By EVAN HAYES
McCOMB — Tensions were high and temperatures were low at Doc Miller Field on Saturday night as the McComb Panthers and Edgerton Bulldogs squared off for their second football playoff bout in as many years.
What promised to be a physical affair turned rough amid freezing winds, as both teams looked to control the ground game and the line of scrimmage. It was the Bulldogs who hit first and hit hard, running away with the lead in the second half to secure a 44-21 win over the defending state champion Panthers in a Division VII, Region 26 quarterfinal.
Edgerton (9-2) advanced to take on top seed Leipsic (10-1) in a Region 26 semifinal Saturday at Napoleon High School.
McComb finished its season at 8-3.
Three players each had more than 50 rushing yards for the Bulldogs, led by running back Hunter Prince with 160 yards. Edgerton outgained the Panthers 300-157 on the ground.
“It starts up front with the line. They did a nice job moving people and opening up holes,” Edgerton coach Ben Wilhelm said. “All of our backs did a nice job staying disciplined with ball security and landmarks and things like that.”
Edgerton aimed to run the ball from the start, opening up a 22-8 lead in the first half on three rushing touchdowns by Prince. The senior racked up 73 first half rushing yards, scoring two of his five rushing touchdowns in the first quarter.
The Panthers scored their only touchdown of the first half on an 18-yard run by senior quarterback Aaron Davis with 3:06 left to go in the first quarter. But the team was forced to punt on the opening drive of the second quarter after going three and out, and the Bulldogs promptly drove the length of the field and scored on a 6-yard run by Prince to take a 22-8 lead.
Davis — who finished the game with 139 passing yards, 127 rushing yards, two passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown — led a 7-minute drive from the Panthers’ 39 to the Bulldogs’ 5. Edgerton held its own, stopping Davis at the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-5 with 44 seconds left in the first half.
The two teams went into halftime after two quick kneel downs by the Bulldogs.
McComb came out firing on all cylinders to start the second half. After a pass interference call set up the Panthers on Edgerton’s 22-yard line, junior receiver Zack Deal took a screen pass from Davis to the end zone.
The Panthers’ defense forced a turnover on downs during Edgerton’s next drive. On McComb’s next offensive possession, Davis found receiver Ka’Von Bailey on the sideline, and after spinning away from one defender and juking another, the sophomore raced 39 yards for a touchdown. The extra point was blocked, pulling the Panthers within 22-21.
McComb coach Kris Alge knew his team needed to keep the score close to have a chance at winning, and he told his team as much at halftime.
“We just got to do our job, make plays. We made some adjustments on defense, we switched some things up. We said if we could go down and score, and keep it close, we’d be in it,” Alge said. “And we did.”
But that was the closest the Panthers would get.
Receiving the ball on their own 35 with 2:02 left in the third, the Bulldogs only needed six plays to drive the length of the field. Junior Jared Swan scored on a 44-yard wing counter run, and Prince ran the ball in for the conversion to stretch the Bulldogs’ lead to 30-21.
Plagued by penalties and injuries in the fourth quarter, the Panthers were held scoreless the rest of the game. Prince scored twice in the last six minutes to put the game away.
For the Panthers, the loss brought an end to the season, similar to the end they brought to Edgerton’s 2018 season.
“I’m proud of our kids. You hate losing a playoff game, because it’s your last,” Alge said. “Our seniors have played a lot of football and I’m proud of them. My hat goes off to our seniors.”
Edgerton 14 8 8 14 — 44
McComb 8 0 13 0 — 21
EDG — Prince 5 run (Prince run)
MCC — Davis 18 run (Bailey run)
EDG — Prince 10 run (run failed)
EDG — Prince 6 run (Prince run)
MCC — Deal 22 pass from Davis (Kepling kick)
MCC — Bailey 39 pass from Davis (Kepling kick blocked)
EDG — Swan 44 run (Prince run)
EDG — Prince 5 run (run failed)
EDG — Prince 25 run (Canales run)
First Downs 14 16
Rushes-yards 43-300 42-157
Passing Yards 44 139
Comp-Att-Int 2-5-0 9-21-1
Punts-Avg. 0-0 1-7
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 5-55 8-90
rushing — Edgerton, Canales 10-51, Prince 26-160, Swan 3-80, Cape 4-9. McComb, Dillon 6-18, Davis 27-127, Bailey 2-6, Miller 2-0, Rader 3-(-4), Carter 1-10.
passing — Edgerton, Cape 2-5-0-44. McComb, Davis 9-21-1-139.
receiving — Edgerton, Showalter 2-44. McComb, Dillon 2-17, Bailey 5-93, Deal 1-22, Carter 1-7.