CANTON, Ohio — A matchup between two of the best defenses in Ohio was as advertised, and when the dust had cleared from the field at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, the Chardon Hilltoppers had added to what could be a dynasty in the making.
Chardon won its second straight OHSAA Division III state football championship Friday afternoon with a 21-14 victory over Father Badin out of the Cincinnati area. Sean Carr's 2-yard touchdown run with just over a minute left provided the difference, and an interception by Heath Fetchik on the final drive sealed the deal.
Re-listen to Dave "Dino" DeNatale's call of the game in the player below:
The Toppers struck first on an early 36-yard touchdown pass from Alex Henry to Nathaniel Sulka, but that was about as good as it got for the offenses for most of the day. The defending champs managed just 24 total yards in the second quarter, and a Jack Walsh scoring run just before halftime made it 7-7.
Chardon re-took the lead on its first drive of the second half when Jack Bruce found room to the right and scampered 27 yards for the touchdown, but the Badin came right back on its next series thanks to a 6-yard TD by Carter Russo. The teams combined for eight straight punts until just 3:13 remained in the game, when the Rams' Reese Anzalone was forced to kick from his own 3 and saw it travel just 26 yards.
A short cry from the end zone, Mitch Hewitt once again trusted his potent running game, with Bruce breaking away for 18 yards before Carr found the end zone three plays later. Badin would get once more chance to tie it, but on fourth-and-2 from his own 31, backup quarterback Alex Ritzie's pass was picked off by Fetchick.
The Hilltoppers out-gained the Rams 233-143, with Carr, Bruce, and Henry combining for 175 on the ground. On defense, linebacker Brody Dotson tied for the game-high with 11 tackles (2 1/2 for a loss, including half a sack) while Rocco Perrico had 1 1/2 sacks.
With their 28th straight win and the added round to this year's playoffs, Chardon earns its third-ever state championship and becomes the first team in Ohio high school football history to finish a season 16-0. Badin finished 14-1, still searching for its first title since 1990.
Family and friends gathered outside the high school Friday night to greet the players as they arrived home from Stark County. The local school board plans to formally honor the team in the coming days.
"Our student athletes and coaches demonstrated grit and perseverance tonight in crafting a victory that forges their legacy in a rich tradition of Hilltopper football," Chardon Superintendent Michael Hanlon said in a statement.
This was just the first matchup in our Friday state championship doubleheader on WKYC.com. At 7:20 p.m., we'll bring you the Division I title game as St. Edward battles Springfield. Then on Saturday, we'll be back in Canton for the Division V championship showdown between Kirtland and Versailles. Coverage with Dave DeNatale and Tyler Carey will begin at 7:20 p.m.
Dino and TC previewed all the action earlier this week:
More coverage of the OHSAA state championships:
- Archbishop Hoban defeated by Winton Woods in Division II state football title game
- Game on! Canton set to host Ohio's high school football state championship games this weekend
- WKYC.com to provide audio webcast of 3 high school football state championship games involving Northeast Ohio teams this weekend