PIQUA -- The most important decision Hartley's football players made on Thanksgiving wasn't about white meat or dark.

PIQUA -- The most important decision Hartley's football players made on Thanksgiving wasn't about white meat or dark.

"Before practice was over on Thursday, coach took a vote among the players whether we should kick the extra point to tie or go for two and the win at the end of the game if it came down to that," running back-defensive back Noah Key said. "We voted to go for the win - unanimously."

It came down to that Friday in a Division IV state semifinal at Ed Purk Field.

Key dragged roughly a half-dozen Kettering Alter defenders across the goal line on a two-point conversion with 2:05 remaining, and Hartley withstood Alter's last, best shot to defeat the two-time defending state champion 29-28.

"The coaching staff talked about trying not to make a decision like that emotionally, but I said, what the heck, let's put the game in the kids' hands rather than send it to overtime," Hawks coach Brad Burchfield said. "I like the emotion. Just look at the kids and the crowd up there. I think they're glad we went for it."

Alter coach Ed Domsitz said he was surprised by the move, given that Burchfield had one of the best backs in the state and a more reliable kicker.

"He rolled the dice, didn't he?" he said. "That was a gutsy thing to do. If I were in his shoes, I might have gone for the overtime."

Key, who rushed for 239 yards on 25 carries and scored three touchdowns, recognized that he was wrapped up short of the goal line, but "I just kept pumping my arms and churning my legs like coaches teach us, and my big guys up front did the rest."

Hartley (12-2), which will face Chagrin Falls for the state title next Friday in Massillon, was up against the wall after squandering a 21-0 lead just before halftime.

Quarterback Zane Pitzer capped an 82-yard drive with a 38-yard touchdown run on an option play, putting the Knights ahead 28-21 with 6:15 remaining.

The Hawks answered with a 10-play, 80-yard drive to force the wild finish. Quarterback Austin Underwood had his only two completions, the final one going 13 yards for the score to JaWaun Woodley.

"It took them completely by surprise," Woodley said. "There wasn't a single guy around me. I knew all I had to do was catch it."

Alter continued to fight. Pitzer passed to uncovered running back Justin Winters down the sideline for a 49-yard gain.

With no timeouts remaining, Alter uncharacteristically lost its composure. An errant shotgun snap to Pitzer wasted one play. With Hartley in zone coverage, Pitzer was sacked for a 1-yard loss on third down. On fourth-and-9 at the Hartley 31-yard line, Pitzer bought several seconds scrambling and then settled for a completion near the sideline - 2 yards short of a first down.

"I was spying on the quarterback trying to contain him, and everyone else was back in coverage," Woodley said.

Said Key: "A lot of people underestimate us on defense because we're such a big-play, quick-strike offense. On that last drive, I think we showed people we've got some toughness in us, too."

Key had 174 yards at halftime, including 51- and 62-yard touchdown runs. But Alter adjusted its defense to take away his running lanes on pitches and sweeps.

The Knights (11-3), who had won 13 straight playoff games, had 26 first downs but twice were stopped on downs deep in Hawks territory. They also missed a field-goal try and fumbled in the first half.

"That's a formidable team we just took down," Burchfield said. "Man, we get to keep playing. This is so great."