tremendous senior class, tremendously enjoyable season," said White, whose team was ranked fourth in the final state poll. "The only thing our guys should be sad about is we don't get to spend another week together. Going to the state championship game is all well and good only because we would have been able to spend another week together."
Davidson, which won state titles in 2006 and 2009, led Moeller 11-10 at halftime. But after rushing for 168 yards in the first half, the Wildcats were limited to 30 yards on the ground in the second half.
Moeller, which was fifth in the final state poll, scored the only points of the second half on a 27-yard field goal by Matthew Coghlin midway through the third quarter.
Davidson had three opportunities to reclaim the lead in the fourth quarter, but each drive stalled, including the final one that ended in Moeller territory as time expired.
Senior running back D.D. Clark led the Wildcats' offense, rushing for 141 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. His 5-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and the ensuing two-point conversion by senior Alex Backenstoe gave Davidson an 8-7 lead, and the Wildcats extended their lead to 11-7 with a 44-yard field goal by Robert LeFevre in the second quarter.
"We have kids from five neighborhoods playing on our team, (Moeller) has kids from five counties playing on their team," White said. "There's something wrong with a system that enables that to be, but I guess you just have to beat them and, obviously, we had an opportunity to and it didn't work out."
Clark finished the season with 2,003 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns on 298 carries and was first-team all-OCC-Central Division, all-district and all-state.
Backenstoe, who played defensive end and tight end, was named the state co-Defensive Player of the Year with Cincinnati Colerain's Tegray Scales, district Defensive Player of the Year in Division I and OCC-Central Player of the Year.
Senior Phillipie Motley (RB/WR/DB), who has committed to play for the University of Pittsburgh, had 781 yards rushing and nine touchdowns on 76 carries and was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
"I love everyone on this team," said Motley, one of 21 seniors. "It just stinks. We don't get another week to be together. That's the worst part about this. I love these guys to death."
Junior Markus Bailey (RB/LB), who is expected to be a featured player next season, had 441 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns on 91 carries and was second-team all-league and special mention all-district.
Senior quarterback Nick Iske missed the final eight games last season, including three playoff contests, with an ankle injury but returned this season to guide Davidson's option attack.
"The best part about this season was being with each other for 14 weeks," said Iske, who was special mention all-league. "It's the worst feeling in the world not be able to make it 15, but we had a hell of a season. We have to be proud of that."
Senior center and defensive lineman Jared Johns and senior defensive back Nick Stull both were first-team all-district and all-league. Johns also was second-team all-state and Stull was special mention.Senior defensive back Parker Foard was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Also earning honors were senior defensive lineman Brett Annis (second-team all-district and all-league), senior defensive back and wide receiver Joe Bernard (second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district), senior linebacker Travis Brown (second-team all-league), junior linebacker Ben Brooks (special mention all-league) and senior offensive lineman Max Paazig (honorable mention all-league).
White was named OCC-Central Coach of the Year, as the Wildcats won their fourth consecutive league title and 14th overall by going 7-0. Dublin Coffman was runner-up at 6-1.
The top seed in Region 2, Davidson defeated 16th-seeded Miamisburg 48-7 on Nov. 9, eighth-seeded Pickerington North 20-7 in the second round Nov. 16 and fifth-seeded Huber Heights Wayne 37-7 in a semifinal Nov. 23.