Most Dramatic State Tournament Events: No. 1
'Gutsy' call boosted Davidson
The Hilliard Davidson football team celebrates with the championship trophy after winning the 2006 Division I state title with a 36-35, double-overtime victory over Mentor at Fawcett Stadium in Canton.
Words like bold and historic might best describe what occurred on the final play of the 2006 Division I state championship game when the Hilliard Davidson High School football team was successful on a two-point conversion run to beat Mentor 36-35 in two overtimes at Fawcett Stadium in Canton.
The idea that going for two on the game's final play could have been construed as unconventional never entered the Wildcats' decision-making process.
Davidson, which had gone 4-for-4 on fourth-down conversions against Mentor, already had eclipsed its season rushing average of 275 yards by the time Bo Delande ran a pitch sweep in for the winning two-point play.
What would be the first of two state championships in four years for the Wildcats also represents the No. 1 Most Dramatic State Tournament Event of the ThisWeek era.
"It was a gutsy play call, but we all knew that's what we wanted to do," quarterback Connor Dietz said. "We all wanted to go for two, so it only made sense."
"Obviously, the way it ended is why we're talking about it," coach Brian White said. "Your kids know that's the philosophy you have. I don't think there was any surprise because of the flow of the game."
The drama that ensued on the final play had been building throughout a back-and-forth game.
The contrast in offensive styles was evident from the start, as Mentor went 84 yards on the opening drive to take a 7-0 lead with 8 minutes, 59 seconds left in the first quarter. Cardinals quarterback Bart Tanski completed all four pass attempts on the drive, including a 27-yarder for a touchdown to Brandon James.
Davidson ate up the remainder of the first-quarter clock with a 14-play drive comprised solely of running plays, but the drive did not end with points, as Colby Catlett missed a 37-yard field goal.
Mentor made it 14-0 with 9:37 to go before halftime, but Davidson responded with another long drive, with Delande scoring on a 5-yard run with 2:51 left in the half to make it 14-7.
The Wildcats tied it at 14 with 32 seconds left in the third quarter on a 4-yard run by Delande, but Mentor scored on its first possession of the fourth quarter -- a 6-yard touchdown pass from Tanski to Tyler Schutz -- for a 21-14 lead.
Delande scored his third touchdown with 3:29 left on a 1-yard run to complete a 46-yard drive that was set up by a 50-yard kickoff return by Joey Ciamacco. The score tied the game at 21.
Davidson then struck first in overtime when Delande scored on a 4-yard run, marking his fourth touchdown of the game. The extra point by Catlett gave the Wildcats a 28-21 lead.
Mentor answered with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Tanski to Steve Orkis and tied the game at 28 on Kevin Harper's extra point. The Cardinals had been whistled for a false start on their first extra-point attempt.
Mentor had the ball to start the second overtime and scored three plays into the drive on a 1-yard run by Bill Deitman. Harper's extra point made it 35-28.
On what then would become the game's final possession, Davidson needed the watchful eye of a lineman to help it survive.
Delande and Dietz each had 4-yard runs to begin the drive and Delande ran for 2 yards to make it first-and-goal from the Mentor 10.
Delande then burst through for a 7-yard gain but fumbled the ball. After a Mentor defender nearly recovered the ball, left guard Mike Saul fell on it to set up the winning sequence.
"Throughout the game, we had a pretty confident feeling," said Dietz, who is set to begin his senior season playing for the Air Force Academy. "One thing that sticks out was when Mike Saul recovered that fumble."
Davidson turned what would have been a disappointment into one of the most memorable moments in state championship game history.
On the next play, Delande scored on a 3-yard run to make it 35-34. He then completed the dramatic win by going into the end zone nearly untouched on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt.
That concluded a dream that had spanned years for the backfield of Delande, Dietz and running back Clay Trubiano. The three had played together since elementary school.
The win gave Davidson a 15-0 final record and central Ohio's first big-school title since Upper Arlington went 15-0 on the way to the 2000 championship.
"With me being able to have scored the touchdown, it's pretty memorable for me," said Delande, who went on to play for Ohio State and now works in sales. "It was one of the funnest football seasons. We went through some ups and downs that season, and you just learned how to persevere.
"At that point in the game, we just kind of felt unstoppable. We knew we had the right guys (on the offensive line). We had been running the ball pretty well the whole game and it just felt right to end it (by going for two). We still talk about it. I can't believe it's been (six) years already. It's still a great feeling."
Delande, who rushed for 236 yards and five touchdowns in the championship game, ran for 2,209 yards and 24 touchdowns that season. Trubiano had 61 yards rushing against Mentor and Dietz rushed for 47.
Davidson had 345 yards rushing and 364 total yards against Mentor, which piled up 382 total yards, including 327 through the air.
The 71 combined points and 10 combined touchdowns remain Division I state championship game records. Delande also set Division I state final records for touchdowns (5), rushing touchdowns (5) and points (32).
In ThisWeek's 2011 summer series, the Top Individual Performances since 1990, Delande's feats earned him the No. 1 ranking.
Delande and classmate J.B. Strahler, a linebacker who played three years for Ohio University, both made the ThisWeek Super 25 that season. Blake Saul (OL) and fellow 2007 graduates Brad McKinley (LB) and Tim Pugno (DB) all made Super 25 honorable mention.
Blake and Mike Saul are brothers.
"That was the 44th game of my high school career, and I remember going into every game feeling confident," Strahler said. "We went into every game knowing that we were going to win. None of us were really fazed by being down at halftime. My senior class won the state championship and we didn't have any Division I scholarship athletes, but we played as a team."