CINCINNATI – Two critical fourth-down decisions in the third quarter Saturday night may have decided Clinton-Massie’s 40-34 victory over Indian Hill.
The first was unsuccessful for the Falcons. On fourth and less than a yard from its own 38, Clinton-Massie decided to go for it. There was confusion on the play and Hunter Fentress was stopped for a one-yard loss.
“It was a mix-up,” CM head coach Dan McSurley said. “Brad Hunt’s helmet came off. He had to come off the field. We had to put a new fullback in. We were going to run a blast play off tackle. I think he and Hunter kind of got mixed up.”
Indian Hill scored four plays later on a Reed Aichholz 1-yard run. The Braves pulled within 26-20 with 7:28 left in the third.
It appeared the momentum of the game had changed. The Falcons would be facing another fourth down and 1 from the 38. The punt unit came on for the Falcons and the Braves’ fans roared in approval.
McSurley decided to roll the dice.
The snap went directly to Fentress, who handed off to Christian Poynter. The sophomore took it around the end for 21 yards and a first down.
“It was one of those times in the game that we felt like we needed a spark,” McSurley said. “We put Christian Poynter in there. He’s just a 10th grader.”
Normally, it is not Poynter in the game for the fake punt.
“Usually we have Davey Tunon in there,” McSurley said. “When you’ve got Davey Tunon in there in that spot, I think the fake there is not really a fake because everybody is going to key on him.”
Indian Hill had been aggressively rushing punts all night, nearly blocking a punt early in the game.
“They were coming hard off the edge,” McSurley said. “We knew they were going to rush the punter. We felt like if we could get it executed, it would be a good play for us. It sparked the offense.”
Indeed, the Falcon offense ignited. However, they would face another fourth down on the Indian Hill 35. Tunon ran for 19 yards and a first down. Four Tunon carries later, and he was in the end zone restoring the Falcons’ two-score lead.
All Falcon final
The Division IV, Region 14 final will be an all-Falcon affair.
Clinton-Massie will play Bishop Fenwick 7 p.m. Saturday at a location to be announced Sunday by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
Fenwick dispatched Clinton-Massie’s familiar foe Alter 19-9 in the other regional semifinal.
The winner of next Saturday’s game advances to the state semifinals.
“I got to see a little bit of their highlights and clips,” McSurley said. “They’re a very fundamentally-sound team. They’re a wing-T team. They’re going to be totally different … contrasting styles from (Indian Hill). They’re pound and ground team, just like us.”
It is familiar territory for Clinton-Massie, as the Falcons prepare to play in their fifth consecutive regional final.
“This is for a regional title and hopefully move on and keep our goals alive,” McSurley said.
Follow Matt on Twitter @mattsports.