Hopewell-Loudon never led in the ball game until the final score in overtime, and when the smoke cleared, the Chieftains were the ones left standing with a 41-38 overtime victory.
Making its sixth straight playoff appearance, and seventh overall, Hopewell-Loudon will play for a state championship for the first time in school history. The Chieftains will play Newark Catholic next Saturday at 11:00 a.m. at Fawcett Stadium in Canton for the Division VI state title.
To get to that point, Hopewell-Loudon converted on what was the biggest gamble of the season.
After holding Ada to a field goal on its overtime possession, the Chieftains faced a fourth-and-goal from the 6 yard line. Instead of going for the tie, Hopewell-Loudon head coach Brian Colatruglio made the call to send his offense out to try for the win. The pass attempt from Tyler Brown to Nate Siebenaller was incomplete, but a pass interference penalty was called on Ada’s Nate Vermillion. Two plays later, Travis Wise dove into the end zone from 1 yard out to send Hopewell-Loudon to the state championship game.
“I put it on the kids what they wanted to do,” said a jubilant Colatruglio after the game. “Nate told me he could beat the kid inside and he did and the kid grabbed his jersey. We had a chance to win the game, we went to our seniors and they said they wanted to go for it.”
The overtime heroics capped off what was a wildly offensive night. Ada’s Zac Dysert, playing in his final high school game before going off to Miami (Ohio), finished 29-of-47 passing for 422 yards and four touchdowns. However, his performance was nearly matched by the unheralded Chieftain quarterback Brown who was 24-of-40 passing for 357 yards and two touchdowns.
Coach Colatruglio spoke highly of his quarterback after the game.
“He has nothing to be ashamed of, he more then held his own (playing opposite Dysert),” said Colatruglio. “I’m very proud and I hope someone was watching. They need to be paying attention to what he’s doing because he’s going to be a big time player.”
At several points during the game, it looked bleak for the Chieftains to even make it to overtime. Ada scored two quick touchdowns in the first quarter on passes of 38 and nine yards from Dysert to Kyle Baker.
In the second quarter, the Chieftains stopped the Bulldogs for the first time on the night when Nick Agin missed a 38-yard field goal. Hopewell-Loudon responded with a 12 play 80 yard drive that Brown finished off with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Siebenaller. The score stood at 14-7 Ada into the halftime break.
“Going down 14-0 we were rattled,” admitted Coach Colatruglio. “They were quick tempo and for the first time in a long time we were rattled. Finally getting a stop before the end of the half was big.”
Hopewell-Loudon tied the game on their first drive of the second half. From that point on, every time Ada would flex their offensive muscles, the Chieftains were able to come back with an answer.
After seeing his team get tied up at 14, Dysert on the first play from scrimmage connected with Vermillion on an 81-yard touchdown pass to put the Bulldogs back on top.
The lead would be short lived as Adam Brickner took the ensuing kickoff back 97 yards to tie the game back up at 21.
With the game later tied at 28 with less than six minutes to play, Dysert again led his team to retake the lead. After converting fourth down-and-inches to keep the drive going, Dysert connected with Vermillion again on a 21-yard touchdown to give Ada a 35-28 led with 3:02 left in regulation.
However, once again Brown led his team to a tie, getting the Chieftains into Ada territory, and then watching Siebenaller make perhaps the play of the year. Brown connected with Siebenaller on a simple sideline pattern but instead of stepping out of bounds to conserve the clock, Siebenaller instead raced up the sideline for a 44-yard game tying touchdown that would send the game to overtime.
“I didn’t really see it, I think I got a little bit of help from somewhere above,” said Siebenaller. “Then I realized I wasn’t out of bounds so I just took off running.”
And the Chieftains of Hopewell-Loudon take off running into the state championship game, where they will try to bring back to Bascom, the first state title in school history.