By TED RADICK
DEFIANCE — It wasn’t a football game for the feint of heart.
Leipsic and Patrick Henry went toe-to-toe, hard hit-for-hard hit in Saturday’s Division VII, Region 26 final at Defiance High School. In the end, a few key plays made by PH decided it as the Patriots defeated the Vikings 27-13.
Patrick Henry (10-3) advances to its first state semifinal since 2016 and will meet Marion Local (11-2), a 27-0 winner over New Bremen in the Region 28 final, next Saturday at a site to be determined. Leipsic finished its season at 11-2.
On a snowy night when both teams slugged it out on the ground — the Patriots rushed for 188 yards and Leipsic for 169 — two passing plays proved key in Patrick Henry’s victory.
PH quarterback T.J. Rhamy hit wide receiver Clayton Feehan on a 20-yard completion that set up the Patriots’ go-ahead touchdown, and on a fourth-down, 14-yard strike late in the game that sealed the victory.
“I think two things: One, I’m so proud of how we passed the ball tonight, we were 8 for 10,” Patrick Henry coach Bill Inselmann said. “On top of that, we had zero interceptions and we did not put the ball on the ground. Are you kidding me? In those field conditions?”
Rhamy passed for 150 yards on those eight completions, none bigger that his competion to Feeney midway through the third quarter.
Rhamy hit Kolton Holloway for a 29-yard completion to the Leipsic 14-yard line, but a pair of penalties had the Pats moving in the wrong direction. On first-and-20 from the 24, Leipsic brought the house on a blitz, Rhamy found Feeney and PH had first-and-goal from the 4. Wil Morrow scored on the next play and Patrick Henry flipped a 13-12 deficit to a 20-13 lead.
“We expected them to do a lot of double cover on Kolton,” Inselmann said. “They have a good front seven and their strategy was to not let us throw the ball.
“Clayton Feehan, what a game he had. That play, and the fourth-down play late in the game.”
Rhamy said the first key was his line picking up Leipsic’s blitz.
“I always know that my lineman have my back, especially in these big-time games and these big-time plays,” said Rhamy, who added a game-best 104 rushing yards and two touchdowns. “They are trusting me to put the ball in play and get that first down.
“I saw the blitz was coming, I knew the ball had to get out quick. I saw that open receiver, I put the ball on the money and Clayton caught it.”
For Leipsic coach Joe Kirkendall, the play was one of a few that he felt decided the game.
“In a game like this, it’s going to come down to some plays and you have to get off the field. They got first downs and we didn’t,” Kirkendall said.
“You can circle about four or five plays tonight where they extended the game. They made those plays and we didn’t.”
Kirkendall was hoping to catch Patrick Henry off guard with a rare blitz.
“We don’t blitz much, and we lost our blitz guy,” he said. “Caleb Lammers, our middle linebacker, went out in the first quarter with a broken collarbone. Caleb’s our blitz guy, our pressure guy, and we didn’t have that part of our game.”
Leipsic had a 12-play drive early in the fourth quarter that ended on downs at Patrick Henry’s 31-yard line. With 6:44 left, the Patriots took possession and put the game away.
Morrow ran 20 yards for one first down on the drive and Rhamy found Feeney for 13 yards and another first down. The Vikings’ defense stiffened, though, and forced a fourth down from Leipsic’s 14.
Rhamy hit Feeney, running a slant from the left slot, with 1:01 left to give the Patriots a two-score lead.
Rhamy said he felt Leipsic was keying so much on Holloway, Patrick Henry’s 1,000-yard receiver, that it opened up other targets for him. Targets like Feeney.
“When you have a weapon like Kolton Holloway, they have to respect him,” Rhamy said.
“We were expecting them to have two or three guys on him at all times, so that definitely opened up our other receivers.”
Patrick Henry opened the scoring on its second drive of the game. Rhamy finished a nine-play drive with a 1-yard scoring run on the first play of the second quarter.
Leipsic answered quickly as Lorenzo Walther ran untouched up the gut for a 54-yard touchdown. At that point, Patrick Henry had 22 offensive plays to Leipsic’s six, yet the Vikes led 7-6.
“I can’t emphasize enough how well our defense played after that,” Inselmann said.
Rhamy burst 42 yards for a touchdown and a 12-7 Patrick Henry lead, but again Leipsic answered.
The Vikings marched 64 yards in seven plays to retake the lead. Drew Liffick’s 23-yard completion to Fabian Pena keyed the drive, and Walther finished it with a 1-yard run and a 13-12 Leipsic lead.
Holloway (69 yards) and Feehan (49) each caught three passes for Patrick Henry. Morrow rushed for 63 yards on 16 carries.
Walther led Leipsic with 86 yards on 11 carries, while Juan Pena rushed 13 times for 68 yards. Fabian Pena had four receptions for 51 yards.
Patrick Henry 0 12 8 7 — 27
Leipsic 0 7 6 0 — 13
PH — Rhamy 1 run (kick failed)
LEIP — Walther 54 run (J. Pena kick)
PH — Rhamy 42 run (pass failed)
LEIP — Walther 1 run (pass failed)
PH — Morrow 4 run (Rhamy run)
PH — Feehan 14 pass from Rhamy (Rhamy kick)
First Downs 15 12
Rushes-Yards 41-188 35-169
Passing Yards 150 72
Comp-Att-Int 8-10-0 6-13-0
Punts-Avg. 2-50.0 2-35.5
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-1
Penalties-Yards 5-40 4-30
rushing — Patrick Henry, Rhamy 20-104, Morrow 16-63, Kistner 4-44, team 1-(minus-1). Leipsic, J. Pena 13-68, Walther 11-86, F. Pena 7-19, Liffick 4-(minus-4).
passing — Patrick Henry, Rhamy 8-10-0-150. Leipsic, Liffick 6-13-0-72.
receiving — Patrick Henry, Feehan 3-49, Holloway 3-69, DeLong 1-19, Johnson 1-13. Leipsic, F. Pena 4-51, Lammers 1-13, Sickmiller 1-8.