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Lake Catholic falls to Van Wert 31-28 in D-IV state football championship game

The Cougars' title drought extends to 20 years.
Credit: OHSAA
Lake Catholic quarterback Joe Malchesky.

MASSILLON, Ohio β€” It was certainly a heck of a run for the Lake Catholic football team, but it sadly didn't end they way they had hoped.

The Cougars lost the OHSAA Division IV state championship game 31-28 to Van Wert on Sunday. Sophomore kicker Damon McCracken hit a 25-yard field with nine seconds left, his only such attempt of the season.

The matchup was a back-and-forth affair, although Lake Catholic (8-3) raced out to a 21-7 third quarter lead thanks to Joe Malchesky, who intercepted a pass on defense and ran for a 53-yard touchdown on offense. However, Van Wert (11-1) tied it back up on the strength of the arm of Owen Treece, including a 42-yard scoring pass to Connor Pratt early in the fourth.

Malchesky appeared to run into the history books with another long touchdown run, this time for 50 yards out to give Lake Catholic a 28-21 advantage. Yet on the very next Van Wert drive, Treece was able to scramble and find Nathan Jackson in the end zone to tie the game with two and a half minutes left. Not long after, Dru Johnson intercepted Malchesky, setting up McCracken's kick that eventually sealed the game after a desperation heave by Malchesky fell well short.

Lake Catholic entered as the 12th seed in the Region 13 bracket and pulled off upsets over higher-ranked teams like Canton South and Lawrence Northwest, but it wasn't enough to nab their first state championship since 2001. Van Wert, meanwhile, earned its first-ever state title in any team sport.

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.