Patrick Henry came out early in the contest exercising its muscle. Behind their hard hitting offensive line, Patriot’s quarterback Tom Busch and running back Drew Kuesel combined to give Patrick Henry a 21-7 lead as time in the first half was rapidly expiring. In building their 21-7 lead the Patriots had driven the ball down the field with relative ease but, with Liberty-Benton’s talented sophomore Aaron Craft at the controls, the pesky Eagles were driving the ball in the half’s closing seconds. Suddenly, a play that will likely become a part of both teams’ folklore occurred that proved to be a game changer.
Liberty-Benton had not looked good in the first half but, thanks to a 40-yard interception return by Aaron Craft, the Eagles found themselves in position to pull within one score. With 15 seconds remaining in the half and following a timeout, the Eagles executed a nearly perfect hook and ladder play that had the potential to be a big gainer but, for unknown reasons, the Eagles’ Kerry Cramner threw the ball over his head, without looking, and Patrick Henry’s Zach Botjer found himself in position to retrieve the bouncing ball. Botjer ran, unmolested, 59 yards into the end zone as time expired to give the Patriots a 28-7 lead.
“Hindsight is 20-20 and, if I had it to do over, I wouldn’t do it again but it was a play that we had worked on since day one and I felt that we could execute it. It is not the kids fault. I take full responsibility but you can’t take it back, “ said Liberty-Benton coach Tom Nichols.
“It was the most bizarre play I've been a part of in 17 years [as a head coach],” said Patrick Henry head coach Bill Inselmann. “That had to be demoralizing for them. We had thrown an interception, and Craft had returned it for a touchdown to give them momentum. We got [momentum] back. It erased that interception in our minds.”
The second half was more of the same as the Patriots remained in complete control of the action. Liberty-Benton had moments of fleeting glory as they tried to crawl back into the contest but the closest the Eagles could get was 10 points early in the third quarter. Drew Kuesel and the Patriots, however, were just too tough.
Kuesel, who ran for 220 yards and 5 touchdowns, was a true workhorse for the Patriots.
“He (Kuesel) was kind of on a different level,” said Eagles’ coach Tom Nichols. He’s definitely the best back we have seen.”
Overall the victorious Patriots amassed 455 yards of total offense. Quarterback Tom Busch had an unusually good night passing by wisely picking his spots. Although Busch only put the ball in the air seven times, he completed five of them for 108 yards.
In a losing cause, Liberty-Benton still managed to put up impressive numbers. Liberty-Benton’s Aaron Craft ran for 103 yards and passed for 259 yards but it proved to be far too little
With their victory, Patrick Henry improved to 12-1 and advances to the state semifinals against Marion Local, to be played next Friday at Findlay. Liberty-Benton suffered its first loss of the season after 12 wins.