THORNVILLE — With his football team holding a seven-point lead over Waterford late in the third quarter in a Division VII, Region 27 semifinal Nov. 16 at Thornville Sheridan, Harvest Prep senior Elijah Rogers forced his second fumble in a three-minute span.
Rogers grabbed the ball and raced to the Wildcats’ 5-yard line, setting up a touchdown that gave top-seeded Harvest Prep a 21-7 lead and helped send the Warriors to their second regional championship game.
Harvest Prep, which won a regional title in 2016 but lost in a first-round game in 2017 and in a regional semifinal last season, beat fourth-seeded Waterford 35-21 to improve to 11-1.
The Warriors will play second-seeded Newark Catholic in a regional final Nov. 23 at a neutral site to be announced. The Green Wave beat third-seeded Shadyside 40-0 in the other regional semifinal Nov. 16 at Byesville Meadowbrook to improve to 9-3.
“I ripped it out of his hand and caught it,” Rogers said of his second forced fumble of the game. “We had practiced ripping out the ball in practice. … We started off really slow and (then) we were like a snowball rolling down a hill. We just kept getting more physical and more dominant as the game went on.”
With Harvest Prep leading 14-7, Rogers forced a fumble that was recovered by Javon Eggert at the Waterford 32.
Although the Warriors were stopped for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-5 from the Wildcats’ 17 on the ensuing possession, Rogers’ second forced fumble and recovery two plays later set up Eggert’s 1-yard touchdown run with 1 minute, 8 seconds left in the third quarter.
Eggert, who finished with 175 yards and five touchdowns on 27 carries, ran for a 4-yard touchdown with 7:22 remaining to extend Harvest Prep’s lead to 28-7.
Waterford, which finished 9-3, got a 25-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Zane Heiss to Cole Miller with 4:39 remaining but Eggert ran for a 15-yard touchdown with 2:35 left to make it 35-13.
“A lot of it had to do with the blocking up front,” Eggert said. “All of our guys wanted to win, so we had to bring it.”
Harvest Prep took a 7-0 lead on a 7-yard run by Eggert with 10:04 left in the first quarter. The score was set up by Manny Mullens, who picked up a fumble by Waterford’s Holden Dailey and returned the ball 30 yards.
The Warriors made it 14-0 on a 14-yard touchdown run by Eggert with 1:15 remaining in the first quarter.
Neiko St. Clair had a second-quarter interception for Harvest Prep, which forced four turnovers overall.
==========Team 1 2 3 4 Final WATERFORD 0 7 0 14 21 HARVEST PREP
14 0 7 14 35
HP—Eggert 7 run (Mungia kick)
HP—Eggert 14 run (Mungia kick)
W—Fouss 19 pass from Heiss (Brooker kick)
HP—Eggert 1 run (Mungia kick)
HP—Eggert 4 run (Mungia kick)
W—Miller 25 pass from Heiss (kick failed)
HP—Eggert 15 run (Mungia kick)
W—Fouss 15 pass from Heiss (Dailey run)