WILMINGTON — With their playoff hopes on the line, the Wilmington High School football team came up short Friday night in a 26-23 loss to Chillicothe in South Central Ohio League action at Alumni Field.
The Hurricane went to the fourth quarter down nine, 26-17, facing a deficit to overcome to not only win the game but keep their season alive.
A pair of Chillicothe penalties enabled WHS to keep possession but the Hurricane offensive struggles continued and the defense was forced to come back out on the field.
But the defense was up to the task and forced the Cavaliers to kick it away. The WHS offense finally found its stride. The ’Cane rallied around the arm of Evans and moved to the Chillicothe 8.
The WHS offense stalled and Henry came in and converted a short field goal. But there was a personal foul penalty on Chillicothe and Killen opted to take the three points off the board with just over two minutes to play.
Wilmington made the call the right one with a touchdown by Beaugard but it was wiped out on a WHS penalty. Undaunted, WHS came right back with Evans hitting Beaugard from 16 yards out at 1:56 for a touchdown. The PAT was wide but it was still a one-score game, CHS 26, WHS 23.
Like last week, Wilmington recovered an onside kick and suddenly a season on the brink was all too well with 1:52 to play in regulation. The tide quickly turned, though, when Jordan Johnson of CHS came up with an interception near the 30 yard line to end the Hurricane season.
The loss puts Wilmington at 7-3 overall and 5-2 in the league, good enough for third place.
“We didn’t come to play in the second half,” Killen said. “We came out flat in the third quarter. Once we fell behind, we just couldn’t get our momentum back. We fought until the very end but in this game you have to come to play for four quarters and tonight we didn’t.”
Chillicothe goes to 8-2 overall and will continue its season next week in the playoffs. The Cavs finish 6-1 in the league and are runnersup to Clinton-Massie.
CHS quarterback Brandon Maughmer came into the game with 26 total touchdowns. He added to that with a rushing TD and a pair of passing scores. He rushed for more than 200 yards while passing for nearly 150 yards.
“He’s something else,” Killen said. “He’s wiggly.”
After forcing a Wilmington punt on its first possession, Chillicothe moved into scoring position behind Maughmer but a 28-yard field goal attempt failed and the teams remained scoreless.
That changed shortly thereafter. WHS was again unable to sustain a drive and punted. This time, Cavaliers return man Khaleel Danzy went 53 yards to the end zone and with the extra point kick it was 7-0 CHS with 4:54 to play in the opening period.
The Hurricane, who seems used to slow starts on the scoreboard, responded with a long drive which culminated in a 27-yard scoring strike from freshman Brady Evans to Matt Smith. With Brady Henry’s PAT, Wilmington tied the game at 7-7 with 2:12 to go in the opener.
Wilmington’s defense was back on track, halting the Cavaliers on a fourth down play to turn the ball back over the offense. With a big 21-yard rush from Evans, the Hurricane took the lead with Tony Merritt hauled in a 35-yard pass from Evans and raced to the end zone. Henry again added the PAT to put WHS on top 14-7 at the 9:20 mark of the second quarter.
Maughmer rallied the Cavs offense, sparking the drive with a 22-yard run. He capped the drive with a 17-yard touchdown run but the extra point was blocked by DJ Ames and the ’Cane maintained a 14-13 lead with 7:11 to play in the half.
The defenses reigned down the stretch but the Hurricane managed to get into field goal position in the waning seconds of the half. Henry drilled one from 41 yards out with 0:03 on the clock to give WHS a 17-13 advantage at the break. The kick is among the longest field goals made in WHS history.
The Cavaliers came out of the lockerroom and took advantage of good field position, starting the drive at midfield. The possession ended with Maughmer hitting Tre Brown with a TD pass as the Cavs regained the lead 20-17 with 9:23 to go in the third.
Chillicothe extended its lead late in the third. Conner Mathis caught a Maughmer 31-yard pass for the first big play on the drive then Maughmer ran 23 yards to the 14. Maughmer then hit Zach Coats in the end zone for a 26-17 lead. WHS again knifed its way through the Cavaliers line and Ames made it two blocked kicks on the night but the Hurricane still trailed by nine with 4:07 to go in the third.
While the Hurricane offense was stuck in a sluggish rut — just 15 yards on offense in the third period — the Cavaliers seemed to be picking up steam. Chillicothe moved into Wilmington territory but the WHS defense stiffened and forced an errant fourth down pass by CHS.
“I feel for the seniors,” Killen said. “It would have been nice for them to win their last game on Alumni Field, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Bill Liermann covers high school sports for the News Journal. Follow him on Twitter @lierjet