Eastmoor Academy proved emphatically on Nov. 9 that it is not a one-man football team.
After losing All-Ohio running back Savon Edwards Jr. to a dislocated shoulder in the opening quarter, and then watching two of his backups go down with injuries, the fourth-seeded Warriors displayed immeasurable depth and fortitude in knocking off top-seeded Hartley 19-14 in a Division III, Region 11 semifinal before a bone-chilled crowd at Hamilton Township.
Eastmoor improved to 11-1 and will play sixth-seeded Thornville Sheridan (11-1) in the regional final Nov. 16, while Hartley finished 9-3.
“You hate to lose a player of that caliber, but we’re anything but a one-horse team,” Eastmoor coach Jim Miranda said. “We had to move kids around and play kids in different positions, but we believe in our kids and their abilities. As I’ve always said, big-time players make big-time plays and our guys stepped up in clutch time.”
Quarterback Marquise Laster hit Napoleon Harris on a 24-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-6 with 9 minutes, 16 seconds remaining to give Eastmoor the lead for good.
“There was an option on the play, but when I saw Marquise roll out, I just kept my eyes on him and kept moving,” Harris said. “This is special for a lot of reasons. We scrimmage Hartley every year, but we’ve never gotten to play them until now for whatever reason. That was an incredible team effort. Our guys stepped up big-time.”
After the loss of Edwards, who came in with 1,478 yards and 30 touchdowns, Tyree Grace-Sawyer and Cameron Long relieved him, but they, too, went down. Micah Coleman became the hammer who closed out the win. He finished with 77 yards on 19 carries.
“I’ve been playing varsity football since I was a freshman and I know how to handle a situation like this,” Coleman said. “A lot of people doubted us tonight, but they don’t realize the type of depth and toughness we have.”
Hamstrung by the loss of quarterback Miles Fleming in the second quarter to an apparent concussion, Hartley couldn’t generate much offense afterward. The Hawks managed just one first down in the second half and didn't cross midfield.
Eastmoor’s defense, led by Travis Clodfelter Jr. and Josh Warren, helped the Warriors tilt the field position.
“Give it up to Eastmoor,” Hartley coach Brad Burchfield said. “They’ve got a senior-oriented group and their defense was great tonight. We knew going in it would be a tight game. It all came down to that fourth-down play, and they converted.”
Miranda said he contemplated attempting a 41-yard field-goal, but the swirling winds and exchange concerns prompted him to go for it.
“I wanted to put it in the hands of my playmakers and they made me look good,” Miranda said.
For Hartley, the defeat snapped a string of eight consecutive trips to the regional final.
==========Team 1 2 3 4 Final EASTMOOR ACADEMY 7 0 0 12 19 HARTLEY
14 0 0 0 14