By Bill Bray
FREMONT – “Win, lose or draw remember, you have been in LITTLE GIANT COUNTRY”. This quote reverberated after every Little Giant home game when PA announcer Jack Chapin would bid ado to Friday night football back in the 1970s.
The Findlay Trojans (2-4 1-2), behind a questionable final play of the game, humbled and devastated the Little Giant faithful on a final kickoff return to win the contest 50-48 in LITTLE GIANT COUNTRY.
It was, quite honestly, another mediocre first half for Ross who was outscored 23-14 at the break and watched as Findlay quarterback sensation, sophomore Ryan Montgomery led his team with three first half touchdown passes.
Ross (5-1, 2-1) drew first blood after stealing the opening kickoff from Findlay after Carter Rodriquez squibbed a kick that Fremont was able to recover. :54 seconds into the game, Kelandre Jones found the endzone on a four-yard run to put Ross up 7-0.
Findlay came storming back mostly on the arm of Montgomery as he finished the drive with 9:42 left in the opening quarter on a 14-yard strike to receiver Donovan Harris. Owen Clevenger shanked the extra point and Ross held a 7-6 advantage.
Findlay erupted for two more first quarter touchdowns as Montgomery continued his assault with passes to Harris again, this time on a six-yard toss and then found Antwon Murphy with a short two-yard strike. Both scores occurred in a matter of three and a half minutes. Suddenly Findlay built a 20-7 lead as the first quarter came to an end.
The Little Giants used a sustained drive to find paydirt a second time with 3:14 remaining in the first half. Kaden Holmes found Anthony Vann for a 7-yard touchdown as Rodriguez added the extra point and Ross was back to within six at 20-14.
Findlay was not finished with their first half scoring. With :22 ticks of the clock left in the first half; Clevenger gave the Trojans what in the final analysis was three important points on a 24-yard field goal to give Findlay the nine-point cushion at the break.
Coach Chad Long’s goal in his halftime talk was to come out, take the opening kickoff and drive down for a score to get “right back in the game.” That is exactly what his Little Giants did. Jones’ number was called again and the senior running back scored from three yards out, Rodriguez, however missed the extra point and Ross was back to within three at 23-20.
:30 second later, the Trojans responded with a 50-yard pass from Montgomery to Reece Little. Clevenger added the extra point and Findlay rebuilt a 10-point lead at 30-20.
One terrific quarterback performance demanded a second and Fremont’s Kaden Holmes was up to the challenge. Holmes, using his legs and his arm, drove Ross down for their second score of the second half. With 6:16 remaining in the third quarter, Holmes broke free for a 16-yard run. Rodriquez was good on the extra point and Fremont was right back in it, down 30-27.
For the first time since early in the first quarter, the Giant broke on top. Holmes found Adam Hrynciw with a 14-yard touchdown pass. The hard-driving Hrynciw used his patented moves to score on the play. Rodriquez added the extra point and Ross was on top with 3:15 left in the quarter 34-30.
Once again, there was no answer for the passing of Montgomery as he continued to be a thorn in the Little Giants defense. This time, down the field, the Findlay drive ended with a 44-yard pass from Montgomery to Harris. Clevenger was good on the PAT and the Trojans were back up 37-34 during the seesaw quarter.
As time expired in the high-scoring third, it was Holmes to Bryson Hammer with a 54-yard bomb. The play put the Giants up 41-37 heading into the final 12 minute.
Montgomery and the Trojans were not done yet. The Trojan signal caller had time all night to find his receivers. He ended the sixth Trojan scoring drive with a seven-yard pass to Little. Following the extra point, Findlay was back on top 44-41 with only :43 remaining in the game.
Ross had one final opportunity to drive down for the go-ahead score. Holmes masterfully used Hrynciw as the two led the Giants down the field. Six seconds remained when Holmes went to Hammer once again with a 23-yard pass that found the talented receiver in the right side of the southern endzone. Rodriquez added the extra point and as pandemonium hit the Ross sidelines, the Giants were back in the lead 48-44.
As the saying goes, “it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.” Ross heard the lady warming up as they had one more kickoff that stood between them and their sixth straight victory.
As the Trojans took the kickoff at the five-yard line, Findlay’s Nathan Riegle took the kick and started his way up the field. When it appeared that he was down the ball came flying out of his hands into the hands of a waiting Dallas De La Cruz who took the ball out of the air and galloped the final 75 yards for a miraculous Trojan victory.
“It’s disappointing, but it’s the way it happens sometimes,” a somber Chad Long said following the shocking loss. “We were in good position to kick the ball into the endzone, but it didn’t get there. Our kids played their hearts out. We were sloppy several times tonight, but our offense picked us up in the second half. But Findlay scored on some big plays.”
The Ross faithful, some of whom want the kickoff play sent to the OHSAA for ‘further review’, Long had this to say. “Even if we appeal it to the state, it isn’t going to change anything. It will just be a lesson learned for the officials. It’s sad, it breaks my heart, and I am at a loss for words right now.”
Two of the state’s top quarterbacks put up giant numbers during the contest. Kaden Holmes continues to give his team every opportunity to win. The All-Ohio signal caller ended the night 31 of 45 for 346 yards and four touchdowns. His counterpart was 29-44 for 333 yards and six scores that also including three interceptions by Ross defenders.
Holmes added 170 yards with his legs on 24 attempts with one score.
Donovan Harris led Findlay receivers hauling in six Montgomery passes for 118 yards and three scores. Bryson Hammer led all receivers with 140 yards on nine receptions. Adam Hrynciw added nine catches for 102 yards.
Hammer was tops on the defensive side of the ball as well for the Giants. The senior defensive back had 5.5 tackles including three solo with five assists.
With the loss, Fremont sits at 5-1 and 2-1 in the TRAC. St. John’s comes to Don Paul Stadium Friday.
TRAC SCORES 9-23-2022
Findlay 50, Fremont Ross 48
Oregon Clay 26, Toledo St. Francis 14
Toledo Whitmer 31, Toledo St. John’s 28
Toledo Central Catholic 56, Lima Sr. 0