By Joe Catullo Jr.
BEAVER FALLS, Pa.
Trailing by 18 points at halftime in the 34th annual Penn-Ohio Stateline Classic, Ohio knew what to do.
“Every play on defense has to be the biggest play, and that gave me goose bumps because we saw that,” Ohio coach Mike Skrinjar of Southern said.
Ohio allowed no points, returned a fumble for a 70-yard touchdown and stopped Pennsylvania’s offense on fourth-and-inches from its 1-yard line in the fourth quarter.
However, one play stopped the momentum and cost Ohio the game in a 25-22 defeat. With 1:50 remaining, Pennsylvania faced fourth-and-inches deep in its territory. Pennsylvania sent its offense on the field and got Ohio to jump offsides.
Though it ended the game, Skrinjar said it was not the killer.
“It hurt, and it’s the most visible thing in my mind right now, but that’s not the killer,” he said. “If you ever think one play ruins the game, then I think you don’t know the game of football truly.”
Pennsylvania took a 13-0 lead after the first quarter and Alex Caratelli delivered both times. Caratelli, who was Pennsylvania’s MVP, caught touchdown passes of 53 and 18 yards.
He then caught a 10-yard pass in the end zone in the second quarter after Nick Blower (Crestview) ran one yard for Ohio’s first score and Colton McKay intercepted Luke Griffith (Southern) for a 50-yard touchdown. Pennsylvania led 25-7 at halftime. Caratelli finished with six receptions for 126 yards and three touchdowns.
“We went into the locker, we got mad and put everything together,” Blower said. “We fixed everything, and we came back out and tried to execute our game plan.”
Pennsylvania kept running the clock down in the third quarter and had the momentum in check. Then one play changed everything.
With 1:40 remaining in the quarter, Britton Steiginga (Columbiana) returned a fumble 70 yards for a touchdown.
“I was just hoping that the whistle wasn’t going to get blown,” Steiginga said. “As soon as I took off, I just got a lead and took off for a touchdown.”
Ohio decided to go for two points and executed. Blower received a toss to his right and was met by four defenders but still managed to sneak the ball by them.
After Pennsylvania failed to score, Ohio drove 99 yards for another touchdown capped off by a 71-yard reception by Robby Semen (South Range). Pennsylvania took over and ran the remaining 3:33 off the clock.
Blower was named Ohio’s MVP, rushing for 77 yards on four carries and a touchdown. He also caught four passes for 31 yards.
“There were emotions flying throughout the entire game, and it’s tough because that’s what the game is all about,” Skrinjar said. “I’m a believer that football brings out character, and that’s what these guys did. They showed a tremendous amount of character, resilience and perseverance. That all showed in this game.
“I keep on saying I’m a part of these games that come down to the wire. They stink sometimes, but I would rather have it like this than have it by three or four touchdowns because that’s what football’s all about.”