RACINE, Ohio — Some of the most valuable moments in a football game happen between the second and third quarters.
The Southern football team turned a seven-point halftime lead into a 40-point victory Saturday night, as the Tornadoes defeated Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division archrival Eastern by a 47-7 count, in the season finale at Roger Lee Adams Memorial Football Field.
The Tornadoes (4-6, 3-5 TVC Hocking) intercepted Eastern’s (2-8, 2-6) first pass attempt of the game and three plays later were set up with a first-and-goal. The Eagle defense stopped the Purple and Gold on fourth-and-goal, but Southern’s defense forced the guests into a three-and-out.
Southern failed to convert on fourth down in EHS territory for the second straight drive, and the Green and Gold took over on their own 27. Eastern gained a quick first down and advance the ball near midfield before being forced to punt.
EHS forced the Tornadoes into a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, and the Eagles setup their offense at their own 44. Holding penalties pushed the Eagles back to their own 10-yard line and the Tornado defense forced another punt. However, the punt was mishandled by Southern, and Eastern recovered at its own 23. The Eagles were forced to punt just six plays later, and Southern began its next possession on the Eastern 24-yard line.
The Purple and Gold faced a third-and-10 after back-to-back incompletions, but junior quarterback Blake Johnson, who was flushed out of the pocket, found junior tight end Crenson Rogers for a 24-yard touchdown pass. Tommy Ramthun knocked home the point after kick and Southern led 7-0 with 9:15 remaining in the first half.
The Eastern offense found its way into Tornado territory for the first time on the ensuing possession, but a third down sack by SHS senior Theron Johnson stymied the EHS drive and forced the Eagles to punt.
Southern picked up two quick first downs on their next drive, but a bad snap was recovered by Eastern junior Mac Browning on the SHS 19-yard line. On the second play of Eastern’s possession junior quarterback Jett Facemyer connected with fellow junior Jeremiah Martindale for a 19-yard touchdown pass. Facemyer added the point after to tie the game at seven with 1:07 remaining in the second quarter.
The Tornadoes completed four passes on the ensuing drive, the last of which was a 25-yard scoring toss from Blake Johnson to Ramthun with just 10 seconds left in the half. Ramthun added the point after and Southern led 14-7 at the break.
On the first drive of the second half Southern marched 47 yards on seven straight running plays, but fumbled on the EHS five-yard line, giving the ball to the Eagles.
Eastern never escaped the shadow of its own goal posts and the Eagles were forced to punt after just three plays. Southern blocked the punt and took possession on the EHS four-yard line. SHS sophomore Dylan Smith found paydirt from three yards out on second down and, with Ramthun’s kick, Southern pushed its lead to 21-7.
The Southern defense forced another three-and-out on the next Eastern possession, and the Tornadoes took possession at midfield. On the fourth play of the Tornado drive Blake Johnson found junior Clayton Wood for a 16-yard touchdown that, with Ramthun’s extra point, gave Southern a 28-7 lead.
The Eagles were intercepted again on their next possession and Southern setup its offense on the EHS 38. On Southern’s second offensive play of the drive, Blake Johnson connected with Ramthun for a 38-yard scoring pass, giving the Purple and Gold a 34-7 lead with 52 seconds left in the third quarter.
Eastern gave the ball away again on its next drive, as SHS senior Joe Beegle recovered a fumble on the EHS 33. SHS junior Kody Greene broke a 29-yard run followed by a four-yard run, which found the endzone. Ramthun kicked home the point after and Southern led 41-7 with 36 seconds to play in the third quarter.
SHS forced yet another three-and-out on the next Eastern possession, and Southern took over on its own 37. A 26-yard run by Beegle, teamed with two EHS personal fouls, gave Southern a first-and-goal at the Eagle 10. Blake Johnson completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Wood at the 7:35 mark of the fourth quarter, and SHS led 47-7. That play turned out to be the final play of the game, however, as a sideline-clearing brawl forced the game to be stopped.
“Hopefully this springboards us for next year,” Southern head coach Kyle Wickline said. “We’ve talked about playing with a lot more emotion, and we knew Eastern would bring that out in us. I hate to see the way it ended, but our kids played hard all the way through. It was a great effort from our guys.”
The Tornadoes held a 16-to-4 advantage in first downs and a 392-to-55 advantage in total offense, including a 158-to-18 edge on the ground. Eastern, which was picked off twice, fumbled twice and lost possession on one. The Tornadoes weren’t intercepted in the game, but lost possession on 3-of-4 fumbles. EHS was penalized seven times for a total of 60 yards, while Southern was flagged five times for a total of 30 yards.
“That first long drive of the second half kind of wore us out a bit,” Eastern head coach Pat Newland said. “After that they caught us on a couple of long passes and you can’t give that up.”
Blake Johnson threw for 234 yards and five touchdowns for the Purple and Gold, completing 15-of-22 passes including 11 of his last 12. Greene led SHS on the ground with 84 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, followed by Smith with 49 yards and a touchdown on three carries. Beegle had one 26-yard run, while Riley Roush had 13 yards on three carries.
Ramthun led all receivers with 96 yards and two touchdowns on four receptions, while Smith hauled in four passes for a total of 20 yards. Rogers had 64 yards and one touchdown on three receptions, Wood added 44 yards and two touchdowns on three grabs, while Greene caught one pass for 10 yards.
Southern’s defense was led by Theron Johnson with six tackles and a sack, while Ramthun and Smith both intercepted a pass.
Facemyer posted 37 yards and a score on 2-of-11 passing for the Eagles, with both completions going to Martindale. Reagan Rucker led EHS on the ground with nine yards on four carries, followed by Facemyer and Josh Brewer with five yards apiece, and Trenton Delacruz with three.
Eastern’s defense was led by Rucker with eight tackles and a sack, while Delacruz added six tackles and a sack in the setback.
This is Southern’s first win since October 2, while Eastern finishes the campaign with five straight setbacks.
This marks the final game in the careers of Southern seniors Tommy Ramthun, Joe Beegle, Theron Johnson, Jeremy Dutton, Kris Shortridge and Dalton Patterson. SHS honored it’s and Eastern’s seniors prior to the game.
“It’s sad to see them leave,” Wickline said of his seniors. “I’m happy for them to go out with a victory, its been a tough year for them, so this is something we’re going to hold on to for a while.”
This marks the final game for Eastern seniors Cameron Richmond, Reagan Rucker, Jesse Morris, Chase Williams, Austin Life, Ross Keller and Chase Curtis.
“They’ve done a great job this year,” Newland said of his seniors. “I know we haven’t won very many games, but they’ve played their hearts out. They’ve done a great job and I can’t say enough good things about them. We have a lot of young guys that played tonight, we just have to stay with it and keep faith.”
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.