ELIDA -- For nearly 1 1/2 quarters on Friday night, Defiance's game plan to possess the football and keep Elida's high-powered offense off the field was working to perfection.
But a bad play on a fourth-and-one for Defiance seemed to turn the tide for Elida as the home Bulldogs pulled away to a 52-20 win over Defiance at Elida's Kraft Field.
The win appears to have secured a second straight trip to the playoffs for Elida (7-3, 6-3 WBL), a first in school history, while the loss brings an end to the season for Defiance (4-6, 3-6 WBL).
"We battled and we fought them, but too many missed tackles on defense ... geez we couldn't stop them. They're a machine," stated Defiance mentor Jerry Buti about the Elida offense led by senior quarterback Reggie McAdams, who is headed to Akron on a basketball scholarship. "I was pleased with our offensive effort, but it was tough for us."
Defiance took the opening kickoff and drove 83 yards, capping a 12-play drive when junior signal-caller Joe Keween hit sophomore wideout Austin Hancock from 26 yards out to give Defiance a 7-0 with 5:08 to play in the first quarter.
Elida needed only two plays to tie it, with McAdams hitting Austin Etzler on a 66-yard scoring play to make it a 7-7 game.
Defiance kept at its game plan, however, to once again regain the lead. This time the visiting Bulldogs went 80 yards in 15 plays, capping off a scoring drive with a Nick Lopez 2-yard plunge to paydirt. When Hancock added the extra point, Defiance led 14-7 with 11:23 to go in the opening half.
"Credit Defiance's offense for taking what our defense was giving them early in the game, they played well in that first quarter," said Elida head coach Jason Carpenter. "We just needed to get a stop ... we felt like we could answer on offense, we needed some stops. When we got one, we went ahead and all the momentum was ours."
Elida needed just four plays to tie the game at 14-14 early in the second quarter, with Colin Blymyer scoring the first of his four rushing touchdowns on a 1-yard run. Blymyer finished with 144 yards on 20 carries.
It was on Defiance's next possession the game that turned in favor of the home Bulldogs.
Facing a fourth-and-one at its own 29, Defiance looked to get the ball to Lopez on a run to the right and keep the drive alive. On the exchange from Keween, however, the ball hit the turf where Keween had to fall on it at the Defiance 22. When Blymyer scored again from one yard out after the fumble, Elida was up 21-14 with 7:05 to go in the first half.
"That fourth-down play blew up in our face and not getting that changed things," said Buti. "If we get that, it keeps us in the game. But tonight was pretty much what I saw for 10 weeks. Give them credit, their quarterback is very good, the Etzler kid is a man at wide receiver and they're just a machine offensively."
The Elida defense then forced Defiance into a three-and-out on its next possession. When Elida punt returner Aaron Fay took a Shallus Beatty punt and returned it 32 yards to the DHS 16, Elida had another short field. Blymyer covered the 16 yards on a pair of runs to make the score 28-14.
"Elida is a big-play team, but we missed so many tackles inside tonight," Buti said. "I thought we had the Blymyer kid penned in several times, then I look and he's getting five or six more yards. There was some terrible tackling, just terrible. To me that's the number-one problem we have, and Lord knows we work on it."
Carpenter felt good not only about the play of his offense, but of his special teams as well. With Etzler kicking off into the end zone on almost every kick, and with Elida coming up with some big returns, that too turned out to be a key in the Elida victory.
"I thought out kicking game was excellent, we got some big returns, our offense played well and our defense played better after the first quarter," Carpenter said. "I thought we were firing on all cylinders after that first quarter, which was good to see. People tend to forget about the kicking game, but it was big for us again tonight."
Elida, which came into the night fifth in Division III Region 10 and in control of its own playoff destiny, appears to be hitting the road on Friday to take on Bellevue in the first round of the playoffs. That could change, pending the outcome of an OHSAA investigation into whether or not Wapakoneta played an ineligible player and which could lead to games being forfeited.
Lopez led Defiance with 94 yards on 28 carries and a pair of touchdown runs. Keween was 19-of-29 passing for 209 yards and one TD. Hancock had four catches for 101 yards and a TD.
McAdams was 12-of-19 passing for 191 yards, with Etzler finishing with five catches for 107 yards and one TD.
First Downs 17 14
Rushing Yards 41-64 23-232
Passing Yards 209 193
Total Yards 273 425
Passing 19-30-1 12-17-0
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties 6-60 8-69
Defiance 7 7 6 0 - 20
Elida 7 21 7 17 - 52
D - Hancock 26-pass from Keween (Hancock kick).
E - Etzler 66-pass from McAdams (Etzler kick).
D - Lopez 2-run (Hancock kick).
E - Blymyer 1-run (Etzler kick).
E - Blymyer 1-run (Etzler kick).
E - Blymyer 8-run (Etzler kick).
E - Blymyer 1-run (Jenkins kick).
E - Newby 11-pass from McAdams (Jenkins kick).
D - Lopez 10-run (pass failed).
E - Jenkins 22-field goal.
E - White 75-run (Jenkins kick).
RUSHING: Defiance - Lopez 28-94; Chavez 3-7; Kahle 3-(-1); Batt 1-(-4); Keween 6-(-32). Elida - Blymyer 20-144; White 1-75; McAdams 2-13. PASSING: Defiance - Keween 19-29-1-209; Batt 0-1-0-0. Elida - McAdams 12-17-0-191. RECEIVING: Defiance - Hancock 6-101; Guilliam 6-47; Voll 3-41; Lopez 6-20. Elida - Etzler 5-107; Newby 4-58; Pauff 2-29; Greeley 1-4.