By ANDY WOLF
FREMONT — Patrick Henry coach Bill Inselmann set a goal for his team to play its best half of football all year in the first half against Norwalk St. Paul.
The Patriots met it, jumping ahead 35-0 by halftime en route to posting a 42-14 win in Saturday’s Division VII, Region 26 semifinal game at Don Paul Stadium.
“We just caught fire and you talk about emotion and enthusiasm, it just happened tonight,” Inselmann said. “Our line played their best game all year. Kolton Holloway is healthy at wide receiver. What does that do?
“So I’m really proud of our kids tonight.”
No. 3 seed Patrick Henry (9-3) will meet top-seed Leipsic (11-1) in the regional final at 7 p.m. Saturday at a site to be determined by the OHSAA.
The start of Saturday’s regional semifinal was delayed 45 minutes when Patrick Henry’s bus was involved in a minor accident on the way to Fremont.
“I want to praise the Lord for everything going OK,” Inselmann said. “What happened was a guy crossed over the median; it was a four-lane highway and we were going 65 miles per hour– legally.
“Luckily, our bus driver saw it, braked and we just clipped him. It was a whatever-tenth second away from being a terrible accident.”
Inselmann credited his players for handling the shakeup well.
Once settled in at Fremont, the Patriots exerted their dominance all first half long in outgaining St. Paul 274-36, with an 11-1 edge in first downs.
Patrick Henry senior running back Wil Morrow bruised his way to a five-touchdown night and a 175-yard performance.
Morrow carried 21 times and scored on runs of 1, 7, 10 and 6 yards in the first half before breaking off a 65-yard run in the fourth quarter.
“The line did a crazy good job blocking and I found the holes,” Morrow said. “If you’re that close, you’ve got to fall forward in the end zone. It’s just a mentality.”
Morrow had a little bit extra weighing on his mind Saturday as well.
“I played this game for my mom; she’s in the hospital,” Morrow said. “She was listening to the game. This game was just for her.”
Holloway put the Patriots on the board first with a 33-yard haul in the end zone from T.J. Rhamy.
Holloway finished with 146 yards on eight grabs. Rhamy threw for 197 yards on 12 of 18 attempts.
“I do my best to set up my routes, but it’s all T.J. Rhamy,” Holloway said.
On his touchdown: “I looked back and it was there. We stress those 50-50 balls. We think we have a better chance of getting it than the DB. T.J. put it up there and made the play.”
The Patriots scored touchdowns on their first three offensive drives. Within that start, their first 23 plays went for positive yardage.
Of those plays, only two went for more than 12 yards — Holloway’s score plus another 29-yard catch downfield.
“We’ve been working hard on our running backs hitting the hole quicker,” Inselmann said. “We thought that as the season went on, it was just something we didn’t notice as much, we were dancing too much, running too much sideways.
“We emphasized ‘find that hole and then cut.'”
Meanwhile, Patrick Henry’s defense had St. Paul’s run-oriented offense on lockdown.
The Flyers picked up a fourth-and-1 in their own territory to start the game but punted four times by halftime.
Their longest first-half play of nine yards, a pass from Myron Stoll to Ryan Kurtz, even ended in a fumble recovery by Patrick Henry’s Noah Kistner.
Kistner and Morrow each had a tackle for loss, while Spencer Gerschutz recorded a sack.
To his team’s defensive effort, Inselmann credited his coordinators Bob and Ben George.
“Our defense, they fire off the ball,” Inselmann said. “(St. Paul’s) backs run hard.
“I did not expect this defensive effort tonight. Our league has really prepared us well.”
St. Paul picked up 210 yards in the second half in large part to a 67-yard scamper by Stoll and his 74-yard touchdown pass to Adam Baker against PH’s reserves.
Stoll also hit Baker for an 8-yard scoring play to start the fourth quarter.
“Hats off to Patrick Henry; they’re a great football team, well-coached,” St. Paul coach John Livengood said. “(Rhamy) and (Morrow) are beasts. They’re just flat out beasts. (Holloway), too, just a tough cover.”
Patrick Henry turns its attention to Leipsic with the chance to return to state for the first time since doing so in 2016 in Division VI.
The Vikings dismantled Edgerton 39-6 in their regional semifinal.
“If you look over the last two years, they’ve been the best or second-best team in the region,” Inselmann said. “As of now, they’re the best team in the region — and we’re going to have to beat them.”
Morrow and Holloway are both looking forward to playing the school that’s just a short drive south of Patrick Henry.
“It’s amazing, especially being a closer school to us,” Holloway said. “The fans, they should all be coming, stadium is going to be packed. It should be a great atmosphere to play in.
Morrow said: “I’m ready for it. We lost to them by one our sophomore year. We’re super ready for them. We’ve got to listen to the coaches, get better and execute.”
Patrick Henry 14 21 0 7 — 42
Norwalk St. Paul 0 0 0 14 — 14
PH — Holloway 33 pass from Rhamy (kick blocked)
PH — Morrow 1 run (Schulze pass from Rhamy)
PH — Morrow 7 run (Rhamy kick)
PH — Morrow 10 run (Rhamy kick)
PH — Morrow 6 run (Rhamy kick)
NSP — Baker 9 pass from Stoll (pass failed)
PH — Morrow 65 run (Rhamy kick)
NSP — Baker 74 pass from Stoll (Butler pass from Stoll)
First Downs 17 6
Rushes-yards 42-234 24-145
Passing Yards 197 101
Comp-Att-Int 12-18-0 4-11-0
Punts-Avg. 2-39 5-33.6
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 4-25 1-15
rushing — Patrick Henry, Morrow 22-175, Rhamy 5-21, Kistner 5-18, DeLong 5-11, Holloway 2-6, Johnson 3-3. Norwalk St. Paul, Stoll 5-70, Caizzo 9-44, Butler 7-26, Blair 2-6, team 1-(-1).
passing — Patrick Henry, Rhamy 12-18-0-165. Norwalk St. Paul, Stoll 4-11-0-101.
receiving — Patrick Henry, Holloway 8-146, Feehan 1-18, Morrow 1-13, Behrman 1-11, Kistner 1-9. Norwalk St. Paul, Baker 2-83, Rufing 1-9, Sweet 1-9.
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