By: Kent Hutchison – THE VILLAGE REPORTER
GIBSONBURG – The task at hand was simple for the Edon Bombers; win and clinch a playoff berth or lose and have their fate dependent upon others. The Bombers made the long bus ride to Gibsonburg and left nothing to chance by pounding the Golden Bears 40-21.
The Bombers began the night on offense at their 18 yard line. Immediately Edon headed in the right direction. Quarterback Kaden Sapp hit his favorite target Connor Hug for eight yards, then called his own number for 19 more. Sapp to Hug again for 27 left the ball at the Gibsonburg 28. Trevor Green gained one yard on his first carry, then Sapp connected with Brock Thiel to pick up 12 more. On first down with the ball resting at the Bears 15 yard line, Sapp missed Hug. Green gained two, then Sapp added six. Edon faced the first big decision of the night as it was fourth and two at the Gibsonburg seven. The Bombers decided to go for the touchdown instead of the field goal. Sapp rolled right, but was unable to find anyone and was dropped for a one yard loss turning the ball over to the Bears.
Gibsonburg started their initial offensive possession at their eight yard line. In thirteen plays and a little under five minutes, the Golden Bears clawed their way 92 yards, and added a two point conversion to take the early lead 8-0 with 4:49 left in the first quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Hug had a nice return advancing the ball from the twelve to the Bombers 38 yard line. Sapp’s pass to Landon Bloir was just out of reach, then Hug gained five on the ground. Facing 3rd and 5, Sapp came up short after gaining three. With another fourth down staring them in the face, Edon decided to punt this time. Mike Peeples and the rest of the punt team assumed the formation. As the ball was snapped Peeples jumped high in the air as the ball apparently went over his head. Instead like a post Halloween trick, the snap went directly to Hug who sprinted right past the Gibsonburg bench for a 22 yard gain and a Bomber first down to advance the ball to the Bears 32 yard line. Edon needed just one more play to add six to the board as Sapp rolled right and hit Hug for a 32 yard score. Peeples extra point attempt was wide right and the Bombers had narrowed the deficit to 8-6 as 3:07 remained in the opening period.
The Edon score did little to discourage the determination of the Bears. Gibsonburg extended their lead to 14-6 as they covered 73 yards in seven plays, in large part due to the passing arm of quarterback Matt Tille.
Hug fielded the kickoff for the Bombers and returned the ball to the Edon 29 yard line. The Bombers field position improved 15 yards after a late hit was assessed to Gibsonburg. The drive started with Sapp hitting Bloir for twelve yards. The quarter ended as Sapp raced through the Bear defense for 29 yards leaving the ball at the Bears 15. Sapp found Thiel again for nine more as the ball rested at the Burg 6 yard line. Sapp covered the remaining distance with his legs to cut the Bears lead to 14-12. It appeared the game was tied as Sapp laid the ball across the goal line after a designed quarterback sweep on the conversion attempt. However, the perception was a mirage when the side judge determined the signal caller’s knee was down before the ball crossed into the end zone.
The Edon defense wasn’t on the field for long. On first down Tyler Seaman tossed Josh Dyer for a one yard loss. The Bombers regained possession when Hug stepped in front of a pass from Tille and returned it to the Edon 36 yard line. Hug got the ball again on offense and gained four. Green had a nice gain on second down, but it was for naught when the official walked the ball back to the Bomber 20 yard line after signaling holding on Edon. Faced with second and 26, the Bombers picked up 25 when Sapp hit Thiel. On third and one Sapp picked up the first down and more when the quarterback draw resulted in a 55 yard touchdown scamper. Peeples boot split the uprights and for the first time of the night Edon led, 19-14 with 8:54 to go before halftime.
If the Edon team and fans weren’t fired up enough already, they were in a total frenzy after three consecutive pass attempts from Tille fell to the turf. The Bears punted on fourth down and the ball came to rest with no return at the Edon 33 yard line.
With lead in hand the Bombers marched back on the field. Sapp to Hug moved the ball 17 yards to the midfield stripe. Consecutive runs by Sapp netted one, then 11 yards. Sapp targeted another aerial in Hug’s direction on first down, but the ball sailed out of bounds. Hug added one on the ground, then Sapp had a nice run negated by a holding penalty. The infraction sent the ball back to the Edon 44 yard line. Thiel hauled in another toss for eight yard, but the Bombers wisely decided to punt on fourth down and 18 from the Gibsonburg 46. Peeples’ first punt of the night was fair caught at the Bears 13 yard line.
Gibsonburg was able to pick up one first down on the possession, but thereafter the Bomber defense tightened forcing another punt. This time Hug returned the ball to the Edon 31 yard line.
The Bombers were stymied once again as Sapp was unable to connect with Thiel on first down. Sapp hit Hug for eight, but lost two on third down. This time Peeples kick sailed out of bounds at the Gibsonburg 40 yard line.
Following an incompletion from Tille, Sapp shifted the momentum back in the favor of Edon when he stepped in the path of a Tille pass. The pick gave Edon the ball back on the Burg 40 yard line.
With only 1:05 to go before halftime, the Bombers shifted gears to full hurry up mode. Sapp directed another toss in Hug’s direction and the senior leaped high above two defenders to grab the ball. However, three consecutive incompletions left Edon facing fourth and 10 from the Gibsonburg 33 with just over 30 seconds remaining. Sapp rolled right, but was unable to find an open receiver. He raced all the way back across the field left only to find a wide open Peeples for an apparent Bomber score with just 22 seconds left in the half. However, after a brief meeting between the officials it was determined Sapp was beyond the line of scrimmage on the pass and the ball was turned over on downs to Gibsonburg at the Bears 38 yard line.
With little time left, Hayward gained 17 for the Bears. However, Gibsonburg gave the ball right back to Edon when Tille hit Thiel instead of another Bear at the Burg 45 yard line.
With just 4.9 seconds left on the clock Sapp pitched to Hug, who in turn threw back to Sapp. The play resulted in just a short gain as the clock ticked to zero with Edon leading 19-14 at intermission.
Edon lined up to kick off to start the second half. As Hug was set to boot the ball deep, instead he caught the entire Gibsonburg return team off guard with a perfect onside kick that was covered by Jordan Whittaker at the Bears 45 yard line. The kick brought the visitors sideline and stands to life as the offense burst back out on the field. Hug got another shot and gained five, then Green added 12 yards and another first down. The next play resulted in a seven yard loss as the shotgun snap was high and ricocheted from Sapp’s hands into Hug’s. A strike from Sapp to Hug gained 10 back, but on third and seven the combo were unable to connect. It was decision time once again for Edon on fourth and seven from the Bears 25. This time the choice paid dividends as Sapp followed his line through the middle for just enough for the first down. With the ball at the Bears 18, Sapp gained six on first down, then Green gained three before being held to no gain on third. There was no doubt the Bombers were going for it once again with fourth down and one at the nine yard line. Sapp sprinted all the way across the field left, then back right. The quarterback stopped just enough to set his feet and find Hug wide open in the back corner of the endzone. When Peeples boot was spot on once again, Edon was in control 26-14 with 8:04 left in the third quarter.
If the score hadn’t done enough to fire up the Bombers even more, the next defensive series did. A hold sent the Bears back to their 26 yard line and an incompletion followed. Consecutive sacks by Whittaker and Green led to a fourth down punt from the Gibsonburg 20 yard line. The punt was shanked out of bounds and marked at the Bears 43 yard line.
Sensing the win and impending playoff berth associated with it, Edon kicked it into high gear. Sapp hit Peeples for nine and ran for another ten to move the ball to the Bears 24. Green added seven, but a false start moved the ball back five yards. Undaunted, Sapp found Hug again to cover the 22 yards needed for another touchdown. The Peeples kick was true to move Edon comfortably ahead 33-14 with 3:36 still left in the third quarter.
A short kick return gave the beaten down Bears the ball at their 28 yard line. A second down screen pass led to a first down, but an incompletion and a Heath Brown tackle led to a three yard loss. Now in desperation mode facing third and 13, Gibsonburg resorted to a trick of their own. A toss sweep to Heyward was a designed pass. However, the toss hung in the air for what seemed to be an eternity before falling into Brown’s hands for Edon’s fourth interception of the night.
With great field position once again the Bombers looked poised to leave no doubt in the outcome of the game. Green galloped for 16 yards to give Edon first and goal at the five yard line. Green moved the Bombers two yards closer on first down, but Thiel lost two on second. On third and goal at the five Sapp sent another pass to Hug. Unfortunately Hug slipped on the moist turf during his cut and the ball landed in the hands of the Gibsonburg cornerback who fell to the ground at the ten.
The Bomber defense rose to the occasion once again forcing a three and out with 11:21 remaining in the game. The Bears punter booted the ball to the Edon 42 where it was downed.
With the game well in hand Coach Scott Staten decided to milk the clock and go almost exclusively to the ground game burning 7:40 seconds off in thirteen plays. Sapp for three, then Hug for a loss of one proceeded an eight yard scamper by Sapp which resulted in a first down. Green gained four, then five on two successive carries, but Sapp lost one. In the only pass of the series Sapp hit Thiel for a big 19 yard gain. Green for another four, then Sapp added one then nine to move the chains to the Gibsonburg seven yard line. Hug moved the ball to the one yard line with another run, then Sapp left no doubt the Bombers were heading back to the playoffs when he plunged in for the score. Peeples hit his fourth straight PAT for the 40-14 advantage.
The Golden Bears added a score in their last possession as the Bombers substituted freely on defense. Edon got the ball back with 2:13 left and continued to run out the clock. As the scoreboard ticked to zero the Bomber players, coaches, cheerleaders and fans erupted onto the field to take part in the celebration.
Kaden Sapp had another huge night for Edon. The junior signal caller finished 16-25 passing for 259 yards with three touchdown passes and one interception. He also was the leading rusher for the Bombers with 22 carries for 172 yards and three more scores. Hug had an exceptional night as well hauling in 9 catches for 165 yards and 3 TD’s. For the second week in a row Hug lined up more frequently in the backfield as the senior had 8 totes for 36 yards. After just two first half carries, Green picked up the majority of the workload in the second half and ended with 14 totes for 55 yards. Other receptions included Thiel who had 5 catches for 73 yards, Bloir hauled in one pass for 12 yards and Peeples had one catch for nine yards.
Following the game Coach Staten shared his feelings on the win. “I’m super excited for our kids, for our seniors, our community and everyone who has rallied behind us.” When asked how the team has responded the last two weeks to falling behind early and coming back to dominate the game the coach replied, “We talked about it before the game and halftime that hard work and dedication pays off. Our kids have worked their tails off, especially in the off season, to get to this point. The overall resiliency of our kids is amazing. They fight real hard and have exceptional mental toughness. We talk all the time about mental toughness and being able to handle adversity.
Our kids continue to fight like crazy and never get rattled. I’m very proud of them for that.” Now that the Bombers are guaranteed to be in the playoffs Coach Staten was asked about potential matchups. “The projections prior to the game indicated we would play Tiffin Calvert at Tiffin if we both won tonight. Three out of the four times we have made the playoffs it has been against Calvert at Tiffin. Whatever the matchup is we will get our kids as prepared as possible and see where it takes us.” The coaches’ prediction was spot on as the 8-2 Bombers ended up fifth in Division VII Region 24 and will once again travel to Tiffin to take on Calvert. The Senecas come in at 6-4 and fourth in the region. The Bombers, who are making their first playoff appearance since 2011, are looking for their initial playoff victory. Kickoff will be at 7:00 pm on Saturday, November 9th.
Kent Hutchison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org