NEW MIDDLETOWN A Potter and a Wildcat teamed up to turn the tide for the Ohio team.
Keyed by back-to-back big plays by two local players, the Ohio football rallied to defeat Pennsylvania, 19-7, in the 33rd Annual Penn-Ohio Stateline Classic June 29 at Springfield High School.
The Buckeyes scored the final 19 points of the game after the Keystoners took a 7-0 lead less than a minute into the second quarter.
Crestview’s Adam?Coppock, Edison’s Shane O’Brien, Lisbon’s Zac Barnes and East Liverpool’s Marky Thompkins take part in player introductions June 29 at Springfield High School. (Photo by Aaron Petchal)
With the score deadlocked at 7 late in the third quarter, Pennsylvania attempted a trick-play pass. East Liverpool's Marky Thompkins, who was beat on the play, was able to use his speed to get back into the play, intercepted the pass giving Ohio the ball at its own 19-yard line.
"I just noticed he beat me, and I just turned around and I ran," Thompkins said. "I got to it."
On the next play, Edison's Shane O'Brien weaved his way through the Pennsylvania defense for a 43-yard gain.
"I love cutback lanes," O'Brien said. "I knew it was a toss play to the left, and I just remember seeing the cutback to the right. I cut it back and I saw daylight, so everything worked out.
"I thank my line 100 percent for all of the blocks they gave me, and all of my fullbacks for opening up holes. I give them all of the credit."
The 81-yard drive was capped by 3-yard scoring run by Steubenville's William Houst putting the Buckeyes out in front by a score of 13-7.
Springfield quarterback Nick Russell capped the scoring in the game with a 5-yard scoring scamper with a little more than two minutes to play in the game.
O'Brien finished the game with 87 yards on the ground, and he was named Ohio's MVP.
Houst was named one of Ohio's Linemen of the Game.
After Pennsylvania took its 7-0 lead, Ohio came back with a score to tie the game at 7 heading into halftime. Indian Creek's Mark Ludewig plowed into the end zone from the 1, and East Palestine's Jake DiCello converted the extra point to tie the score with 5:31 left to play before halftime.
The drive was set up by a good punt return by Thompkins.
Though the punt return set up the Buckeyes' first score of the game, the interception perhaps made the biggest difference in the game.
"I think it was a game-changer," Thompkins said. "That is just what I feel that I am good at. I did it again, and I feel good about it."
Ohio head coach Andrew Connor said Thompkins' interception provided a big lift to Ohio while deflating Pennsylvania.
"Ah, that was a great play," he said. "I mean that was just a great play. Obviously, it was a game-changing play. It was one of those plays that tilt the field. They get that, who knows what happens. We get it, and we go down and score after that play.
"Again, those are the plays you have to make in an all-star game. It was an exceptional play he made there. He took the ball away, and like I said you get a big play off of a play when they are trying to make a big play. They were trying to get a big play on us. They probably thought they had us, and Marky did a great job getting back there and he made a big play for us."
Houst, who dominated the line of scrimmage, said the interception was one of the biggest plays in the game.
"Yeah, I was happy for him," he said. "He deserved it."
Thompkins' interception not only fired up the defense, but the offense was also pumped up as it headed out onto the field to begin the next drive.
"Oh yeah, any turnover in a game is huge, so anytime you get an interception like that you get some momentum on your side, that is huge," O'Brien said.
If the interception by Thompkins did not deflate the Keystoners, O'Brien's long run really took the air out of them.
"That felt good after that to see him run like that," Thompkins said. "I just wish he would have scored. That would have been even better."
O'Brien's strengths as a running back are his vision and his ability to cutback, and he used both of them during his back-breaking run.
"Yeah, I definitely think that kind of showed my strengths as a running back are my cutbacks and my agility and my quickness," O'Brien said.
Houst capped the game-changing sequence with the go-ahead score.
"Shane is the one who had the big run that got me my touchdown, so I appreciate him too, a lot," Houst said.
The Buckeyes outrushed the Keystoners in the game. O'Brien, who was the leading rusher in the game, was just one of a plethora of players to carry the ball for Ohio.
Connor said O'Brien's run was a big play for the Buckeyes.
"It was," he said. "Like I said, it was one of those things where we mixed a lot of backs up. A lot of guys touched the ball today, and we tried to do our best to make sure these kids all got involved in the game.
"We tried to rotate kids into the game the best we could, and again hats off to my coaching staff because I think they took the game very seriously. They tried to do right by all of the kids, and I think the kids did right by their home schools. They represented them well, and they represented the state of Ohio very well."