The Walnut Ridge High School football team’s 27-14 win over Canal Winchester in a Division II, Region 7 first-round playoff game Nov. 3 was the host Scots’ ninth victory of the year, but coach Byron Mattox thought it was the first time his team had played well in all phases at the same time.
His defense came up with a score one week after allowing the final 22 points of the game against Independence to squander its chance at the City League-South Division championship, Calvin Dawson made six catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns to pace the offense and the top-seeded Scots earned their first playoff win since the 2002 season.
“We usually have a letdown somewhere even though we have a good record (9-1),” Mattox said. “This is the first time I feel like we’ve put it all together. Our defense came up huge. We’ve given up a lot of points and we focused on getting back to fundamentals, communicating and tackling well. It paid off.”
The Scots will play fifth-seeded New Albany in a regional semifinal Nov. 10 at a neutral site to be determined.
Dawson capped Walnut Ridge’s first drive with a 31-yard touchdown catch, but eighth-seeded Canal Winchester answered three plays later when Jake Howard took a short toss from Jack Beeler 55 yards up the middle for a tying touchdown.
“I feel like we were born for this moment. We played our hearts out,” said Dawson, who also had a 32-yard touchdown catch. “We just executed. We had a few penalties, but they were limited. When we’re disciplined, that’s when we play our best.”
The Indians’ Dominic Davis scored from a yard out late in the second quarter to tie it at 14, but the Scots took the lead for good on Isaiah Murphy’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Julian Wood with 1 minute, 53 seconds left in the half.
Julius Stringer’s 19-yard interception return for a touchdown halfway through the third quarter gave Walnut Ridge breathing room at 27-14.
Canal Winchester, which finished 6-5, later drove to Walnut Ridge’s 16- and 5-yard lines but came up with no points.
“In the first half, we made plays when we needed them and in the second half, we didn’t,” Indians coach Josh Stratton said.
==========Team 1 2 3 4 Final CANAL WINCHESTER 7 7 0 0 14 WALNUT RIDGE
7 13 7 0 27
WR—Dawson 31 pass from Murphy (Johnson kick)
CW—Howard 55 pass from Beeler (Thompson kick)
WR—Dawson 32 pass from Murphy (Johnson kick)
CW—Do. Davis 1 run (Thompson kick)
WR—Wood 18 pass from Murphy (kick failed)
WR—Stringer 19 INT return (Johnson kick)