MASSILLON, Ohio — It was perhaps the first time they had truly faced adversity all season, yet in the end, Chardon came through when it mattered and finished on top of Ohio's high school football hill.
The Hilltoppers beat Columbus St. Francis DeSales 31-28 Saturday night to win the OHSAA Division III state championship, overcoming a 14-point fourth quarter deficit before eventually prevailing in double overtime. It's second state title in the program's history, and the first since 1994.
Both teams battled back and forth throughout most of the game, with Chardon (12-0) tying things up at 14 early in the third quarter on a 63-yard touchdown pass from Drew Fetchik to Blake Barker. However, DeSales took control with touchdowns from Quintell Quinn (his third of the night) and Jordan Johnson, and after an apparent hook-and-ladder score by the Hilltoppers was overturned, the Stallions led 28-14 with just 7:36 left in regulation.
But Mitch Hewitt's squad refused to quit, and fought back to tie things up at 28 on another touchdown from Barker and a nine-yard dash by Evan Ash. Nathan Sulka then intercepted a Whit Hobgood pass with two minutes to go, but Nathan Tager's 49-yard field goal attempt sailed short and wide, and things eventually headed to OT.
DeSales and Chardon each had field goals blocked in the first extra period, but Tager finally nailed a 33-yarder to give the Toppers a 31-28 lead. The Stallions (9-2) had a chance to tie it up, but J.J. Baughman's 37-yard attempt went wide left.
Chardon never led until Tager's eventual game-winner, and this matchup marked the only time all year that they won by less than 21 points. DeSales is still searching for its first state title since 1998.
The game took place at Massillon's Paul Brown Tiger Stadium after being moved from Fortress Obetz outside Columbus at the last minute. The change was the result of a stay-at-home advisory in Franklin County.