During its regular-season finale against DeSales on Oct. 31, the Hartley football team trailed by one point midway through the fourth quarter and put together a game-winning touchdown drive to seal the CCL championship.
The top-seeded Hawks found themselves in the same situation against second-seeded Jonathan Alder in the Division III, Region 11 final Nov. 22 at Hilliard Darby, as they trailed by one point midway through the final period, and this time the reward for a comeback win was a regional title and a berth in a state semifinal.
With its 27-14 victory over the Pioneers, Hartley improved to 12-1 and advanced to face Trotwood-Madison (10-3) in a state semifinal Friday, Nov. 29, at London.
The winner advances to the state final to be played Dec. 5, 6 or 7 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.
“It’s a tough matchup with Trotwood (this) week, but we’ll go and give it what we’ve got,” coach Brad Burchfield said.
Hartley is back in a state semifinal after losing in the Region 11 final in 2017 and in a regional semifinal last season.
The Hawks were state runners-up in 2013 and state semifinalists in 2014 in Division V before winning back-to-back Division IV state titles in 2015 and ’16.
Trotwood-Madison, meanwhile, has been one of the state’s premier Division III programs for more than a decade.
The Rams are in the playoffs for the 11th consecutive season and for the 13th time in 14 seasons, with state titles in 2011 and ’17, state runner-up finishes in 2010, ’12, ’13 and ’16 and state semifinal appearances in 2014 and ’15.
Seeded seventh in Region 12 this season, Trotwood-Madison beat fourth-seeded Hamilton Badin 20-7 in its regional final Nov. 22 at Miamisburg.
The Rams faced eight Division I opponents during the regular season and one of their losses came against Division I state semifinalist Springfield, 21-20 on Nov. 1.
Hartley trailed Jonathan Alder 14-13 when it put together the game-winning drive, with Jalan January running on 12 of 13 plays, including for a 5-yard touchdown on fourth-and-1 with 1 minute, 28 seconds remaining.
George Dunor returned an interception 99 yards for a touchdown on the last play for the Hawks, who got 185 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries from January and 51 yards rushing from Angelo Evans. Evans’ 16-yard run on the third play of the game-winning touchdown drive moved the Hawks to their own 41 and January ran the ball on the next 10 plays.
“We knew it was time to go,” senior offensive lineman Kenyon Davis said. “We were down, but we were never out of it. That’s what we practice and that’s how we play. We (reached a state semifinal) as freshmen and we just had that in our minds every day and every practice. We just knew we could do it and we knew how to do it and just put it into action. I love it.”
Trotwood-Madison was leading Badin 14-7 late in the fourth quarter when senior defensive back Sammy Anderson – the Southwest District Defensive Player of the Year – returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown.
Statistically, the Rams have shown a run-first mentality that features freshman Hezekiah Hudson-Davis, who has 1,005 yards and 10 touchdowns on 150 carries.
Junior quarterback Cooper Stewart is 82-for-139 passing for 1,267 yards with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions and has rushed for 233 yards and six touchdowns on 78 carries.
Stewart left the Badin game in the third quarter with an injury and did not return, with senior Keon’tae Huguely filling in. Stewart threw a 69-yard touchdown to senior wide receiver Carl Blanton to give the Rams a 14-7 lead.
Senior running back Keon Hamilton (45 carries, 255 yards, 6 TDs), Huguely (40 carries, 272 yards, 4 TDs), Blanton (27 receptions, 551 yards, 7 TDs) and Anderson (14 receptions, 304 yards, 6 TDs) have been key contributors offensively.
“We probably simplified things a little bit (at the end of the regional final), giving it to Jalan more,” Burchfield said. “You’ve got to find a way to win when games are this tight, similar to that DeSales game where we were down in the fourth quarter and had to find a way to win. I’m proud of these seniors. They’ve obviously had a great year.”