The Hilliard Darby High School football team defeated host Dublin Scioto 22-3 on Oct. 27 to close the regular season. Whether the win will get the Panthers in the playoffs was not immediately known.
Darby, which improved to 7-3 overall and finished 4-2 in the OCC-Cardinal Division, was 10th in the Division I, Region 3 computer ratings entering the game and was battling No. 8 Springfield and No. 9 Reynoldsburg for the region’s final playoff berth.
Springfield was eliminated from postseason contention with a loss Oct. 27, meaning the eighth and final playoff berth came down to Darby and Reynoldsburg.
“I am so proud of you guys for hanging in there and stepping up and being ready to go,” Panthers coach John Santagata told his team after losing two players to injury during the game. “You persevered all season. That was Darby football out there tonight.”
Scioto, which needed a win to remain in contention for a Division II, Region 7 playoff berth, finished 5-5 overall and 3-3 in the league.
The Irish started strong, marching 74 yards in 16 plays after receiving the opening kickoff and taking a 3-0 lead on a 24-yard field goal by Griffin Crosa.
Their lead was short-lived, however, as Darby’s Ian Coverstone returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown to put the Panthers ahead 7-3.
Coverstone was injured on Darby’s first snap from scrimmage. The slotback and defensive back did not return and Santagata feared the worst. Later, running back Canyon Uphouse left the game with an injury.
“We have lost at least eight starters with injuries this year,” said Santagata, whose team won its fifth consecutive game. “But we’ve managed to overcome those thus far, and that’s a credit to these guys. They’re ready to go and ready to work hard when it’s their turn.”
Midway through the second quarter, Darby went 65 yards on 10 plays as Uphouse scored on a 9-yard run to give Darby a 14-3 lead with 1 minute, 11 seconds left in the half.
Uphouse then fell on a loose ball at the Scioto 25-yard line when the Irish muffed the Panthers’ squibbed kickoff. Three plays later, Darby quarterback Jack Stultz snuck in from the 1-yard line. After a low snap on the extra-point attempt, Stultz, the holder, got up and threw a two-point conversion pass to Creed Galko.
“There was no scoring in the second half and the difference was we more or less imploded late in the first half,” Scioto coach Karl Johnson said. “Our defense did a great job against them. But a kickoff return by them and a fumbled kickoff return by us, those really hurt. Offensively, we moved the ball well, but didn’t score. You need to put points on the board in some of those drives.
“We had some penalties and just weren’t disciplined. We did things we normally don’t do.”
Stultz rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries and threw an 18-yard pass to Anthony Santos to set up his touchdown run to lead Darby. Uphouse added 67 yards rushing on 10 carries and Grant Hollinger had 61 yards on 15 carries.
Quarterback Kyron Rogers threw for 271 yards on 30-for-53 passing to lead Scioto, which had 298 total yards.
==========Team 1 2 3 4 Final HILLIARD DARBY 7 15 0 0 22 DUBLIN SCIOTO
3 0 0 0 3
DS—Crosa 24 FG
HD—Coverstone 91 kickoff return (Gearhiser kick)
HD—Uphouse 9 run (Gearhiser kick)
HD—Stultz 1 run (Galko pass from Stultz)